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GIBRALTAR today

 

 Gibraltar-registered company in Dublin property
dispute


A dispute over Dublin Corporation's handling of an application for planning permission to carry out additional restoration works on an 18th century Georgian house in Dublin's Merrion Square - home of the late fashion designer Sybil Connolly - has come before the High Court.
  In an affidavit on behalf of a Gibraltar-registered company, Illium Properties Limited, which bought the house last year, businessman Mr Dermot Desmond spoke of his life-long fascination with Georgian buildings and was critical of the Corporation's handling of Illium's application for planning permission for certain restoration works on Ms Connolly's former home at 71 Merrion Square, reports the Irish Times.
  There was now a unique opportunity to restore this house. Ms Connolly had not had the resources to do so but the applicant company had made available the necessary resources and had engaged leading architects in design and restoration to carry out the works.
  However, he said, the project had been dogged by difficulties in dealing with Dublin Corporation.
  Mr Desmond's affidavit grounded an application by Illium for leave to take proceedings against Dublin Corporation.
  Moving the application, Mr Michael O'Donnell, for the company, said all Illium wished to do was restore it to its original condition. 
  Mr Justice Kelly granted leave to the company to seek an order quashing the Corporation's request of September 10th for further information about the planned restoration scheme. 
  He further granted leave to the company to ask the court to find that a decision to grant planning permission in accordance with plans and documents already supplied to the Corporation was deemed to have been granted. The matter was returned to November 6th. (27.10.01)



Bossano to speak in Madrid

  The Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano travels to Madrid next week to give an address to the Forum 2000. The theme of the address will be "The
future of Gibraltar."
  The format is similar to the Club Siglo 21 which has also been addressed by Mr Bossano in the past. A lunch has been organised with an invited
audience during which the Leader of the Opposition will give his presentation. The lunch will be followed by a debate and questions.
  Mr Bossano said that the opportunity would be taken to point out why the future of Gibraltar does not lie in the relaunched Brussels process but in
following the same path towards decolonisation followed by every other colonial territory through the principle of self-determination.
  The Opposition considers that this visit by the Leader of the Opposition  to Madrid provides an ideal opportunity to counteract the propaganda being put around by the Spanish and British Governments in order to secure Gibraltar's participation at the coming round of talks under the Brussels process. (26.10.01)

Police inspector faces tobacco charges

A senior police officer in the Gibraltar Services police has been in court, charged with stealing large quantities of tobacco.

 Inspector Robert Randall is charged with stealing 20,000 cigarettes the property of the Services police on 9 November last year. He also faces charges of having stolen the same quantity of cigarettes on three other occasions.

  The case has been adjourned until December, with Randall granted bail.

  It has also emerged that two other police officers have been suspended from duty following an internal investigation. (26.10.01) 

 

Government ignores ombudsman's findings

   The Opposition is extremely concerned at the manner in which the Government is approaching findings of the Ombudsman which are favourable to
the complainant and which are adverse to the Government itself.
  A number of individuals have complained to the Opposition that after the Ombudsman has found in their favour or considers that there is  a case for
the Government to answer, the Government has obfuscated and avoided dealing with the issues raised by the Ombudsman. Indeed, on some occasions, the Government has reached agreement with the Ombudsman in relation to the manner in which a claim should be settled  only to subsequently attempt to unilaterally revoke those agreements.
  Opposition member Juan Carlos Perez intends to raise this issue in questions at the meeting of the House of Assembly which will take place on
5 November. This is the first opportunity that the Opposition have had to question the Government since April this year.
  Mr Perez will ask that where in a case investigated by the Ombudsman the result has been either that a Government department or agency found to be acting wrongly that the Government should state what action has been taken to correct it. Mr Perez also intends to enquire whether there are any entities or persons taking legal action against the Government where the
Ombudsman has found in their favour and the Government has done nothing to give effect to his findings. 

  The Opposition has received a number of complaints from members of the public indicating that there are instances where the Government has not acted on the recommendations made by the Ombudsman. (26.10.01)

Gay Rights campaigners clash with chief minister at London School of Economics

 Gay Rights campaigners have clashed with the Chief Minister Peter Caruana at the London School of Economics - and accuse him of being economical with the truth. 

  At his address on self-determination last night, Mr Caruana said that Gibraltar has "some of the best gay rights laws in Europe", and that Gibraltar's laws on homosexuality "conform to European human rights law".

  A Gay Rights release  says: He made these surprising, untrue claims at his keynote address on "Gibraltar's right to self-determination" at the London School of Economics.

  Under questioning from a member of the audience, Wendyl Harris of the gay human rights group OutRage!, Mr Caruana initially suggested that the Gibraltarian age of consent for gay and heterosexual relationships was equal at "16 or 17". Then, fumbling, he admitted he wasn't sure.

