Tireless to be dry-docked this week, says Spanish mayor
The British nuclear submarine HMS Tireless, which is undergoing repairs at Gibraltar, is to be dry-docked this week, said the mayor of the neighbouring Spanish city of Algeciras, Patricio Gonzalez.
The submarine would be dry-docked in the Cammell Laird shipyard here, once a Royal Navy dockyard. Work will be carried out by shipyard personnel under the supervision of Royal Navy personnel.
According to Gonzalez, the British military command at Gibraltar has described the work as 'routine', but news from the Scottish nuclear submarine base at Faslane speak of certain risks.
The Spanish mayor adds that one of the reasons given by the UK ministry of defence in not towing the submarine back to Britain for repairs was that it should not be moved from its present berthing.
Tireless limped into Gibraltar last May, using auxiliary diesel power, after developing a leak on its coolant system.(04.03.01)
couple buy £250,000 ticket to outer space
A Gibraltar couple has purchased the
first two tickets for a trip to outer space on a British rocket.
They handed over £250,000 for the experience plus another equal
sum to help the project.
The ex-pats, aged 50 and 40, have not
been named, reports suggesting that their children do not know
and also that they do not wish to spend the next two years,
before the space trip sets out in 2003, being questioned about
UK inventor Steve Bennett hopes to sell a
remaining ticket for twice as much.
The couple had heard about the trip in a
Discovery channel programme. They contacted the inventor who
flew out to Gibraltar.
Mr Bennett is currently carrying out
trials to ensure that, by 2003, everything will be in order for
the trip to outer space.
He will be able to enter a competition
over it, with a $10 million reward. (04.03.01)
of Gibraltar betting licence 'put on hold'
THE sale of a rare offshore gaming licence in Gibraltar has been put on hold pending a possible reform of betting duty in this week's UK Budget.
Mounting speculation that betting duty will be scrapped has forced KPMG to delay the sale of Simon Bold Gibraltar, the offshore bookmaker run by Simon Bold, which has been seeking a buyer or strategic partner since late last year. KPMG had hoped to complete the sale by the end of February, but it is understood that its has been forced to abandon the deadline, says the Sunday Telegraph.
In the past nine months of 2000 Simon Bold, an internet and telephone bookmaker, turned over £6m although it is believed to have made a trading loss. It is, however, the Gibraltar licence that makes the business so valuable and KPMG is believed,
by the paper, to have put a price tag of up to £30m on the firm.
Gibraltar is considered to be one of the most desirable offshore centres for bookmakers, but there are only seven offshore bookmakers licences and the government is cautious about issuing new ones. Demand for licences is high but if the UK Government does reform betting duty, it is likely to fall.
Reports suggest that Gordon Brown will announce plans on Wednesday to replace betting duty with a tax on bookmakers profits.
Race: Club Med on last lap
The 'marathoners' aboard Club Med will most likely make their entry into the Mediterranean this evening, before starting this last 700 mile lap towards Marseilles. The pace is still ample, the rhythm nimble and the racing tactics remain unchanged for the last 60 days; no unnecessary miles, preference always for the straightest tracks and economy of human and material resources.
Grant Dalton is concluding a circumnavigation that has always been in harmony and constantly in phase with the evolution of the weather systems. The alchemy between French and Anglo-Saxon experience on board has functioned perfectly and produced a mass of results from both a sporting and technical point of view, and as underlined by Olivier de Kersauson, will ring out with force "in the history of world sailing". But it's not yet time to draw conclusions,
reported on March 1 Denis van den Brink in Yachts and Yachting
Online. The Peyron menace evaporated last night. The low is cutting a clear swath ahead of Club Med's bows, on starboard tack as far as Tangiers, a slight curve towards the Balearics followed by a starboard gybe to climb with the wind to cut the line. A Saturday late afternoon finish? It's clean, it's tidy, a nice job well done, It's The Race as raced by Grant, Franck and the others!
