Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Hopeful that Spain will drop its claim to our land, says Picardo...but Seruya thinks otherwise

A half-page report under the headline 'The Rock of resistance against Spain' appeared in the Sunday Telegraph; the same report was published in their online edition, but under the headline 'Gibraltar: Between the Rock and an increasingly hard-line place.'

The newly-elected Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo hopes that he will find a peaceful way of protecting the Rock – despite an escalation in the war of words with Madrid, said the report.

"We are always hopeful that Spain will follow us into the 21st Century and drop its claim on our land," said Mr Picardo, in his first interview with a British newspaper since winning the December election.

"The Spanish government are playing to their constituency of support and concentrating more on the theory of their claim, rather than the realities on the ground. And that is a tragedy for people of both sides of the frontier."

If Mr Picardo, 39, was expecting a gentle introduction to the 300-year-old tussle over the sovereignty of Gibraltar, then he has had a brusque awakening. Just as the newly re-elected Cristina Kirchner in Argentina has made a diplomatic push against British "colonisation" of the Falkland Islands a key policy of her government, Spain's ruling Partido Popular (PP) – itself freshly in power, following the November general elections – has been pushing sovereignty over Gibraltar up the agenda.

Mariano Rajoy, the Spanish prime minister, has abandoned the tripartite talks over areas of co-operation between Spain, Britain and Gibraltar. Instead, on Wednesday, Madrid formally asked Britain for bilateral talks over the sovereignty of Gibraltar – much to the fury of the excluded overseas territory's residents.

"They want to turn me into a Spaniard," said Martin Pickford, a small businessman. "No one here wants to be suddenly told they are Spanish."

The report adds that Spain's foreign minister, José Manuel García-Margallo, last month sparked alarm in Gibraltar when he greeted a British MEP friend with the age-old rallying cry: "Gibraltar: Spanish!" and he has further pressed the issue by writing to William Hague to demand clarification on Britain's stance.

Mr Rajoy is set to meet David Cameron in London at the end of this month, but the authorities in Gibraltar are trusting that the British prime minister will defend their interests.

Yet Mr Picardo knows that he must remain on his guard. And inside his office just off Gibraltar's Main Street, the Oxford-educated lawyer told The Sunday Telegraph that he is determined his government will not be intimidated by sabre-rattling from Madrid.

"We are seeing what appears to be a more proactive desire by Spain to raise the sovereignty issue," he said, criticising Madrid's decision to cease tripatrite talks.

"The Spanish government does not best serve the interests of its people, especially those in the local area, by snubbing an international agreement to which it has subscribed in principle.

"And with five million or so people unemployed, it seems to me the Spanish have other more important priorities than historic claims over my people."

Across the border, in the windswept Spanish town of La Linea, residents gaze wistfully at their thriving neighbour.

"Just look at it. It is obviously part of Spain, and it's crazy that it isn't accepted as such," said Pepe, 60, a retired hotelier, who did not want to give his surname. "I think it's absolutely right that Mariano Rajoy speaks to Britain about the issue."

His friend Paco, 65, added: "What hurts me most is that they are laughing at us from across there. During the World Cup they even supported Germany instead of Spain! It's not right."

. Smuggling of cheap Gibraltarian tobacco into Spain is also a problem, the paper adds.

"I am Spanish and I defend Spain, but they insult it," said Inmaculada Floria, 36.

Her husband Tomas Rodriguez, 39, a civil servant, said: "It's true that a lot of Spaniards aren't interested in Gibraltar. But here it affects us directly. For instance, a coffee in La Linea costs the same as in Madrid, and we are pushed out of the property market. It needs to be sorted out."

"Gibraltar and Spain have a symbiotic relationship and we can do a lot more to work together," said Edward Macquisten, chief executive of the Chamber of Commerce.

"But if Madrid continues to clamp down, then it won't help anybody."

Is the cannon outside his office pointing in the direction of Spain, the writer asked Picardo.

"It's pointing in the direction of the governor's residence opposite – at the representative of the British Foreign Office!" he laughed. "But that is totally unintentional as in any event it is decorative. We are confident in our position here.

Gibraltar cannot expect Spain to drop its sovereignty claim, says Seruya

But someone who does not agree with Picardo is Solomon Seruya, who years ago said he was retiring from politics but keeps putting his foot in it, writes our Political Correspondent.

In an interview with Spain's most right-wing paper, La Razon, he says Gibraltar cannot pretend that Spain should drop its sovereignty claim.

And why not? because it is a historical and political factor, he says.

What Mr Seruya should understand once and for all is that it is also a historical and political factor that Gibraltar has been British for 300 years, that it was ceded for ever and that it is the homeland of the people of Gibraltar.