  The statement says that Mr Caruana was corrected by gay human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, who was also in the audience. Mr Tatchell interjected to complain that "Gibraltar has a discriminatory age of consent of 18 for gay men, compared to 16 for heterosexuals".

The Chief Minister responded by claiming that Gibraltar was a "very tolerant place for homosexuals",even implying there was no discrimination at all.

"If you are so tolerant towards gay people, why do you refuse to meet gay rights groups in Gibraltar?", asked Wendyl Harris. 

Despite being asked three times, Mr Caruana declined to explain why he was unwilling to engage in dialogue with Gibraltar Gay Rights, which has repeatedly been refused meetings with the Chief Minister, says their press release.

Mr Caruana invited Wendyl Harris to meet him after the meeting to discuss her concerns. But when Harris turned up to meet the Chief Minister, he was "too busy" to talk to her. Harris's way was barred by security staff. They detained her in a corridor and called for reinforcements to have her ejected from the LSE.

"Mr Caruana personally invited me to join him for a discussion after the meeting", said Harris. "When I arrived I was confronted and threatened by security guards. I never got to speak to Mr Caruana. He was clearly not interested in having a genuine dialogue. His behaviour confirms the complaint of gay rights groups in Gibraltar that he is unwilling to sit down and talk with them. He made an offer to me, then broke his word".

Peter Tatchell said Mr Caruana's claim that Gibraltar has "some of the best gay rights laws in Europe" was laughable. "Gibraltar is one of only five out of 42 European countries to retain a discriminatory age of consent for gay men. The laws against buggery and gross indecency, which carry maximum penalties ranging from two years to life imprisonment for consenting behaviour, are the harshest in Europe. The buggery law dates back to the early sixteenth century and the gross indecency law is based on the same legislation that was used to jail Oscar Wilde in 1895". 

Mr Tatchell also poured scorn on Mr Caruana's suggestion that Gibraltar's laws on homosexuality "conform to European human rights law": "How would he know? He was not even aware of the gay age of consent in his own country", noted Mr Tatchell.

"Four years ago, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that maintaining a discriminatory age of consent for homosexuals is illegal. But Gibraltar continues to defy this ruling by enforcing a discriminatory age of 18", added Mr Tatchell.

"Despite a European Court judgement in 1999 that discrimination based on sexual orientation is unlawful, in Gibraltar is it still legal to sack gay people from their jobs and to evict gay tenants from their homes. Those who suffer this discrimination have no legal redress". 

"Mr Caruana's government has taken no steps towards implementing Article 13 of the EU's Amsterdam Treaty, which requires the outlawing of employment discrimination against homosexuals by 2003 at the latest".

"Lesbian and gay couples in Gibraltar have no legal recognition or rights. Their relationships do not exist. They are not acknowledged as next-of-kin. If one partner dies, the surviving partner has no right to inherit the deceased partner's property. A foreign partner of a gay Gibraltarian is denied the right to live in Gibraltar with their lover. These laws are cruel and inhumane". 

"The Chief Minister demands Gibraltar's right to self-determination, yet he is not willing to respect the human rights of his own lesbian and gay citizens", said Mr Tatchell. (25.10.01)

Port back to normal

  Gibraltar port is now back to normal after  action by disgruntled staff which led to ships being turned away.

  As foreshadowed yesterday, port minister Joe Holliday, on return from London, tackled the issue after the union requested a meeting. The industrial action which took place on Tuesday and Wednesday was lifted before the meeting took place.

  Issues of concern to the staff were discussed and further discussions are due.

  The row had been simmering since the summer after concern was expressed at the number of years some staff members have been on 'acting' duties without any attempt by the employer to regularise their positions.  The issue of manning levels, with the employment of junior ranks, was being highlighted. (25.10.01) 

Union threatens government with demonstration over Building & Works decision

  The Transport and General Workers Union has called on government to reconsider a decision over Building & Works "as we will not hesitate to repeat the events of a few years ago when a similar situation arose and members demonstrated their discontent at Convent Place."

  The issue is the refurbishment if two govenment flats by a private contractor and not the department of Buildings and Works.

  Union members are fully opposed to this contractorisation and will take the necessary action against this decision, said the union.

  Employees of Building and Works started work on the two flats last July, the works now nearing completion. "All of a sudden and without any explanation, the refurbishment done by these employees was stopped," says a union statement today.

  Two months later the government has placed an advertisement in the press, tendering for the works. The union says it cannot understand why work which can be undertaken by their members has been out out to tender.

  They say they do not accept in principle that these works be given out to a private contractor, without even a process of consultation. They also ask why should taxpayers pay twice for the same job.