The low centred on the latitude of Lisbon is continuing to deepen and move away to the east and the Iberian Peninsula. Well wedged on its southern edge, Club Med is galloping along parallel to the Moroccan coast. The south-south-west wind is steadily blowing from the port side and propelling the leader at 23/24 knots towards Gibraltar, which at this pace they should reach by midnight tonight.
"The sea has got rougher" said Jacques Caraès, "and the weather models are announcing a major gale for the "Pillars of Hercules" (Gibraltar). We'll be careful, but downwind isn't a problem for us." More circumspect, Grant Dalton refuses to think about Marseilles and the finish line: "Our only worry is getting through the Straits", he asserted, "It'll be time to think about Marseilles once we're in the Mediterranean" he declaimed, like throwing a pinch of salt over one's shoulder!
But Loïck Peyron was radiant today during the daily radio session. The wind picked up this morning, that we knew, Innovation is making fast progress along the direct route, that we knew too! Club Med has eked out a 1200 mile lead; is that bad for morale? We won't know. Peyron is racing, with good humour and the pleasure of being at sea for 60 days! He won't depart from this ambience. He will bring back his boat and his crew to Marseilles in the shortest time possible, with no regrets and no excuses, even if the gennaker came tumbling down again last night, even if Julien Cressant had to go up the mast again today, 35 metres off the deck to unjam the solent halyard! The low that is pushing Club Med on the road to glory is fleeing them, a scenario played out so many times: Innovation is clinging on, clawing away at the miles of northing needed to touch this strong south-south-westerly to quickly get past Madeira, then Gibraltar. "No qualms, the objective is to finish." (04.03.01)
Gibraltar drugs conspiracy, three
The English skipper of a converted trawler, the Posidonia, who tried to land £14.9 million worth of cannabis resin in Co Cork, Ireland, in November 1999 was jailed for nine years at Cork Circuit Criminal Court yesterday. Two men, who lived in Spain and had been recruited in Gibraltar, helped to crew the trawler were each jailed for eight years.
At yesterday's sitting of the court, the three accused changed their plea from not guilty to guilty in respect of one of three charges against them, that of possessing cannabis valued at more than £10,000 with intent to supply or sell to others. It was proposed not to proceed with the other charges.
Pleading guilty were Richard George Preece, aged 49, of London; Matthew Paul Simkins, aged 32, of Cadiz, Spain; and Barry William Court, aged 52, of La Linea, Cadiz.
Police testified that Preece was the skipper and had recruited Court and Simpkins. He had become involved with criminal elements in Gibraltar after his ferry business failed. In June 1999 he agreed to participate in the drugs run and sought the services of the other two.
Judge Murphy said that the appropriate sentence for such a "very serious" crime would normally be between 10 and 15 years, but there were exceptional and specific circumstances which prompted him not to impose such a term.(02.03.01)
describes guard mounting at Buckingham Palace as "outmoded
The mounting of the Queen's Guard, at Buckingham
Palace today, by the Royal Gibraltar Regiment has been described
as "outmoded colonialism", by the Spanish foreign
ministry, an assertion which has been seen as hilarious in
Asked about the guard mounting, a Spanish
ministry spokesman said that the presence of the Gibraltarian
regiment in London, acting under British traditions, does not
detract from it being a clear manifestation of a colonial
situation in Gibraltar.
It was , added the spokesman, a sign of
the anachronism of such a situation in the 21st century and
therefore constituted an old and outmoded colonialism.
The Royal Gibraltar Regiment started its
guard duties today, which will end on March 14. The Governor and
Commander-in-Chief of Gibraltar, David Durie, was in London
today to inspect the regiment and review the ceremonial event,
which included the corps of drums of the regiment.
Political sources here felt that Spanish
foreign minister Josef Pique must be piqued at a Gibraltarian
regiment undertaking such a high profile event at such an
important place as Buckingham Palace, official London home of
Queen Elizabeth. (02.03.01)
centres, including Gibraltar, in OECD row
OECD head Donald Johnston has replied angrily to accusations that his international agency was bullying UK-linked offshore centres in a crusade against tax evasion. He said he was baffled by a public attack on Thursday from Don McKinnon, head of the Commonwealth group of British-linked countries.
