I am delighted to be sending my second Christmas message to the people of the Falkland Islands.
2011 has been a difficult year for many countries, and the UK is no exception. In the face of extraordinary international economic pressures, our biggest challenge has been to recover from a deep and difficult recession, to secure strong and sustainable growth, and to put public finances back onto a sustainable footing. As the Chancellor has said, there are no quick fixes. But we are heading in the right direction.
But whatever challenges we face in the UK, the British Government’s commitment to the security and prosperity of the Overseas Territories, including the Falklands, remains undiminished. There is a real sense of a renewed partnership between us, which we will celebrate and consolidate in a White Paper to be published early next
In the context of the global economic downturn, the Falklands continue to enjoy significant economic success. Through your own efforts, you have balanced your books and increased your financial reserves. Your tourism industry goes from strength to strength. And hydrocarbons exploration has continued unimpeded, with drilling in the Southern Basin starting next month. Britain will always support your right to develop your own natural resources for the benefit of all those who live in the Falklands.
Of course there have been challenges in the Falklands too. Rising global food and fuel prices affect us all. But smaller and more distant communities feel the pressures acutely. And Argentina continues its unjustified and counterproductive efforts to disrupt shipping around the Islands and to deter business from engaging in legitimate commerce. Threats to cut communication links between the Islands and your neighbours in South America only reflect badly on those who make them.
I firmly believe that it is in our interests that we have a constructive relationship with Argentina. There is common ground to be found on issues like the global economy and climate change. We want to work with Argentina on those issues. But the Argentine Government has continued to make statements which challenge your right to self-determination, and we can never accept that.
One of the defining events of 2011 was the Arab Spring, where people in North Africa and the Middle East stood up to give voice to hopes for more open and democratic societies, for the right to determine their own political futures. In the twenty-first century, the world has come to recognise self-determination as a legitimate aspiration, in accordance with the provisions of the United Nations Charter.
So let me be absolutely clear. We will always maintain our commitment to you on any question of sovereignty. Your right to self-determination is the cornerstone of our policy. We will never negotiate on the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands unless you, the Falkland Islanders, so wish. No democracy could ever do otherwise.
Over the course of 2012, all of us - in the Falklands and the UK - will reflect on the events of 1982. We will have in our thoughts those who lost their lives in the service of freedom. And we will remember all those families who continue to mourn their loss today.
But as I look at the Falklands at the end of 2011 I see a prosperous and secure society, confident in itself. And I see a next generation - indeed, a ninth generation of Falkland Islanders with the ambition and ability to capitalise on all the opportunities that the modern world has to offer. There can be no more fitting memorial to those who made the ultimate sacrifice thirty years ago.
As we prepare to enter Her Majesty’s Diamond Jubilee year, may I wish you all a very Happy Christmas and a joyful and successful 2012.