  The union wants the tender notice withdrawn, adding that if the works are not carried out by their members, they will have no alternative but to suspend the existing incentive scheme. (25.10.01) 

House meets on Guy Fawke's Day

  The next meeting of the House of Assembly will be on 5 November - Guy Fawke's Day!

  This follows a long summer recess. The last meeting was on 30 April. Business from one meeting gets adjourned and adjourned, and this avoids questions from the Opposition who are only allowed to put questions for a meeting as such and not for adjourned meetings.

  Three bills are down to go through all their stages. The chief minister has a bill to amend the Leisure areas (Licensing) ordinance.  The employment minister has a bill to transpose EC law on transport of dangerous goods, and another in respect of misleading advertising. (25.10.01) 

Caruana goes to UN for 'domestic political reasons', says Bossano

Further to the allegations contained in an article published in the Panorama newsweekly on Monday written by Mr Bryan Zammit, and Mr Caruana's subsequent reaction, the Hon Joe Bossano, Leader of the Opposition, says he would like to make the following observations:

"I think Mr Zammit is telling the truth and that Mr Caruana believes that going to the UN is a waste of time. I do not believe he would be going if I had not challenged the United Kingdom in 1992 and gone there against their wishes. Just before this year's attendance at the UN 4th Committee Mr Caruana rung me up at home to suggest neither of us should go. He told me he felt that against the background of the twin towers attack in New York our moaning about frontier queues might seem inappropriate. He felt that in this context we could not argue Gibraltar's case with sufficient passion.

He also believed that public opinion might welcome an agreement between us to skip the 4th Committee appearance out of respect for the tragedy of the Twin Towers and that in any case we would be having another opportunity next year before the Committee of 24. 

I told him that the thought had not crossed my mind but that if he wanted me to consider it seriously I would give him an answer in 24 hours. But that my gut feeling was to go. He said that if I went he would have to go as well which I said I understood. I said that if we decided not to go Spain would have the field to themselves. He said what if Spain agreed not to go would that influence my decision. I said I did not trust Spain. Mr Caruana said that I did not trust anyone, Spain or the United Kingdom. I told him that he was right and that I did not trust him either. We left it at that on the basis that we would both go. 

I have to say that unlike Mr Caruana I do not feel ashamed of Mr Zammit's contribution. I think it is valuable to have non-governmental organisations and lay members putting their views to the United Nations when they demonstrate the basic unity that there is in the population over the right to self-determination. UN Associations participate from other colonies. At the 4th Committee meeting on this occasion there were several individuals and organisations from Spain who were there speaking in support of the Polisario on the question of Western Sahara. It is not the case that Governments have the monopoly in appearances before the UN as Mr Caruana likes to make out. In fact the UN welcomes non-government and individual views being put to them and does not expect every petitioner to come along with a QC. 

It is worth recalling that in this year's seminar at Havana in Cuba, it is possible that without my participation the Government might not have taken part. It is the case that Mr Caruana has not attended seminars for a number of years and that the year previous he missed out in the Pacific seminar. It is quite possible that had he been there the clause which seeks to treat Gibraltar different from other territories because there is a claim over its sovereignty from Spain, would not have been slipped in.

I honestly believe that Mr Caruana goes to the UN because he feels that he has to for domestic political reasons and not because in the UN we are making inroads on our case. I believe this is wrong and that he should continue to go and that he is making an impact as I did before him, although clearly I wish he would be opposing the relaunching of the Brussels agreement which regrettably he has not done." 
(24.10.01)

Caught between the Rock and a hard place, says former Foreign Secretary

 Former foreign secretary Sir Geoffrey Howe writes an opinion piece in The Times today. It was he who signed the controversial Brussels agreement with Spain in 1984, agreeing to discuss the sovereignty of Gibraltar for the first time. This is what he says:


The words 'always' and 'never' must be forgotten by Spain and Gibraltar

When Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, delivers a speech in London today on the future of the Rock, his words will have a very nostalgic ring for a former Foreign Secretary. For 17 years have passed since Fernando Moran, my Spanish opposite number, and I believed that we had made a breakthrough on the dispute over sovereignty between his country and my own.

And it all started very well. Or so it seemed. The frontier at La Linea — closed by Generalissimo Franco’s blockade — was opened for the first time for 20 years. And the way was cleared for Spanish accession to the European Community and for her full participation in Nato.So what went wrong? We had not, I think, sufficiently teased out differences. Above all, we had not achieved a common view of the very different timescales involved.