He does admit that Spain cannot impose itself after all those 300 years, but reckons that, with time, the Brussels Agreement could be implemented.

The Brussels Agreement is about sovereignty negotiations, about finding a formula to hand over sovereignty to Spain.

At a time when Spain is seemingly again putting on the pressure on Gibraltar,what Gibraltar does not need is to send the wrong signals to Spain, but along comes dear Solomon, proud of being the only Gibraltarian to have been awarded by the Spanish government the 'Gran Cruz del Merito Civil de Espana.'

No surpise that he also tells the Spanish paper: "I am in agreement with Margallo that the tripartite forum should be extended to the Campo de Gibraltar to integrate the Spanish regions. "We need formulae to solve the Gibraltar problem," he said.


  1. I speak only as a Briton.

    In 1713, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain 'in perpetuity'. For anyone (Spanish) out there, 'in perpetuity' means 'forever'. As a result, Spain has no legitimate or valid claim to Gibraltar. Regarding territorial waters, I haven't been able to find any international acceptance of the concept of 'territorial waters' in 1713. Prima facie, Spain had no territorial waters either and, using the same pretensions as Spain, Gibraltar and Britain are entitled to claim that Spain has few territorial waters in the area either. Gibraltar would be quite entitled, under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, to insist that its sea border continues the line of the Gibraltar-Spanish land border, essentially east-west, for 12 miles. To the east, the Gibraltar-Spanish land border is approximately East South East.

    In my view, Britain and Gibraltar need to take positive action. Regrettably, Gibraltar is very poorly defended by the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron or by the Gibraltar Government's own assets. I wrote to my own (British) MP and said that the Gibraltar Squadron should be reinforced by 3 1,677 tonne River-class patrol vessels. In the old words "Evil men can only succeed when good men do nothing."

    To the individual people of Gibraltar I say this: Thousands of miles away in the South Atlantic, the so-called government of so-called argentina, lies, cheats and steals in their attempts to seize the free Falkland Islands. Free as you are, able to choose their own way, as you are, protected, as you are, democratic, as you are.

    Why would a 'democratic' Spanish government want to force you to be Spanish if you didn't want? Wouldn't they respect your democratic wishes?

    As you and we found out between 1939 and 1945, it is sometimes necessary to spend money and fight to protect and continue what you and we believe to be important. I make no comment about Spain's position during those years. I just ask you to think about it.

    In the world-wide scheme of things, Britain is a small country. Just as Gibraltar is small compared to Spain. Even now, does Britain back down? Why should you? Does Britain, despite its cowards, refuse to fight? Why should you?

    I, and we, are proud that you choose to be British. I will support you in that for as long as I live. You are a free people and we in Britain recognise and support that.

    But if I were a Gibraltar national, faced with the situation that you face and needing foreign workers, I would not permit a single Spanish national to cross the border. I would take the foreign workers from North Africa or anywhere but Spain.

    You will understand ROE (Rules of Engagement) and I would recommend that Gibraltar's ROE in BGTW should be 1. Warn. 2. Sink.

    How many Gibraltarians would turn out to watch Spanish vessels turn into fireworks?

    Question. Should Gibraltar Defence Forces follow the example of the Swiss Defence Forces and keep their weapons at home?

    It's always worth bearing in mind that there are only about 46 million Spaniards. But there are 52 million English. And Britain supports Gibraltar.

    But you people in Gibraltar can do what you want. Do you want foreign laws? Foreign taxes? Foreign armed police? Foreign paramilitaries? You choose!

    1. Are you ready for a war between Britan and Spain? Sure?

    2. Democracies, the real ones, do not have to look at belligerancy as an alternative to diplomacy. Democracies, the real ones, respect the rights of people to the land they have lived in over 300 years. Democracies, the real ones, do not use a signed, sealed and "gifted in perpetuity" crop of Rock as a smokescreen and a cry of war to unite a dis-united country, riddled by debt and corruption, with a five million unemployed list.But then again, there are the true Democrats and the ones that call themselves Democratic.

  2. How about Serruya going on a peace mission to Israel to negotiate handing the land back to Palestine.

  3. Mr Seruya is entitled to give an opinion but he does not carry the weight of the People of Gibraltar when he speaks. I believe that he is mistaken in his thinking and he is playing into Spain's hands and therefore, naively or not, justifying Spain's policies of harming Gibraltar.

    I do not consider that Mr Seruya's thinking is enlightened at all.
    It would seem that Mr Seruya is somewhat maniplulated or utilised by Spain to undermine Gibraltar.

