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Islets without Owners, The Great Dispute?
Although it seems incredible, there are remote islets around the world that are currently generating great disputes for their possession, as a distinctive sign of these times, when money wants to buy everything.

Many of those islets are marvelous sites, so far away from civilization that attract the attention of the most adventurous people. Heavenly places, with different vegetation or very peculiar attractions.

In times when adventure, nature, history or culture tourism stand out over other offers, these places, which should be under a reasonable administration for joy, are simply in the middle of a struggle to gain control of them.

In one of the most northern places in the world, the Arctic channel between Canada and Greenland, there is an islet that stretches for no more than one square kilometer. It is called Hans and there is practically nothing on it, except for a meteorological station.

That islet has no inhabitants and does not even have useful natural resources and it is extremely isolated from civilization. However, Canada is disputing with Denmark over its ownership (although Greenland is an autonomous region, it is under Danish control).

Both nations carried out several expeditions to Hans, with the purpose of claiming its sovereignty, when the Canadian forces raised the flag and put a bottle of whiskey beside it in 1984. But one week later, the Danish minister for Greenland struck the Canadian flag and replaced it with a bottle of schnapps, clear brandy distilled from fermented fruit juice, with more than 32 degrees of alcohol, from that country.

Although there is absolutely nothing in that islet, the tension between both countries reached a critical point.

However, apparently, as the waters in the Arctic have less ice, due to the global warming, it is turning into a strategic point somehow, because navigation is becoming more frequent there.

Another example is North Rock, a rock in the Atlantic, near Canada and the US state of Maine that is disputed by both countries, without having reached an


There are also islets in the Japanese or East Sea, known as Dokdo Islands, which have been under South Koreaâ�Ös control since 1952, but Japan is demanding their control, although only on the diplomatic level.

Another case is that of the Migingo Island, in Lake Victoria, in the African eastern central region, surrounded by Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. It used to be under the water, but its surface has around 2,000 square meters today.

The Kenyan Government denounced in 2004 that the Ugandan police set a tent on the islet, besides hoisting a national flag. The officials from both countries have occupied it since then without distinction. However, such dispute is related to the rights to fish in the lake.

If they are islets and remote places with little or no importance, what special attraction motivates those disputes?

For Jonathan Eyal, director of Studies on International Security at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in London, most of the time, the problem is not about demanding ownership of the territory, but is related to who has the power over some fishing area.

In that case, the expert referred to exclusive fishing or to the license to prospect for oil or gas in the site.

Not only new nations, with recently established borders, get involved in this kind of disputes, as it could be supposed, large powers also do. In these cases, they try to take advantage of the lack of legal definition of a territoryâ�Ös ownership.

Eyal recalled that if the United States ended up transferring a cheesy rock in the Arctic to the Canadians, others would put forward that the former country accepted some interpretation of the laws of the sea and would use it in their own favor in their own dispute.

He added that if someone, as a politician, resolves the dispute and everything ends with an agreement, that person could be accused of betraying his/her country or of abandoning part of the national territory.

Sometimes, these islets or territories are new and are originated when any volcano erupts or Arctic ice melts. Thus, such geographic element can generate new disputes.

Some other times, it is about old conflicts that are latent for years and end up hitting the headlines. Maybe, many of those issues are raised due to the changes of nature, international trade, traveling routes and prospecting for natural resources or tourism, which would be, in fact, the most significant point for human beings.

Definitively, we are speaking about places that would be greatly useful for recreation, something that would benefit the sides equally, as long as the agreements were friendly so that they would confirm tourism as a peaceful industry.


*Journalist for Prensa Latina News Agency Editorial Office on Economy

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