Two fundamental objectives should have been recognised as very long term — one of them, indeed, as effectively unattainable. For Spain, the objective — almost the only one — was, and remains, the recovery of sovereignty over what they see as an integral corner of their continental landmass. It is, they suggest, as though Britain had been obliged to tolerate a 300-year-old Spanish “colony” in Penzance. And for the 30,000 inhabitants of Gibraltar the objective is close to being the flip side of Spain’s. Like almost every other former component of the Empire they yearn for independence or, at least, for something close to that. Yet independence is the one thing that has to be regarded as beyond reach. Why, exactly? Because of the Treaty of Utrecht (1713). Britain’s title to the Rock, depends upon that document. But so too does the Spanish claim. For the treaty provides that if ever Britain should wish to dispose of Gibraltar — even to the Gibraltarians themselves — “the preference of having the same,” says the treaty, “shall always be given to Spain”. Gibraltar’s leaders have come to understand that. So Peter Caruana calls now not for independence but for virtual autonomy — still under British sovereignty. What about the Spanish case? Why, many Spaniards have asked, should there be any real difficulty in securing British agreement, for example, to some form of sharing sovereignty with Spain? There, too, the roadblock springs from history. For in 1969, when the people of Gibraltar were besieged by Generalissimo Franco, they secured from Britain a pledge, enshrined in their constitution, “never” to agree to a transfer of sovereignty without their consent. Those two words (which modern statesmen struggle to avoid): “always” in 1713 — Spain’s eternal right to the reversion; and “never” in 1969 — Gibraltar’s equally immortal brake on such change, have created enduring gridlock. This has all too often been perceived in Spain as no more than a cloak for British obstinacy.

But nothing could be further from the truth. We all now live in a democratic Europe, where frontiers can be changed only with popular consent. This principle is, for example, at the heart of the Anglo-Irish peace process. So it has to be for any sharing of sovereignty in Gibraltar, which rightly expects Britain to be robust in its defence.

Spaniards often cite Hong Kong as a precedent. But the cases are very different. There is no time limit on British sovereignty over Gibraltar. In Hong Kong the “handback” of sovereignty was unavoidable, when our 99-year lease ran out in 1997. Even so — and even in the absence of democratic institutions — opinion in Hong Kong was fully canvassed on the acceptability of the terms we had negotiated. Happily there are signs that constitutional realities in Gibraltar are becoming better appreciated in Spain. Madrid will need to win Gibraltarian acceptance of any shift of sovereignty. Any attempt to coerce opinion would, as always in the past, retard that prospect. Now is the time, said a perceptive Spanish leader the other day, for our government to start wooing the Gibraltarians. For years I have longed to hear such wisdom.

This is where the shorter-term agenda assumes importance. There is a raft of positive measures waiting to be put into effect. They would be good for Gibraltar, Spain and Britain alike.

Spain has for some time been ready to respect the right of Gibraltarians to retain British citizenship, if they wish. She should now be ready to end the restrictions that have for too long inhibited free movement of traffic into and out of Gibraltar: by sea and air as well as by land.

Disputes over driving licences, passports and so on should become a thing of the past.

Gibraltar, too, must be ready to move. Opposition to joint use and development of the airport must be set to one side. Some variation of that project has long been commended by Gibraltar’s Chamber of Commerce. And rightly so. Progress here could do much to foster the necessary climate of mutual goodwill. It could, moreover, diminish the recurrent Anglo-Spanish obstacles — of which neither can be proud — to wider European Union agreements. This in itself might help to ease longer-term issues onto the agenda. As Peter Caruana himself has, not so long ago, acknowledged: “You cannot expect to engage Madrid in a process of dialogue in which they are not free even to raise the matter that is of most interest to them, and that is sovereignty.” But it will only be when the parties have been working together for some time on all the practical issues that they might be willing to start considering proposals on the sharing of the powerfully mystical concept of sovereignty.
 (24.10.01)

Former foreign secretary Howe in 'brainwashing' exercise to get Gibraltar to do deal with Spain, says opposition

  The article about Gibraltar published by
former Foreign Secretary Lord Howe in today's edition of "The Times" is part of the brainwashing exercise designed to convince the Gibraltarians to
compromise our fundamental beliefs by doing a deal with Spain, says a statement from the labour/liberal opposition in Gibraltar's parliament.

  They add: It is significant to note that Lord Howe sees the Brussels process as the vehicle for this to happen eventually producing concessions on sovereignty. The comments made by Lord Howe vindicate the views of the Opposition that
Gibraltar should not participate in talks with Spain under the Brussels Agreement. 

  It is clear that as part of the campaign to create a climate in Gibraltar with which the Gibraltar Government would be comfortable in attending the
coming talks, a whole series of past and present political figures will be paraded before the people of Gibraltar to sell us the concept of attendance. 

