Months after the European Union defined the Malvinas (Falkland) Islands as a “territory under dispute,” a new survey conducted by an international research consultancy has revealed which the extent of support in the region for Argentina’s sovereignty claim.
According to a new report by UK-based pollster YouGov, Spaniards are the European citizens that most support Argentina’s sovereignty claim, with 52 percent of respondents doing on. On the other hand – as was to be expected – Britons themselves in the majority consider that the “Falkland Islands," as they call them, with 57 percent.
“In July, the United Kingdom suffered a minor diplomatic defeat when the European Union signed an agreement with Latin American nations referring to the Falklands with Argentina’s preferred name: Malvinas Islands,” the consultancy firm stated regarding the motivation for the study.
“[UK Prime Minister] Rishi Sunak subsequently described the measure as regrettable, while Argentina’s undersecretary for Latin American and Caribbean affairs described the achievement as ‘a very important step’,” the report highlighted.
Sovereignty over the islands is disputed by Buenos Aires, which claims them as its own. In 1982, a military junta sent soldiers to take the territory. Britain sent nearly 30,000 troops halfway round the world to repel them. The war lasted 74 days and left more than 900 dead – 649 Argentine and 255 British soldiers as well as three island inhabitants.
Relations over the issue have become strained with London since the arrival of President Alberto Fernández’s administration. The Peronist leader insists the sovereignty issue must not be ‘parked’ but rather at the front and centre of bilateral ties.
YouGov’s poll was conducted between August 8 and September 6 this year, and the sample included 2,066 people aged over 18 in Great Britain, 1,000 in France, 2,387 in Germany, 1,001 in Denmark, 1,011 in Sweden, 1,063 in Spain, 1,011 in Italy and 998 in the United States.
Despite the dispute, some in the UK do back Argentina’s claim.
“In Britain most people (57 percent) believe the Malvinas should belong to the United Kingdom. One in six (16 percent) say that the islands should belong to Argentina and 27 percent are unsure,” the report found.
In this vein, YouGov pointed out that the “emotional attachment” of the British public to the archipelago “is not especially strong.”
“Only 35 percent say that it would upset them for the Malvinas to be Argentina, 46 percent say it would not and nine percent state they would be actively pleased,” it found.
By contrast, in Spain, 52 percent of people say the Malvinas should be Argentine, with only 14 percent saying they should be British.
“This may well reflect Spanish frustration with their own similar dispute with Britain over sovereignty of Gibraltar, as well potentially as solidarity with a country more Spaniards consider similar to their own,” the survey suggested.
"Opinions in the rest of Western Europe are less certain. In France, 27 percent support the Argentine claim to the islands,” it added.
Italians and Germans also tend to favour Argentine sovereignty of the islands, in the 30-32 percent range compared to 21-24 percent who back Britain’s occupation of the territory.
The two Nordic nations surveyed – Denmark and Sweden – tend to come down on the UK’s side, with the former backing British rule by 31 percent to 23 percent, and the latter by 28 percent to 23 percent.
North Americans too weigh in on Britain’s side. “The US say the Falkland Islands should fall under British sovereignty by 35 percent to 24 percent,” it concluded.