"Don McKinnon, whom I've talked to many times including as recently as Monday, says the Commonwealth is fully onside with the objectives of this exercise...I really don't understand," Johnston told Reuters in an interview.
McKinnon issued a statement saying the OECD, which has told dozens of mainly exotic islands with banking centres to clean up their acts or face sanctions, was "setting themselves up as the world's financial policeman."
"Frankly, I'm damn mad. I find it difficult to understand the position of the Commonwealth," Johnston said.
"They've told me repeatedly they share the same objectives as we do, which is essentially to eliminate tax evasion, illegal activity, the proceeds are often from criminal activity. It has nothing to do, basically, with bullying."
Many of the islands and territories that got the warning of sanctions from the OECD last year are part of the Commonwealth group of countries and territories linked to Britain.
Among them are the Caribbean British Virgin Islands and less far-flung places such as Guernsey, in the Channel sea off Britain, and Gibraltar, off the southern tip of Spain, reports Reuters.
McKinnon's comments came as representatives of some of the offshore banking centres were meeting OECD officials in Paris. Johnston said he was worried that the remarks could seriously damage the consultations.
A former tax lawyer himself, Johnston said the documents cited by McKinnon were not OECD documents, and fired off a letter of complaint to the Commonwealth chief. (02.03.01)
Possible Gibraltar link to arrests of Israelis
on Judaica thefts in Europe
A gang of Israelis have been arrested in Tel Aviv on suspicion of stealing valuable Judaica, ritual objects and holy books from Synagogues, museums and private collections all over Europe and then smuggling them into Israel and reselling them.
Four persons were initially arrested, with the police saying there were more to come.
Israeli police have found $2 million worth of valuables and are in the process of identifying other objects which, they say, may have been stolen in Gibraltar, Belgium, France and other European countries.
The police in Israel have been investigating the alleged thefts in cooperation with British police, said the Jerusalem Post. Those arrested have denied knowledge that the objects were stolen. "Everything is kosher with us," they said.
Judge David Rozin said there was strong evidence to back up police suspicions that the arrested were involved in varying degrees with a gang that for several years has been stealing and dealing in Judaica that has financial value as well as historic, religious and personal value.
In Gibraltar last May, the Attorney General decided not to prosecute two Israelis on the grounds that they had given the police information which led to the recovery of stolen property. This was the case concerning the theft of priceless Rimonim Bells from a synagogue in Gibraltar. The religious items were located elsewhere in Europe. (01.03.01)
Labour MP becomes patron of Gib Gay Rights
Labour MP Stephen Twigg has formally become a patron of Gib Gay Rights, said the group.
"Stephen is a well-respected British politician and we welcome his generous agreement to become one of our patrons. This means GGR is assured direct and continuous access to the Uk parliament and the British Labour Party," said secretary Lorraine Fisher.
Twigg joins Lib Dem peer Baroness Sarah Ludford in the official posts of patron of the group.
"GGR continues its campaign for the recognition of Gibraltar's LGBT community's rights both on the home and international fronts," said their statement. (01.03.01)
regiment to mount Queen's Guard at Buckingham Palace
For the first time in
its history, the Royal Gibraltar Regiment will mount Queen's
Guard and also provide the guard at Buckingham Palace, St
James's Palace and the Tower of London, starting this Friday,
said a statement here today Wednesday by the office of the
British Governor David Durie.
Durie, who is also
Gibraltar's commander-in-chief, will be in London on Friday to
inspect the Royal Gibraltar Regiment contingent who have flown
to Wellington Barracks before attending the first mounting of
the guard by the regiment at Buckingham Palace, official
London residence of the Queen.
The statement here this
afternoon adds that Durie will be joined by a number of
important guests, including four past governors of Gibraltar
(Lord Luce, Admiral Sir Hugo White, Field Marshal Sir John
Chapple and Admiral Sir David Williams) and the Master Gunner
for lunch at St James's Palace on Friday.
