Friday, February 13, 2009

Will they ever stop banging on about Gibraltar's Sovereignty?

Spanish Senator José Carracao meeting Andrew Whittaker, the Political Affairs Secretary at the British Embassy in MadridThe PSOE's (Partido Socialista Obrero Español) Foreign Affairs spokesperson in the Spanish Senate, José Carracao, has re-opened the question of sovereignty over Gibraltar and the jurisdictional water surrounding the Rock.

Following what is described as a "cordial" meeting with Andrew Whittaker, the Political Affairs Secretary at the British Embassy in Madrid on Wednesday, Carracao said that the "matter of sovereignty has been put aside for too long and should be debated without further delay". Senator Carracao added:

"It is a bilateral matter that must be dealt with by Britain and Spain and can therefore not be included in the Tripartite Forum on Gibraltar".
Senator Carracao, who represents the Campo de Gibraltar in Spain’s upper chamber, also spoke of the need for better maritime control by Gibraltar, categorising the Rock’s maritime authorities as "dangerous for navigation and the environment". As an example, Senator Carracao referred to the ‘New Flame’ disaster, saying "the ship left Gibraltar without permission". He also quoted the founding of the ‘Fedra’ in October 2008, "which had engine trouble and was not reported to the maritime authorities" on the Rock.

During the meeting with Andrew Whittaker, Senator Carracao also spoke of the need for better police control at the border, expressing concerns over "an increase in tobacco smuggling that the Gibraltar authorities are doing nothing to stop". For good measure, Senator Carracao also threw in criticisms about bunkering, the landfill work at East side and the ‘Odyssey’ saga. Carracao believes Odyssey Marine Exploration are intending to return to the area to continue its search for sunken treasure.

Pulling Caruana's chain

Earlier this month, the Spanish senator also had a go at Gibraltar's Chief minister Peter Caruana, saying he should have a "permanent contact with the Mancomunidad de Municipios, the Community of Municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar, the Junta de Andalucia and the special Spanish delegate in the Campo", presumably referring to himself. He pointed out that he has made this and other suggestions to the Spanish foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos.

Sr Carracao wants changes in the Tripartite Forum and is not happy with the way Mr Caruana has "elevated himself to the position of almost a secretary of State". Sr Carracao wants to bring him down to the level of the mayors in the Campo, it would appear, urging that Mr Caruana should have talks with the mayors of Algeciras, San Roque and La Linea. On the other hand he says he is not against Mr Caruana being "at a higher level", but he "should also deal with the municipalities".

Sr Carracao is also of the view that the Opposition leader Joe Bossano should be brought into the picture, because he represents a high percentage of Gibraltarians.

Sr Carracao also wants a greater Spanish economic presence in Gibraltar, he wants to see Spanish businesses established on the Rock.

For a Spanish politician with a long tradition of towing a 'soft line' on Gibraltar, these statements and new tone are quite a turnaround. It makes one wonder what his new agenda is... and why has he turned to banging on about the sovereignty of Gibraltar again? I'm sure many had hoped that the Tripartite Dialogue Forum's Cordoba Accord had put an end to all this nonsense. Well, to be fair, only a very naive optimist would ever think that Spanish politicians would stop banging on about OUR sovereignty, I suppose!

So far, I've not seen any reaction to Carracao, from either the Gibraltar Government or from the official opposition, headed by Joe Bossano. But, there is a reaction today from the somewhat (alas) sidelined Progressive Democratic Party.

In a statement issued this morning, the PDP, says "Senator Carracao’s representations to the British Government, that bilateral sovereignty talks should be opened, are a blast from the past and a reminder that fundamentally the political mood in Spain on the most important question – sovereignty – is still stuck in the past".
"Mr Carracao is the Foreign Affairs spokesman for the Governing PSOE in the Spanish Senate – he is not just another lone political voice. As such his comments are representative of a mainstream political view in the governing party in Spain. That view is clearly shared by PP politicians who have made similar comments in the recent past.

This is a stark reminder of what Gibraltar must continue to struggle against."
The PDP statement adds that they "completely reject that insistence on excluding Gibraltar and its representatives on the most important issue of concern to the people of Gibraltar".

Keith Azopardi, the leader of the PDP, concludes the statement by urging Spain to "carry out a fundamental reassessment of its position":
"Gibraltar’s sovereignty, morally, legally and politically, vests in its people. Spain must carry out a fundamental reassessment of its position on the long-term future of Gibraltar and come to accept that if we are really to move forward and enjoy a modern relationship with our neighbours!"
Well said Keith! I've always thought so too... which is why I asked, will they ever stop banging on about Gibraltar's Sovereignty?!

We've said it before and I shall repeat it here again (I use it as a intro slogan on my blog's side margin... and it's always good to remind one and all!!):
Gibraltar belongs to the People of Gibraltar. It is neither Spain's to claim nor Britain's to give away!