Spain makes historic concession on Rock

16th December 2004, Comments 0 comments

16 December 2004, MADRID- Spain has recognised for the first time that the government of Gibraltar should have equal status in talks with Britain on the future of the colony claimed by Madrid, a three-way joint statement released.

16 December 2004

MADRID- Spain has recognised for the first time that the government of Gibraltar should have equal status in talks with Britain on the future of the colony claimed by Madrid, a three-way joint statement released.

The statement announced the setting up of a forum for dialogue on the territory at Spain's southern tip held by Britain for 300 years, in which any decision or agreement must be approved by all three parties.

"Without prejudice to their constitutional status (including the fact that Gibraltar is not a sovereign independent state), each of the three parties will have its own, separate voice and each will participate on the same basis," it said.

"If the three parties wish to take a decision on an issue in the forum where formal agreement would properly be between the UK and Spain, it is understood that the UK will not agree thereto without the Government of Gibraltar's consent."

The aim of the forum would be to "create a constructive atmosphere of mutual confidence and co-operation for the benefit and prosperity of Gibraltar and the whole region", the statement added.

"Dialogue will be on an open agenda basis, and therefore any of the participants may raise any issue relating to or affecting Gibraltar.

"The forum shall be convened with the three parties at ministerial level at least once every 12 months. Other meetings of the forum shall take place at a time and level agreed by the three participants."

Finally, it said, "in order to preserve the viability of this process for all the parties, they will refrain from making public statements which distort or misrepresent the basis, purpose or modalities of this forum as set out in this statement."

The statement was issued following two days of talks hosted by British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw last week, in which Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana for the first time headed a separate delegation with the other two participants.

Caruana refused to join the previous round of negotiations because the then right-wing Spanish government of Jose Maria Aznar rejected his participation outside the British delegation.

Spain ceded the territory on its south coast to Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht but maintains a constitutional claim and the issue has long burdened relations between London and Madrid.

Caruana told a Spanish radio station on Friday that the new socialist government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had shown a new willingness to negotiate positively and "recognised the reality" that the people of Gibraltar have the right "to decide their own future for themselves."

He added the talks had not sought to set in stone Gibraltar's future but establish "a dialogue with an open agenda, whose focus is mutual cooperation."

The meeting in London came after a similar one in Spain in October at foreign minister level, between Straw and Spain's Miguel Angel Moratinos, at which both sides began discussing how to boost cooperation, following a near two-year interruption.

In November 2002, the 30,000 citizens of Gibraltar nearly unanimously voted in an unofficial referendum to maintain their status as a British territory, upsetting Anglo-Spanish plans to attempt to move towards future joint sovereignty.

A first meeting of a forum working group will take place in January to discuss the question of the pensions of Spanish nationals who formerly worked on the Rock.

Another topic likely to come up soon is the use of Gibraltar's airport by the neighbouring Spanish region.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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