The regiment will provide
four 48-hour guards on 2, 6, 10 and 14 March. The contingent
includes a Corps of Drums which will also take part during the
colourful 'changing the Guard' ceremonies. The Gibraltar
soldiers will wear winter Greatcoat dress and carry their
Queen's and Regimental Colours onto the Queen's Guard.
"I am delighted, as
Commander-in-Chief, to be attending these events, " said
Governor Durie. "This is a proud moment in the history of
the Royal Gibraltar Regiment who, I am sure, will perform
their duties in London with great credit."
The regiment finds its
roots during the second world war when a locally-recruited
defence force took up arms to defend Gibraltar, the British
dependent territory at the entrance to the Mediterranean
bordering the Spanish mainland. With the rundown of
British foces in Gibraltar over recent years, it has become
the largest British military unit here, charged with the
landward defence and security of the 6.5 square kilometre
territory claimed by Spain.
Gibraltar ceased to be
Spanish after an Anglo-Dutch conquest in 1704, British
sovereignty being formally recognised by Spain under the
Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. Gibraltar is part of the European
Union, with Britain, and the people here want to retain their
links with the United Kingdom.
says he will not retire until he is 72
The leader of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour
Party, Joe Bossano, has put to rest speculation in parts of the
media over his possible retirement. He told his party's annual
meeting last night that he intended to stay until the ripe age
of 72. Bossano is 61.
He was loudly applauded at the meeting.
He was re-elected unopposed, but the point was made that anyone
could challenge him for the position if so wishing.
In his speech, the party leader attacked
those who had suggested that there were people in the party
blocking other's aspirations to participate more fully.
Already, there were people within the executive and outside the
executive who had indicated a desire to be considered as
candidates for the next general election, due in 3 years time.
John Cardona became the first
Gibraltarian to receive the honorary life membership of the
party as an example of his "commitment, dedication and
consistency." He had been Bossano's election agent way back
Bossano made it clear that his party
would not soften their stance on Spain. The past and present
executive stood for the party's policy on that issue.
Elected unopposed to the committee were Christian Rocca, Jimmy
Wahnon, Danny Feetham, Charlie Bishop and Andrew Camilleri,
while Louis Sampere takes over Cardona's job as their
representative of pensioners.
The party is currently in alliance with
the Liberal Party, sharing the opposition benches in the House
excluded from OECD meeting, says Opposition
The Gibraltar opposition says it understands
that Gibraltar will be excluded from a meeting of the OECD's
Global Forum with Cooperative Jurisdictions on Exchange of
Information which takes place on 12-13 March. This is
because only territories that have issued letters of commitment
to the OECD's initiative on what they describe as harmful tax
practices will be invited to participate by the OECD.
The opposition also note the statement
this week by the OECD that the Seychelles has given a commitment
to eliminate harmful tax practices by 31 December 2005.
A blacklist of uncooperative tax havens
will be published by the OECD at the end of July and this is
expected to include all territories which have not issued a
letter of commitment indicating that they will act in line with
OECD demands. "The Government of Gibraltar, while refusing
to supply any details to the House of Assembly, have indicated
that they intend to comply with the OECD deadline and that a
consultation paper will be issued soon, " says an
opposition statement today.
It adds: The opposition will continue
with its policy of making public what little information it has
available, given the silence on the specifics of this subject by
the Government. (28.02.01)
phone code must not be sacrificed, saysGFSB
The Gibraltar federation of Small
Businesses says that the Gibraltar 350 international telephone
code cannot be sacrificed in the current wrangle with Spain.
They say that "rash statements"
in relation to this issue reflect an utter misunderstanding of
the realities of business in Gibraltar and in particular of the
Gibraltar Finance Centre. "Indeed to suggest that all
businesses in Gibraltar would be in favour of dropping '350' and
moving entirely to '44' is wrong," they add, in a clear
reference to the Gibraltar chamber of commerce who urged a
changeover to the '44' code as in UK.
The GFSB continue saying that it supports
the Government in its moves to provide quick effective interim
solutions and the adoption of the '44' for dialling from Spain
only whilst insisting firmly on the recognition of '350' as
Gibraltar's international code. "The latter cannot be
sacrificed," says a statement.
