The Spanish Foreign Ministry has stated today that it “shares” in the calls of Argentine government for the United Kingdom to return the Malvinas (Falkland Islands) to Argentina.
January 3 marked 183 years of British presence in the archipelago which the Argentine Foreign Ministry described as a “usurpation” and an “illegal occupation”.
Argentina and Britain fought a war in 1982 over the Falklands in which the lives of 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers were lost, along with three islanders.
Spain is also engaged in a territorial dispute with Britain over the sovereignty of Gibraltar, a territory located on the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula which has been under British jurisdiction since 1704, when Admiral George Rooke conquered it during the War of Spanish Succession.
In 1713, Spain signed the Treaty of Utrecht confirming British sovereignty over the island in perpetuity but Spain subsequently attempted to recapture the territory. It now has a stated policy of reclaiming Gibraltar by peaceful means.
In its statement, the Spanish Foreign Ministry said that “like Argentina, Spain unequivocally hopes for purely bilateral dialogues with the United Kingdom to find a definitive solution to both issues affecting the territorial integrity of Argentina and Spain”.
For Britain this statement once again highlights the ambivalent stance of its European neighbours on the Falklands issue.
Officially, as a recognised British territory, the Falkland Islands fall under the jurisdiction of European Treaties. However the European Commission has been reluctant to make official statements on the dispute.
“This is fundamentally a bilateral issue between the UK and Argentina” declared Catherine Ashton, European foreign affairs minister, back in 2012.
In 2013 a European Parliament delegation visiting Argentina led by Spanish MEP Luis Yanez-Barnuevo Garcia declared that “British sovereignty over the Islands, as such, is not accepted”.
Spain itself as always maintained its support for the Argentine cause, but to varying degrees. In September 2013 Spain embarrassed Argentina when it refuted Argentine claims the two countries had concluded a pact to take “joint actions” against the UK.