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Spain to take Britain to court over Gibraltar votes

Published on 18/02/2004

18 February 2004

MADRID – Spain is to take Britain to court over a new law that allows Gibraltarians and some members of the Commonwealth to vote in European elections, it was reported Wednesday.

According to the newspaper El Mundo, José María Aznar’s conservative People’s Party government is so fed up with Britain’s refusal to listen to complaints about the new law that it intends to take the case to the European Court of Justice.

Spain will claim that the law is illegal because only European Union citizens should be allowed to vote.

“We cannot allow non-European citizens to have a vote,” a diplomatic source explained to the paper.

A foreign ministry spokesman in Madrid refused to comment.

A Foreign Office spokesman in London said Britain had expected Spain to drop the matter after the European Commission last year declared it had acted “within the margin of discretion presently given to member states by EU law”.

“We are quite surprised by this. It was the first we had heard that Spain was still considering taking it to court,” the spokesman said.

“We have had no official confirmation that this is what they intend to do. If they do decide to go to court we are confident of our case and will defend it robustly.”

Gibraltarians won the right to vote in Europe only as part of a British constituency after taking their own case to the European Court of Justice.

Britain passed a new law last year incorporating Gibraltar’s 20,000 voters into the combined south-west of England constituency.

Subject: Spanish news