On postal services, the federation urges
Government to implement as soon as possible a new system of work
at the Post Office, or invest public funds into the operation of
the Post Office, in consultation with the workforce and their
representatives, to ensure that the service is improved
drastically and in the shortest possible period of time.
to the united view, Government told
In a statement tonight, the labour/liberal
opposition say they trust that the government "will
stick to the united view as expressed in the House of Assembly
with full Opposition support" on the row with Spain over
the telephones, "and will not break unity once again as it
has done in the past on other issues."
The opposition say it is against a
political agreement with Spain on the question of the
international code which does not test Gibraltar's legal rights
and which is outside the parameters of the European Court of
"It is one thing to accept the 0044
code for calls from Spain under the process of interim relief
granted by the court, while the case continues, and another
completely different matter to accommodate the Spanish position
so late in the day for political reasons," they say.
Gibraltar is locked in a dispute with
Spain in that the Spanish government refuses to recognise
Gibraltar's international 350 telephone code, which every other
The chief minister Peter Caruana told the
House of Assembly recently: "The Gibraltar government draw
a very careful distinction between what might be acceptable as
interim relief in continuing litigation and what might be a
permanent solution that disposes of the litigation without
therefore having the 350 issue tested."
The government has said that the European
Commission is on the verge of taking Spain to court over this
party calls for referendum to decide decolonisation
Four motions were being passed at the annual
general meeting of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP)
this evening, led by opposition leader Joe Bossano. There
were also elections to the executive.
One motion calls for the assembly to fully endorse the
decision taken by the executive committee in 1999, that the
Leader of the Opposition should again address the United Nations
committee of 24 on decolonisation and the Fourth committee. It
further endorses the view that it is normal practice at the UN
for more than one party of a particular territory to address
this forum and that it is right and proper that those reviewing Gibraltar's
decolonisation at the UN should be furnished with
all the views which are held by the people of Gibraltar on this
The assembly also reaffirms the position that
Gibraltar's decolonisation will only be legitimate when a new
Constitution is approved in a self-determination referendum
leading to Gibraltar's removal from the UN's list of territories
requiring decolonisation. This motion proposed by Joe Sanders
and seconded by Juan Carlos Perez.
Another motion calls for divorced women to have the
right to be covered for a social insurance pension by the
contributions made by the husband for the period they have been
married. This motion proposed by Charlie Bishop and seconded by
The opening of a dossier on complaints by users of the
health service has confirmed the many deficiencies in the
standard of the health care provided by the GSD government, said
another motion. It calls on the executive to maximise its
efforts in assisting people with genuine complaints and to make
the public aware of these. This motion proposed by Carmen Gomez
and seconded by Mari Montegriffo.
A fourth motion expresses concern at the deterioration
in the housing situation which is again urging people to look to
Spain as an alternative. The rising number of social
cases is also a matter for concern. The party reaffirms
its policy of keeping frozen the rents of Government tenancies
and of making available housing on the 50/50 scheme. This motion
proposed by Jimmy Wahnon and seconded by Dr Reggie Valarino.(27.02.01)
Secret papers on Gibraltar:
ambassador's doubts that Gibraltarians would ever accept Spanish
EXCLUSIVE by Joe Garcia
The Spanish Ambassador in London at the time of the frontier closure told the Foreign Office privately that he had doubts the Gibraltarians would ever accept Spanish sovereignty, PANORAMA reveals today. Just as dramatically, he added: “I am not sure I would if I were a Gibraltarian”.
The Ambassador, Marques de Santa Cruz, was a leading figure in London’s diplomatic world and one of Spain’s best known ambassadors.
At the end of 1969, just months after General Franco had fully sealed the Gibraltar frontier, he called at the Foreign Office to pay them “the compliments of the season”, as a British official put it.
The Ambassador then went on to talk in a fairly discursive way about the Gibraltar situation - “something which he has never done before”, as the senior Foreign Office official, D.V. Bendall, noted.
