Gibraltar slams Spanish border town's road toll plan

10th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

Gibraltar on Tuesday condemned as "illegal" a proposal by the neighbouring Spanish town of La Linea to impose a tax on cars entering or leaving the tiny British territory by road.

The decision comes amid thorny relations between Madrid and London over the disputed British possession off the tip of southern Spain.

La Linea mayor Alejandro Sanchez on Monday announced the "congestion charge" of no more than five euros (6.5 dollars) on cars crossing into and out of Gibraltar, saying the measure will be imposed in October once it is passed by the town council.

He said lorries carrying debris and other materials used in Gibraltar to reclaim land from the sea will pay more, but the exact amount has not yet been determined.

Sanchez, a member of Spain's conservative opposition Popular Party, said the tax is needed partly to compensate the municipality for austerity measures imposed by the socialist government in Madrid.

La Linea residents would be exempt, but it was not clear if Gibraltarians would also have to pay.

The Gibraltar government reacted angrily and said it has contacted the Spanish authorities over the decision.

"The confused statements by the mayor of La Linea in respect of the proposed toll describe a litany of illegalities under EU Law and probably also under Spanish law," it said in a statement.

"The mayor of La Linea is clearly engaged in a political manoeuvre with his central government, which is unlikely to allow the proposal.

"The mayor's proposals are wholly unacceptable both legally and politically and in the unlikely event that these measures should be introduced, the (Gibraltar) government will take appropriate steps."

Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht but has retained first claim on the tiny peninsula should Britain renounce sovereignty.

"The Rock" has long fuelled tensions between Spain and Britain, with Madrid arguing the 6.5-square-kilometre (2.6-square-mile) territory that is home to roughly 30,000 people should be returned to Spanish sovereignty.

But its people overwhelmingly rejected an Anglo-Spanish proposal for co-sovereignty in a referendum in 2002.

In recent months British and Spanish naval and police boats have engaged in a series of cat and mouse games in the waters off Gibraltar, which lies at the strategic western entrance to the Mediterranean.

© 2010 AFP

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