Confusion over Gibraltar border controls in UK-Spain deal
Gibraltar is moving towards a new era after the UK and Spain on New Year’s Eve reached a preliminary post-Brexit deal to avoid a hard border on the south of the Iberian peninsula.
This agreement, currently being examined by the European Commission, would allow Gibraltar – officially a “British Overseas Territory” – to join the Schengen zone that guarantees passport-free travel and freedom of movement to more than 400 million EU citizens.
As a result, Gibraltar’s port and airport would become the external borders of the Schengen area – with Spain as the member state responsible for the oversight and implementation of Schengen.
Europe’s border agency Frontex will have a presence at entry and exit points in Gibraltar, in an operation expected to last four years.
Gibraltar, an area with a population of around 34,000 people, has been a matter of often antagonistic discussion and debate since the disputed territory was ceded to Great Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.
But a new row was sparked after Spanish foreign minister Arancha González Laya said her country would have the last word on who can enter Gibraltar, under the preliminary agreement.
In an interview published on Saturday by Spanish newspaper El País, González Laya said that “to be able to enter a Gibraltar which is integrated into the Schengen area, the responsibility for [border] controls will be in Spanish hands – [both] at the port and the airport”.
“Schengen is a set of rules, procedures and tools, including its database, to which only Spain has access. Gibraltar and the United Kingdom do not,” she also said, without giving further details.
Responding to the interview comments, Gibraltar’s chief minister Fabian Picardo tweeted: “Under the New Year’s Eve agreement only Gibraltar will decide who enters Gibraltar and Spanish officers will not exercise any controls in Gibraltar at the airport or port now or in four years’ time. This is our land. Couldn’t be clearer.”
The Spanish ministry of foreign affairs, when contacted by EUobserver, declined to clarify whether Spanish authorities will be physically controlling Gibraltar’s airport and port.
The cabinet of Gibraltar’s chief minister also did not respond to EUobserver’s questions.
The details of the agreement are expected to become public in the coming days.
Meanwhile, experts argued that it is clear that a European border cannot be controlled exclusively by non-European officials.
“This is the usual debate that tends to confuse sovereignty issues with practical questions,” said Enrique Feás, senior policy analyst associated with the think tank Real Instituto El Cano.
“In the end, there will be a practical solution. The Gibraltar deal aims to find solutions to practical issues and not to harm the Spanish economy near Gibraltar, or the economy of Gibraltar, unnecessarily. This is only possible by allowing free movement,” he added.
For Feás, allowing the British Overseas Territory to join the Schengen area raises “practical problems that can hurt sensibilities related to the question of Gibraltar’s sovereignty”.
“Yet, the lack of an agreement with Gibraltar would have harmed both parties and it would have been the same or worse [for Spain] in terms of sovereignty,” he said.
For his part, the former Spanish foreign minister and current MEP Juan Manuel García-Margallo, who has been advocating for the co-sovereignty of Gibraltar for years, said that Spain has failed to seize the opportunity that Brexit had offered.
“The Spanish government said from the very beginning that in no case the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty would be discussed [with the UK], which means renouncing to all the bases of the negotiation, including Spain’s veto right in the UE-UK deal,” García-Margallo told EUobserver.
The Gibraltar deal, which still needs the approval of the European Commission, will be part of the UK-EU treaty that should be ready within six months.
While the treaty is being prepared, London and Madrid have also agreed to extend for six months three memorandums of understanding for cooperation regarding tobacco, the environment, customs and policing cooperation – which were signed in 2018 and due to expire on 31 December.
Meanwhile, the two countries are also in talks over a post-Brexit security and defence deal, which will contain “measures of trust” regarding the base in Gibraltar, El País reported.
This base has been a matter of diplomatic tensions in the past.a matter of diplomatic tensions in the past.By ELENA SÁNCHEZ NICOLÁS – EuObserver – source
From the April 1982 Plain Truth Magazine
WHY GIBRALTAR Is Still the ROCK OF CONTENTION
John R Schroeder
The Spanish government has finally agreed to reopen its borders to Gibraltar. Will the quarrels over the famous Rock at last pass into history? FOR NEARLY 300 years Gibraltar has been a rock of contention between the British and the Spanish.
It seems, understandably, that nothing upsets Spanish pride more than a British royal visit to the Rock of Gibraltar.
Prince Philip’s visit in 1950, for example, served to spotlight the controversy. And to highlight the British Parliament’s long-range goal to grant self-government to the Rock’s 30,000 inhabitants. Madrid immediately perceived that the vast majority (mostly foreign in origin) would not vote for a return to Spanish sovereignty.
Again, when Queen Elizabeth II stopped off at Gibraltar to complete her world tour in 1954, the Spanish blamed the British government for this “deliberate,” provocative act. The Spanish press hauled out British “sins” from the so-called rape of Gibraltar in 1704 to Henry VIII’s treatment of Catherine of Aragon.