In fact, the official felt duty-bound to record it all at some length “because he has never expressed himself so freely before”.
Why did the Ambassador volunteer such information? “I wonder whether the explanation may not be that he knows himself to be on the skids and that he no longer cares what he says”, Mr. Bendall surmised.
This extraordinary episode, of the maximum political and diplomatic significance, has been uncovered by PANORAMA among confidential documents at the UK public record office.
With the appointment of the suave Gregorio Lopez Bravo as foreign minister in Spain, after the hostile years of Fernando Maria Castiella, there were great expectations that a new climate was emerging in Anglo-Spanish relations. Lopez Bravo had privately told Britain that he saw himself being promoted to
Prime Minister in a future reshuffle.
This further spurred the Foreign Office to try and cultivate the new incumbent at the Palacio de Santa Cruz, chastising any UK minister who spoke out of turn, as certain initiatives were put in place. In the end, the hawks in Madrid gained the upper hand.
At the Foreign Office meeting in December 1969, the Marques de Santa Cruz said that while it would be wrong not to take advantage of the new climate which existed in Madrid, in regard to Gibraltar, it would equally be unwise to try to rush things.
The problem was not of a nature which was ever likely to lead to a
clear-cut solution. The ambassador was personally skeptical whether the Gibraltarians would ever accept transfer to Spanish sovereignty. “I am not sure I would if I were a Gibraltarian”, he was quoted as saying by Mr. Bendall.
The Ambassador thought that the character of the Gibraltarian community was changing......the people who had run the place in the past had been drawn from a limited number of comparatively wealthy families who had enjoyed a situation of privilege with the best of both worlds. Political power was likely to shift permanently into the hands of the increasingly prosperous lower middle class. They would certainly take a different view, said the ambassador, but not necessarily in favour of closer relations with Spain.
When the Ambassador said that the increasing independence of the Gibraltarian economy was a
salutary thing, “I expressed surprise”, said the Foreign office official. “It had always seemed to me that Spain had damaged her own interests in severing the links which used to work in favour of close Spanish-Gibraltarian co-operation.”
The Spanish attitude about associating Gibraltarians in some way with any
bilateral inter-governmental talks had always been rather ambivalent, the Foreign Office official said, adding to the Ambassador that “of course we could not accept that the Gibraltarians had any formal standing in an inter-governmental negotiation”.
They agreed that “instead of quarrelling over a small community and piece of land which were of no great intrinsic importance to either of us”, the two countries should treat Gibraltar as a historical oddity. It was the only sane
Blanket of silence about OECD plans
A blanket of silence is engulfing Government’s plans to combat the ever-nearer deadline by the OECD about harmful taxes.
After it becoming known that the Governmmnt was planning to lower taxes in the business sector, but not for the over-burdened tax payers,t he Government, all of a sudden, went on a ‘secrecy’ mode.
It could be that the Government is looking at the possibility of offering an olive branch to the general body of taxpayers in an effort to sweeten the pill and lessen the risk of unpopularity in a general sense.
If anyone was privy to what the Government’s intentions were is the former Minister of Trade and Industry Peter Montegriffo.
In comments made in an aticle in ‘Offshore Investment’,which have gone unnoticed, he said quite firmly that “the current duality in our tax system (which provides nil or little tax for international business and high levels of tax for domestic business) will be replaced by low tax applicable to all business activities.”
Montegriffo went on: This tax reform process is not the result of OECD and EU tax harmonisation initiatives, although it will largely deal with many of the matters raised by them. It responds rather to the view held domestically that a low rate of tax across the board is ultimately a fairer, more appropriate and long lasting regime for an international finance centre. Certain types of income may be exempt from tax altogether.
Five weeks ago, when the opposition DTI spokesman Dr Joseph Garcia, announced that they were to start a process of consultation with the finance centre, in order to formulate policy on the OECD issue, Mr Caruana quickly made it known,at the annual dinner of the Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses, that the Government was about to produce its own consultation paper.
However, nothing has happened since then.