  This was commenced by Foreign Office Minister Peter Hain in September, and it backfired on the Foreign Office. It was then followed by Lord Garel Jones, who is well known for his pro-Spanish leanings, and now by Lord Geoffrey Howe, whose views are hardly surprising given that he was the co-signatory to the Brussels Agreement in 1984.   The Foreign Secretary  Jack Straw will soon add his name to this parade before he meets the Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique on 20 November. The Opposition believe that these machinations are transparent.

Lord Geoffrey Howe would do well to continue his retirement and his silence on the Gibraltar question, says the opposition.   

'MOST UNPOPULAR FOREIGN SECRETARY"  

 During his tenure, he became one of the most unpopular Foreign Secretaries that Gibraltar has ever known. He abandoned the traditional UK position in defence of Gibraltar at the UN in 1985. He abandoned the threat of a British veto on Spain's EU entry unless the restrictions were lifted. He capitulated on the granting of advance EU rights to Spaniards before they joined Europe which had previously been rejected. He agreed the payment of revalued pensions to former Spanish workers and expected Gibraltar to foot the bill. 

  The opposition recall that Howe did a complete u-turn in agreeing to exclude Gibraltar airport for the first time from EC law in 1987 six months after be condemned the Spaniards for demanding this. While Madrid safeguarded her own position, that of Gibraltar was completely sold out by Lord Howe. 

Moreover, the Opposition recall that Lord Howe was the first British Foreign Secretary willing to explicitly negotiate the sovereignty of Gibraltar and to recognise that there were two issues of sovereignty, in the plural, instead of one. He therefore surrendered a vital point of principle for which the Gibraltarians had been prepared to endure sixteen years of siege and hardship. His track record as regards Gibraltar was characterised by its weakness which also includes the closure of the naval dockyard and the 1987 airport agreement. We are still suffering the negative consequences of Lord Howe's tenure at the Foreign Office to this day.

BETRAYAL OF GIBRALTAR'S INTERESTS  

  Says the opposition: In the light of his poor track record and his betrayal of Gibraltar's interests on so many occasions, a recommendation by him to support the relaunch of the Brussels process should be sufficient reason by itself for not going. The message from the Opposition to Lord Howe is thank you Lord Howe but no thanks.
(24.10.01)

Gibraltar port paralysed

  The port at Gibraltar is paralysed, with ships being turned away and other services not being operated by port staff.

  It comes after months of growing discontent among port workers, who say they are fed up with years of acting duties and double shifts to counter a number of posts which remain unregularised.

  Matters came to a head during the summer, but action was withdrawn when their union intervened and said that meetings would be held with government.

  However, with no solution in sight, the issue has now resurfaced. 

  The cruise liner Sundream arrived today but was not allowed entrance to the port. It was this afternoon at anchor in the bay. Two more cruise liners are due in the next two days.

  Other ships have also been turned away. The port lookout is not manned and communications and not operational.

  Sources close to the men said that the employment of three junior ratings would help solve the problem, but the government has so far not met such demands.

  The port is an important lifeline in Gibraltar's economy. port minister Joe Holliday, who returned from London today, is expected to tackle the issue.  The chief minister Peter Caruana returns tomorrow after Gibraltar Day in the city of London. The crisis requires urgent attention.(24.10.01) 

British family rescued from blazing yacht near Gibraltar

A British family were rescued when a fire swept a luxury yacht berthed at Sotogrande, Spain, near Gibraltar.

 Rescued were Simon and Merete Gulliford, their children Grace, 11, and Frederick, 8, Mr Gulliford's brother Jonathan and Mrs Gulliford's sister Karen, as well as the crew, according to reports. 

  The fire broke out after midnight, when Spanish rescue services broke into the vessel to pull out those onboard. Speedy action by fire service avoided the 4,000-litre fuel tank catching fire and leading to an explosion. It was not until close on 6am that the fire was fully extinguished.

  The vessel has been named as the 'Martikka', a Sunseeker model flying the British flag. (24.10.01)

Gibraltar Day in City of London

  Gibraltar Day was being celebrated in the city of London today.

  It opened with a media briefing onboard The Grand Turk by tourism minister Joe Holliday, thanking the UK travel industry for their contribution to the Gibraltar economy. There was lunch, music and entertainment - the buglers from the Royal Gibraltar regiment were in attendance.

 The lord Mayor, represented by a duty Alderman and the Sheriff of the city of London, hosted a lunch for the Chief Minister and the Director of the Gibraltar Office. This took place at the Old Bailey.

  This evening, over 450 people were invited to a reception at the Drapers' Hall hosted by the Chief Minister. This included a fanfare by the Royal Gibraltar regiment and an address by Mr Caruana.

  After the reception, those invited to a dinner moved on to the Court Dining Room.

