Spain and Britain close to 'historic' deal over the Rock

17th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

20 February 2006, MADRID — Spain and Britain could be about to reach a deal on Gibraltar which would set aside sovereignty.

20 February 2006

MADRID — Spain and Britain could be about to reach a deal on Gibraltar which would set aside sovereignty.

Diplomats from Madrid have joined their counterparts from London and Gibraltar at a two-day conference on Monday in the UK.

British diplomats are hopeful all parties were close to sealing a deal within a month, the British daily The Financial Times reported.

But Spanish diplomats were more pessimistic, reportedly believing a treaty might be signed "within the next six months".

The colony was ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.

But since then, Spain has argued that sovereignty of the tiny colony belongs to Madrid, not London.

Talks about sharing sovereignty collapsed in 2002.

But after that both Britain and Spain agreed to set aside the issue and concentrate on cooperation.

A forum set up in 2004, which included the Gibraltar authorities, has dealt with issues like telecommunications connections, pension rights for Spanish workers on The Rock, speeding up crossings to the colony and allowing the Spanish to use the colony's airport.

But the issue of sovereignty refuses to die down.

It cropped again over the airport, which is built on an isthmus  which Spain does not recognise as British territory under the 1713 treaty.

There is also the problem that Spain signed up to the Schengen agreement, which allows for free movement of European Union citizens, but Britain did not.

Another controversial issue is the use of the Rock by the Royal Navy for its nuclear submarines.

Both Gibraltarians and Spaniards would like them banned after HMS Tireless spent months being repaired there in 2000.

But despite promises not to repair any more submarines there, London has not signed a treaty to back this up – irking the Spanish.

Peter Caruana, Gibraltar chief minister, who will take part in the talks, told EFE news agency he was "hopeful" a deal could be done on the airport issue.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news


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