All the furor finally ended with Premier Francisco Franco forbidding Spaniards to visit the Rock. (In 1969 Spanish authorities completely sealed off the border linking Spain with Gibraltar)
The last time the “royal yacht touched the Rock” was in 1981. Spain’s King Juan Carlos declined to attend Prince Charles’ wedding because Gibraltar was chosen as a convenient place to begin the royal honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean. Over a week before, The Daily Express ran a headline captioned: “Spain Ready to Open Gibraltar.” The upshot of that British decision to begin the royal honeymoon at Gibraltar was perhaps to delay the opening of the Spanish frontier.
But despite another wounding blow to Spain’s sensitive national pride, why has Madrid finally agreed to open up Gibraltar to the mainland?
Spain Ready to Reenter Europe
In simple terms the reason for Spain’s about-turn is her desire to effectively reenter modern Europe. Spain wants to join, finally, both NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC).
NATO’s 15 members all appear to favor the Spanish application. And Spain hopes to formally enter the Common Market on New Year’s Day, 1984.
Spain’s basic decision to discard its traditional isolationism by becoming an integral part of the Western family of nations is a fundamental turning point in her modern history. It would be incongruous for Gibraltar to continue to be a bone of contention between two treaty partners in both a major economic and an important military alliance. Besides that, Spain desperately needs British support if her application to the EEC is to succeed at a time when wealthier community members are beleaguered with all sorts of internal economic problems.
In return for agreeing to open her borders to Gibraltar April 20, Spain received a British promise to hold more talks on “all differences over Gibraltar.” There are some surprising elements in The Economist’s comment on these proceedings. England’s leading news magazine stated: “Britain has no objection in principle to handing Gibraltar over to Spain — providing this is acceptable to the majority of the Rock’s inhabitants” (January 16, 1982).
It may surprise one to learn that even conservative thinkers have no objection to giving Gibraltar away.
The fact that the majority of all Gibraltarians want the Union Jack to fly over the Rock may not always guarantee British control, however. One provision hammered out during the recent talks between Spanish Prime Minister Calvo Sotelo and Mrs. Thatcher was to allow Spanish workers to take jobs in Gibraltar after April 20. That particular proviso may prove to be the thin end of the wedge. For instance, if and when Spain is allowed to enter the EEC, these Spanish workers will automatically receive more favored status. This in turn opens up the possibility of a new scenario.
The Christian Science Monitor expressed it very succinctly: “What Gibraltarians fear is that Spain will encourage enough [workers] to establish themselves in Gibraltar to swing the vote in Spain’s favor in any future referendum to decide the colony’s eventual status” (January 18, 1982).
Gibraltar in Prophecy?
It looks as if Gibraltar is going the way of the Panama Canal. Britons seem determined to negotiate the Rock away in the same basic manner that Americans turned the Canal over to ultimate Panamanian sovereignty.
In some ways the Spanish attitude puts Britain to shame. In the words of a contemporary book, “Gibraltar is not a necessity to Spain — strategic, economic or political…. It goads Spain’s pride” (Benjamin Wells, Spain: The Gentle Anarchy, page 234). Without a doubt that is an overstatement, but it serves to help make this basic point: Spaniards are divided on many important political and economic issues, but they all agree on one point.
Pride in a Spanish Gibraltar
Lackadaisical Britons with little pride in their power or in their inheritance are ready to negotiate the Rock away. In the ringing prophetic words of a long previous issue of The Plain Truth: “Gibraltar is destined to fall — not in glorious and heroic defense after a famous siege — but in utter ignominy. In useless and helpless sacrifice — in disgrace and shame” (June, 1965).
Few understand why we could say this in The Plain Truth 17 years ago. Fewer still understand what Gibraltar really represents to Britain. Little do the British realize who gave them the Rock, why it was given and why it will be taken away. If you have not before heard of the answers to these questions, then you should request our free book entitled The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It will give you a new under-standing of the Gibraltar controversy that you never had before. And a new look into the surprising future of Europe in the 1980s.
Gibraltar in History
Recorded possession of the Rock extends far back into history. The ancient Phoenicians once held it. The early Greeks occupied it next, followed by the Phoenicians of Carthage and then the Romans.
Threatened by barbarian invasions at home, the Romans left the Rock in the early fifth century A.D. Three centuries later, in 711, Tarik-ibn-Zaid’s invasion from North Africa began a long Moorish domination of much of Spain.
Then in 1309 the Rock was taken by the Spaniards only to be retaken by the Moors in 1333. It became Spanish once more in 1462. Gibraltar was formally incorporated within the domains of the Spanish Crown by Queen Isabella in 1502.
Two centuries later in July, 1704, Spain in turn lost control of the Rock during the War of Spanish Succession. A combined British-Dutch naval force under Admiral Sir George Rooke seized Gibraltar after three days’ siege. Finally in 1713 Spain ceded the Rock to Britain in Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht.
Various Spanish expeditions were undertaken in subsequent years to recapture the Rock — all ending in failure. The last great attempt by Spain to regain Gibraltar by force came in June, 1779. This “Great Siege” — one of the most memorable in history — lasted more than 3½ years as a combined Spanish-French army of 60,000 blockaded, but never quite conquered, the small British garrison of 6,000 under General George Elliot, the governor of Gibraltar.
In 1783, Britain’s possession of the Rock was once more confirmed by the Treaty of Versailles. This ended Spanish hopes in a military sense.