    By indicating to Spain that it is "right" in persevering with the claim he is giving them hope and fueling her aspirations and her hunger to continue with her negative campaign. History has proved that appeasement does not work.History has also shown that countries (Germany/Japan) are able to acknowledge the mistakes of the past. Spain feels fully comfortable with its treatment of Gibraltar because no one has voiced opinions to the contrary. Mr Seruya's words are therefore unfortunate. It is better to stand up to a bully than try to gain his friendship by giving credence to his behaviour.

    Furthermore one does not need to be astute or an experienced diplomat to realize that Spain is trying to relegate Gibraltar to the second division in any talks , in relation to its' own future, and thereby allowing her to continue to push the UK for bilateral sovereignty talks where Gibraltar's future can be decided. Mr Seruya has either not understood what Margallo wants or his thinking is advocating putting us in a position of weakness. Furthermore I do not consider that his economic assertions are even correct. Gibraltar's business is much more international than what he thinks.

    The position taken by the Chief Minister as indeed the UK Government is the correct one. Don't give Spain hope where there is none. Thanks but no thanks. Thereafter we can be friends, as neighbours should be.

  4. serruya represents the 'selected few', just like James Gaggero, who continously send the wrong message to spain and therefore are doing a disservice to Gibraltar. We cannot let these people dictate our future just to further enrich themselves. Lets not forget serruya was 'honoured' with the spanish cross.....por algo se lo habran dao a este gashon!!!! Vaya poca verguenza y cara dura tienen esta gente.

  5. The only symbiotic relationship between Gibraltar and Spain is that Gibraltar is part of Spain,there is a treaty, but England,of the many clauses that there are just defend one,that the Rock of Gibraltar was ceded to them in perpetuity,the rest are anacronic,that is typical of them.

    1. The rest of the clauses of the Treaty of Utrecht are Anacronistic as for e.g. the one that says that no Jew or Moors be allowed to reside in (this place) Gibraltar. And I would remind you of one thing Gibraltar is part of the Iberian Peninsular, not of Spain, as is Portugal. Ceuta and Melilla and for that the Canary Islands are not part of the Iberian Peninsular and to anyone but the Spanish, they are part of what used to be the Kingdom of Fez, now Morrocco and geographically part of the African geography. But typically, Spain sees the straw in other's eyes and disregards the tree trunk in theirs.

  6. Why,since 1713, is Gibraltar referred to politically as "The Gibraltar Problem". Gibraltar is British and we as British Gibraltarians live here and it belongs to us. Never mind 300 year old Treaties which have been broken time and time again by both sides. Gibraltar is ours not Spain's and never will be. What is the "Problem" with that.

  7. The treaty also states that no Moors or Jews should be allowed to live here, so goodbye Mr Seruya you can't have it both ways.

    In fact why don't we issue a stsatement that we are going to uphold the treaty starting with the forced expulsion of these groups, once the international community says that we aren't allowed to do it because of human rights then that would pretty much annul the treaty as a whole, Spain can't pick and choose which bits are enforced, it's all or nothing.

  8. The reason Spain wants Gibraltar relegated to "an interested party status" is to enable Spain and the UK to discuss the whole issue without taking into consideration the will of the people of Gibraltar, they can quite happily sidestep any referendum past, present or future, clearly stating that it has nothing to do with the discussion as it is a matter for the "Top Table" and not the sidelined participants.

    The Strategy is as plain as the nose on your face, any politician who fails to see that should not be in the job.

    This was attempted by Jack Straw 10 years ago, and Gibraltar got wind of it and held a snap referendum to show that the people of Gibraltar would not tolerate it, even though the UK Government (and Spain) said that the referendum as not valid at the time (not approved by the UK parliament)it was then impossible for Jack Straw to ignore it, given the 99.7% support for Gibraltar to remain British.

    Britain dare not go down this route again, and definitely not with a Conservative Government all be it a Lib/Con one.

    Spanish political belligerence and ire is an attempt by the Madrid Government to find someone to blame for the ills that have befallen Spain, much the same as the Nazi's blamed the Jews, Spain blames Gibraltar.

    The whole problem comes down to jealousy, Gibraltar is a successful city, it is a contributor to the UK finances in revenue and taxes, it is a contributor to the Spanish economy in trade and providing employment to the people of the Campo and La Linea.

    Close the border and 30,000 people will be put out of work, the majority of whom are Spanish.

    Close the border and pensioners who are paid from Gibraltar will lose there Pensions and benefits.

    Close the border and Spain will not get one brass ha'penny from the GoG.

    Close the border and La Linea and the Campo will be broke and ghost towns within 6 months.