  On Wednesday, Mr Caruana is addressing students of the London School of economics on the right to self-determination, followed by questions and answers.

  This is the second occasion that Gibraltar Day is celebrated in London. (23.10.01) 

Gibraltar port affected by industrial action

The Gibraltar port has been affected by industrial action, and there are reports that ships are being turned away.

  The crisis has been simmering for some time now as previously reported by us exclusively.  The problem stems from staff having been on acting duties for several years without their positions being regularised.  Other grievances are also being mentioned.

 The port is an important lifeline for Gibraltar and the Government, which controls it through the port authority, will be shaken that the port is virtually closed for all intents and purposes.

  Just prior to the September 11 attack in the USA, staff put off their action precisely because of the international situation.  Action taken earlier this year was also stopped when their union said it was going to tackle the Government about it. But on this occasion, the action is for real. 
(23.10.01) 

Sovereignty deal 'a mistake', says Spanish senator

It would be a mistake to do a deal on the sovereignty of Gibraltar at present, said Spanish senator Jose Carracao.

He feels that, despite all the years that have elapsed, the moment is not right to strike a deal on sovereignty.

Sr Carracao thinks that it is important that there is first a policy of good neighbourly relations.

On the airport however he felt that the 1987 agreement should be accepted, not only because it provides economic benefits, but also because of its underlying political consideration, as Spain did not cede the isthmus area under Utrecht and hence Spain cannot recognise British sovereignty over it.

STRAW COMING

Meanwhile, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw is to visit Gibraltar imminently. When chief minister Peter Caruana held his meeting with Straw in London recently, they went over possible dates for the visit.

Today, Monday 22 October, had been pencilled in, but the chief minister is flying to London this evening to attend Gibraltar Day. He will be back later in the week.

Although UK sources in Gibraltar have been saying that today's visit has been postponed due to the international situation, it is known that Straw wants to visit Gibraltar before the next round of Brussels talks, now scheduled for late November, and preferably before Blair and Aznar meet at Chequers on 9 November.

Caruana is on record as saying that there is no point in Straw visiting Gibraltar unless he first agrees to his conditions for attending Brussels talks. Such conditions must give the chief minister a veto, not only on matters of sovereignty, but on everything else. The veto agreement will have to be published in writing.

The opposition are against legitimising the Brussels talks by attending it. They say it is scandalous that Gibraltar should hear from elsewhere about planned Anglo-Spanish meetings about Gibraltar's future, while the Government has remained uncharacteristically quiet.

The Spanish foreign minister Josep Pique sees the relaunch of the Brussels process as providing advances on sovereignty in tandem with other progress. He is offering telephone lines and possibly softening frontier controls to sweeten the pill.

But the joint aim between London and Madrid is to strike a deal on sovereignty before next year is out, and to put in train a series of measures and meetings between now and then to make it possible.

Caruana must tell Gibraltar what he knows about Spanish moves, says Opposition

The Opposition says it considers that the Gibraltar Government should say publicly how much it knows in relation to the preparatory meetings taking place
leading up to the next round of talks with Spain under the Brussels agreement. 

  It is significant to note that the Chief Minister had a long meeting with Foreign Secretary Jack Straw in London prior to the session of the UN 4th Committee from which no detailed information has emerged.

  Instead, Gibraltar has found out through the Spanish press that Prime Ministers Blair and Aznar are due to meet on 9 November and that the next
round of talks at Foreign Minister level are due on 20 November. It has also first been reported in Spain that technical talks at coordinator level
between London and Madrid are taking place today.   

 In a statement today, the Opposition add: The coordinator talks taking place are reminiscent of the structure in place before 1988 when coordinators from the two countries met to discuss the way ahead. 

 The Opposition reiterate that it is totally unacceptable that there should be so much diplomatic activity going on and that the people of Gibraltar have to rely on Spanish press reports to find out what is happening.

The Opposition also notes that whatever London and Madrid are planning, with or without Mr Caruana's blessing, must be controversial given that Opposition Leaders in Britain and Spain are being briefed in advance presumably to obtain their support in the face of probable strong Gibraltarian opposition. It would be inconceivable and totally wrong that British and Spanish Opposition Leaders know what is in store for us and the Gibraltar Government should itself be kept in the dark. The Opposition considers that Mr Caruana should share whatever he knows with the rest of Gibraltar. 

It will be recalled that the strategy of briefing Opposition Leaders in order that they tow the line in Parliament was also used at the time of the Anglo-Irish agreement in relation to Northern Ireland. This resulted in a series of power-sharing committees between the North and the South which gave the Republic a direct input into what happens in Northern Ireland.

There have already been suggestions that the type of framework envisaged for Gibraltar will be modelled on Northern Ireland, with Anglo-Spanish joint committees being set up in a number of areas through which Madrid will be able to have an input into what happens here.