After opposition leader Joe Bossano and DTI spokesman Dr Garcia had held a meeting with the Finance Centre Council last week, a press statement noted that the Government had refused to supply any information at the recent House of Assembly meeting, while indicating that it intended to comply with the OECD deadline of 30 June by giving the sought-after commitments.
The opposition added: The Goverment also said that a consultation paper is due to be published shortly, and although this is cutting it a bit fine, the view of the Opposition is that it is imperative that the industry and Gibraltar as a whole is consulted and kept informed.
In the meantime, the specialist financial press has carried on printing headlines along the lines of “Deadlock on ‘blacklist’ talks.”(26.02.01)
action planned by Spanish group
The Campo area anti-Tireless platform are meeting today to decide on what action to take in furtherance of their campaign, that the start-up of the nuclear reactor should not take place.
They are considering a maritime demonstration as well as a general strike.
• Meanwhile the Algeciras mayor Patricio Gonzalez says he has a document about plans by the MOD to replace conventional weapons in Tireless, arguing that this represents a danger.
• For his part, former Spanish foreign minister, Fernando Moran, has expressed criticism of the way the Spanish Government has handled the Tireless affairs, by showing more interest in pleasing the British government than in resolving what he terms an attack on Spanish sovereignty.
• The Environmental Safety Group is meanwhile demanding ‘safety-first priority’ which it claims is not shared by the MOD and also asks for “more clarity” from the Gibraltar Government.(26.02.01)
After issuing a 3-page Press release, the Gibraltar government goes on to ask for ‘discretion and restraint’ in public comment in relation to the ‘350’ telephone issue, adding that “the matter is currently at a critical stage with the EU Commission poised to decide on what action it takes in the formal complaints lodged by Gibtel and Gibraltar Nynex.” These complaints are based on breaches by Spain of European competition laws.
Unrestraint comment at this moment in time could not only prejudice the outcome of the EU Commission’s deliberations, but indeed “could also send internationally a signal of crisis that will certainly damage our economy further.”
The Government could have directed its comments to the outburst by the president of the Chamber of Commerce who has suggested to the world that Gibraltar would be finished if the phone problem was not resolved. Instead, in its press
release, the government says that “the Chamber of Commerce is right to highlight the needs of the business community.”
In its infantile outburst, the chamber has tried to blame Gibraltar, and not Spain, for the problem Gibraltar now faces following years of procrastination. Had Brussels done something about the Spanish attitude years ago, the situation would have been resolved by now, rather than wait until we ran out of phone numbers to get over-excited about it.
The threat from Spain is made clear in the Government statement when it says that “Spain’s principal policy objectives is that Gibraltar should not have any ‘administrative’ identity of its own and should not, for international purposes, act through its own institutions such as the police, customs, sporting associations etc.
What Spain wants is “to demonstrate that we are a pure colony with no self-government. The 350/44 issue is the telephonic manifestation of this same objective,” which is why the government says it will not abandon the 350 code as this would be a massive step backwards by Gibraltar in relation to our political problems with Spain.
Having identified the problem correctly, it then goes on to adopt a position which can weaken Gibraltar’s long-standing position on this supposedly delicate matter by their own admission.
As an interim measure the Government goes on to set out why it would accept ‘44’ calls for Spain only.
It argues that there is no way of getting a quick solution to the litigation if it takes place, it would ‘delink’ our numbering plan from Spain so that it could not be used as a lever against Gibraltar in the future, and suggests that the EU itself would seek to impose interim solutions which resolved the immediate emergency without giving either party victory in the main issue.
But the danger is that ‘interim solutions’ could end up becoming ‘permanent solutions’ and Gibraltar would have weakened its position in another area of importance for ever more.
‘TEMPORARY’ BECOMES ‘PERMANENT’
This is what happened with the ‘temporary’ arrangements Gibraltar accepted with the Spanish ‘9567’ code which makes us part of La Linea for such telephone matters and puts us at the mercy of Madrid, as we are seeing today and regretting to the full. What we cannot do is to have another short-term ‘saver’ that will bring about a potential long-term threat to Gibraltar and its people.