Spain changes tack to win over Gibraltar

28th October 2004, Comments 0 comments

28 October 2004, MADRID - Spain's Socialist government has launched a concerted campaign to take the chill out of relations with the residents of Gibraltar through a series of transport and trade concessions.

28 October 2004

MADRID - Spain's Socialist government has launched a concerted campaign to take the chill out of relations with the residents of Gibraltar through a series of transport and trade concessions.


As a first move in a campaign to win over Gibraltarians. Spain agreed measures to improve air and sea communications with Gibraltar.

The measures, which signalled a major change in Spain's approach to the territory, were agreed at a meeting between the British Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, and his Spanish counterpart, Miguel Angel Moratinos, in Madrid.

They included an agreement to negotiate joint use of the Rock's airport by both Gibraltar and Spain.

Spain also said it would lift its ban on cruise liners visiting its ports after they had stopped at Gibraltar.

A third measure meant that flights diverted from Gibraltar airport because of problems there would no longer be forced to land in Morocco rather than nearby Spanish airports.

The measures amount to a major change in policy on Gibraltar in an effort to eventually secure sovereignty.

Making his first visit to the Spanish capital since the arrival of a new Socialist government in Madrid in April, Straw said Britain could never drop its obligations to Gibraltar, which Spain ceded to Britain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.

"We fully maintain our obligation and commitment to honour the wishes of  the people of Gibraltar as set out in the preamble of the (territory's) 1969 constitution," said Straw, noting that Britain and Spain were pursuing an "open agenda in which Gibraltar would have its own voice.

"There have been some issues (but) the purpose of diplomacy is to resolve them, said Straw as he and Moratinos praised the "excellent relationship" and "profound friendship" between their countries.

"We are working on ways to extend cooperation in a constructive way," Moratinos said.

Over the past two years, Britain and Spain have sought to progress towards joint sovereignty for Gibraltar, but a November 2002 referendum in Gibraltar overwhelmingly opposed the idea.

A further source of contention over Gibraltar is the territory's status as an offshore financial centre which Madrid believes leaves it open to tax evasion and money laundering.

Spain, while insisting the referendum has no legal validity, nevertheless has recently moved to downplay the sovereignty issue in favour of strengthening "trust-building" measures between the territory, population just 27,000, and its southern Spanish hinterland.

Straw called on Gibraltar, which this year celebrated its third centenary of British rule, to be a third partner in the cooperation process as "it needs to be at the table".

He added that Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana was "entirely content" with the framework of Wednesday's meeting.

Gibraltar aside, London and Madrid have also moved to set aside their differences over the Iraq conflict which Spain's previous conservative government backed.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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