The Opposition considers that nobody has yet explained why the discussion of neighbourly relations with Spain should necessitate courage on the part of those involved or the briefing of the Leaders of the Opposition at Westminster and in the Cortes in Madrid. It is clear that there is a pre-determined plan of action and a programme of events that is about to be unleashed on the Gibraltarians and Mr Caruana has a duty and an obligation to tell us what, if anything, he knows (22.10.01).

Miss Gibraltar off to Miss World

Miss Gibraltar, Luann Richardson, has left to take part in Miss World contest in South Africa on 16th November

Changing Gib

Gibraltar is changing. No longer is this two-and-a-half-square-mile British protectorate on the southern top of Andalusia merely a Ministry of Defence garrison with duty-free attached for Costa del Sol daytrippers in search of cheap booze and ciggies. Most of the army, navy and air force have gone. Barely a thousand of them rattle around in the peninsula's maze of fortifications. Of Gibraltar's 30,000 inhabitants (of mixed Genoese, Jewish, Spanish and British ancestry), a mere 6 per cent now earn a living from the MoD, down from 60 per cent 16 years ago. With the loss of its number one employer, and with it 70 per cent of its income, Gibraltar has been turning instead to offshore banking and betting and to the development of tourism, writes Jonathan Dyson in The Independent on Sunday.

He adds: In the past few years, all the Rock's hotels have been refurbished, thanks to £5m in 'soft loans" from the government. New cruise-liner and coach terminals have been unveiled, as well as a new marina and the first phase of "extensive beautification works". The aim? To transform this curious protrusion of Jurassic limestone, this endlessly argued-over scrap of empire, into 'the next Monaco".

Well, that is the theory, now backed up with a £1m-a-year marketing campaign aimed at a new type of upmarket short-stay visitor. But what is the reality? First impressions on a flying visit were not altogether encouraging. 'The Silk Cut Café and Terrace' at the tiny airport, with its disturbingly short runway, was as low-rent as it sounds, more Skegness than South of France. The drive out to the Caleta Hotel on the quieter, eastern side of the Rock was also pretty grim.

Support for Euro vote and Self-Determination

The Vice President of the British Group of Liberal International Peter Billenness has said that British Liberal Democrats stand firmly on the principle of self-determination, and fully support the right of Gibraltarians in the European Union. Mr Billenness was in Gibraltar this Saturday where he was met by the Leader of the Gibraltar Liberal Party Dr Joseph Garcia.

Mr Billenness said that in particular, British Liberal Democrats supported the enfranchisement of Gibraltarians for European elections, in accordance with the judgement of the European Court of Human Rights. He added that he would like to see Gibraltar represented in the European Parliament either on its own with a single member or by voting within the South West region of England at present represented by seven MEPs.

On the question of self-determination, Mr Billenness said that British Liberals firmly support self-determination for all countries and territories as evidenced by the stand taken in 1992 over the Falkland Islands. He explained that this is a view common to Liberals worldwide, as evidenced by the Liberal International resolution of March 1999 which endorsed the right of the people of Gibraltar to determine their own future.

Mr Billenness welcomed the increasing electoral position of Liberals in Gibraltar. In the United Kingdom he explained that the Liberal Democrats had obtained 52 seats, which was six up on the previous result and an 18 per cent share of the vote. He said that in both Gibraltar and Britain third parties suffered from electoral systems which are far from proportional in their outcome.

For his part, Dr Garcia said it was the policy of the Liberal Party of Gibraltar to encourage visits here by as many politicians from abroad as possible. He said that there was no equivalent to people coming out here and seeing our problems for themselves in order to engage them as supporters of our cause.

Mr Billenness, who is also the Treasurer of the European Group of the Liberal Democrats, was accompanied by his wife Margaret, who is a Liberal Democrat Town Councillor. They were very grateful to the Tourist Board for a very useful and informative Rock Tour. Mr Billenness ended by expressing the hope that an increasing number of British Liberal Democrats will exchange views and give mutual support to the Liberals of Gibraltar.(22.10.01)

Group calls for international recognition of self-determination


The Chief Minister indicated recently that the Government, in its attempts to investigate whether we could bring a court action in an international tribunal in order to challenge the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, was performing all sorts of "mental somersaults". The picture, which Mr Caruana seemed to paint, was that this was virtually impossible, says The Labour Group which says it does not share Mr Caruana's bleak analysis.

They add: We also consider it extraordinary that almost 2 years after first announcing in the House of Assembly in November 1999 that the Government had obtained interim legal advice on the validity of the Treaty of Utrecht, that he has not yet received final advice on the related issue of gaining access to a tribunal. We are of the firm opinion that whether you believe in a negotiated settlement with Spain or decolonisation through the exercise of self-determination, it is establishing the right to self-determination through an international tribunal that represents the best opportunity for real progress on the issue of Gibraltar's constitutional development.

The fact is that the Declaration of Unity and the Chief Minister's speech rule out a negotiated settlement with Spain. In any event, the Labour Group believes that the Spanish Government is not interested in engaging Gibraltar in any real dialogue because it is only interested in one thing: a total transfer of sovereignty after a period of years or alternatively making progress on issues commensurate with that overall goal. At the heart of any negotiated settlement is the concept of compromise and Spain has simply shown no willingness to compromise. That is why Spain (to date) refuses to accept the Government of Gibraltar's conditions for attendance at the Brussels talks. Further, it can afford to do so safe in the knowledge that the UK will not consent to Gibraltar's constitutional status being altered in a way that would infringe the Treaty of Utrecht. At the same time, it continues to apply pressure on Gibraltar at EU level to force us to capitulate. Therefore, unless Spain sees that there is a real risk that Gibraltar will be allowed to decolonise through the exercise of self-determination, her attitude towards Gibraltar will not change. Whatever our own views on whether any particular constitutional solution infringes Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht, the reality is that virtually every solution short of an accommodation with Spain have been ruled out. The reasons are always Utrecht related. This also creates a huge practical difficulty for decolonisation through the exercise of self-determination because ultimately any new constitutional status has to be negotiated with the UK. And as long as the UK adheres to its position on Utrecht, it makes constitutional reform extremely difficult, if not impossible, short of deciding to unilaterally change our constitutional status with the grave consequences that that would entail. 
The group adds: That is why whether one believes in a negotiated settlement with Spain or not, it is international recognition of the right to self-determination through an international tribunal that provides the best opportunity for us Gibraltarians to truly and finally determine our own future. With that objective in mind our members remain ready and willing to engage the Government and the Opposition in dialogue to expand upon any points that they might consider an impediment or a difficulty in pursuing this course of action.(22.10.01)

LONDON CHARITY ABSEIL RAISES £5,500  

Gibraltarian, David Parody, successfully completed the abseil of a 150ft City Of London building on Sunday. In the process he managed to raise approximately £5500. The sponsored abseil was in aid of the Cancer Research Campaign.
  David said he was delighted at the response from sponsors. "In light of the 11th September events and the fundraising that has taken place for that in recent weeks, I was not expecting to raise more than £500. Imagine my surprise when the sponsorship money started to pour in. I cannot believe the generosity of Gibraltarians and businesses who time and again contribute to worthy causes".
  Conditions were far from ideal for an abseil with pouring cold rain falling on participants for an hour before they undertook the abseil as they received safety instructions and training. David took about two minutes to abseil down the 150 feet. "Turning your back on the edge and the walking back were the most difficult bits of the abseil" said David. "After that, I seemed to get the hang of it!"
  Finally, he said he wished to thank both the sponsors and the help he received to collect these.(21.10.01



Fraud charge man's trial 'unfair', appeal is told

 CONVICTED financier George Finbar Ross did not get a fair trial, the Appeal Court in Belfast has heard. 
  A lawyer for Cork-born Ross said Lord Justice McCollum, the judge at Ross's trial a year ago, was so unbalanced in his words to the jury as to be unfair, reports the Belfast Telegraph. 
  Ross (55) is appealing against his conviction and two-and-a-half year jail sentence after he was found guilty of deception by unlawfully procuring investments for his Gibraltar-based company, International Investments Ltd, which crashed in 1983 owing depositors around £7m. 
  Ross, who is on bail, was in court to hear his barrister Arthur Harvey, QC, say the trial judge had misstated to the jury the effect of the evidence of one of the most significant witnesses in the case.(20.10.01) 

Wintry weather finally sets in: Goodbye summer!

Wintry weather has finally set in - with resistant folk getting he message that summer  is gone!

  Men are still dressing in shirt sleeves and women in summer dress, as if hoping that the long, hot summer will prevail.

  But these last couple of days, heavy downpours coupled to strong winds dominate the weather situation. Winter is here!

  As always happens when the first heavy rains come down, roads and other areas are flooded.  It was pouring cats and dogs today, with the Rock fully covered by clouds - and vision across the bay  to the Spanish port of Algeciras impaired by more clouds and misty conditions.

  If the rains persist, the Trafalgar Day ceremony on Sunday morning is bound to be cancelled. This ceremony recalls the defeat of Spanish/French forces by the British, under Nelson (who met his death), in the Battle of Trafalgar off Gibraltar. The ceremony is held annually at the Trafalgar Cemetery.(20.10.01)

 

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