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UN Committee to consider ‘wishes of people of Gibraltar’

The UN Committee on Decolonisation is to consider whether a reference to Gibraltar in the conclusions to their annual regional seminar in Fiji should be amended to the effect that the wishes of the people of Gibraltar need to be taken into account in resolving the Gibraltar dispute.

This was as a result of a suggestion from Minister for Trade and Industry Keith Azopardi made during the course of the Fiji seminar which followed along the same lines as that in the Chief Minister's intervention at last year's seminar which took place in Cuba.

During the course of the seminar Keith Azopardi intervened outing forward the Gibraltar Government's position in response to both the UK and Spanish representatives.

The draft reference to Gibraltar in Fiji was itself identical to that which had been proposed in Cuba making no mention of Gibraltarian wishes.

Drawing on a statement made by both UK and Spain to the effect that they were attempting to reach an agreement which would then be put to a referendum Mr Azopardi suggested that there should be a form of words which would refer to the need to reach agreement to resolve the dispute over Gibraltar, to take into account the wishes of the people of Gibraltar and which would be the satisfaction of all the parties concerned. The Committee took careful note and undertook to examine it further.

UK and Spain

Both United Kingdom and Spain intervened at the Seminar raising formal statements to the Committee of 24. The United Kingdom representative made a general statement on the position of the United Kingdom Government regarding the Overseas Territories as a whole, drawing largely on the policies being adopted to achieve progress through partnerships set out in the UK Government's 1999 White Paper on the Overseas Territories. There was no specific mention of the Gibraltar situation at that stage, their only reference to the current Anglo-Spanish talks. For his part the Spanish representatives re-stated the Spanish Government's position on Gibraltar but concentrated largely on the re-launch of the Brussels Process and the current state of the negotiations with the UK to try and reach an agreement to resolve the dispute. There were repeated references to the invitation which had been made to the Chief Minister of Gibraltar to participate in the negotiations. He ended the intervention stating that Spain had the firm intention to continue the conversation with the UK with an open and constructive visit and to keep working to reach an agreement that satisfies all the interested parties.

Following this Keith Azopardi exercised his right to reply to both statements. The thrust of his intervention was to explain once again that the so called invitation for Gibraltar to participate in the re-launched Brussels Process talks was not genuine and gave Gibraltar an unequal say leaving it open for both the UK and Spain to reach agreements over the head of the Gibraltar Government.

He condemned the current talks which were aimed at setting a non-negotiable framework of principles which would pre-determined any future outcome and deny the people of Gibraltar the right to decide their future in accordance with their wishes. The people of Gibraltar would reject any such outcome which would make the resolution of the problem in the future even more difficult. He made it clear that the people of Gibraltar would continue to fight to uphold their rights as had been the case in the past throughout their 300 year old existence of the people. He asked for the Committee of 24 to support Gibraltar.

In a second intervention the UK representative referred to the UK Government's policy to uphold the rights of the people of the Falkland Islands to self determination. As to Gibraltar, he explained that the UK and Spain were engaged in talks to try and achieve agreement to resolve the issue. Mr Azopardi intervened again, expressing regret and disappointment that the UK representative had not made any reference to Gibraltar's right to self determination contrasting this with the line taken over the Falklands, he asserted that such a distinction was wrong and unacceptable.

An interesting intervention came from the Ambassador of Grenada to the United Nations, His Excellency Dr Stanislaus. In referring to the case of Gibraltar he stated "The case of Gibraltar presents a dilemma in which there are conflicting views with respect to history, sovereignty, treaty arrangements and the desire of the people of Gibraltar which should be paramount and enshrined in the declaration of de-colonisation". He went further and stated "In matters of state, swim with the current, but in matters of principle stand up as the Rock of Gibraltar". Mr Azopardi welcomed the statement from the Ambassador to Grenada.

Following this the Committee reconvened to consider the draft Report with the conclusions and recommendations of the Seminar. The references to Gibraltar were identical to the references which had been introduced during the seminar held in Cuba last year. Mr Azopardi exercised his rights to comment on the conclusions and recommendations and informed the Committee that the reference to Gibraltar was unacceptable. He suggested that the paragraph should be deleted altogether and replaced by an amended form of words. Drawing on from the statement made by both the UK and Spain to the effect that they were attempting to reach an agreement which would then be put to a referendum and in particular referring to the Spanish representative's final sentence in the statement that the solution had to be the satisfaction of all the interested parties in the dispute, Mr Azopardi suggested that there should be a form of words which would refer to the need to reach agreement to resolve the dispute over Gibraltar, to take into account the wishes of the people of Gibraltar and which would be to the satisfaction of all the parties concerned. The Committee took careful note of the suggestion and undertook to examine it further and consider whether the paragraph in the Report referring to Gibraltar would subsequently be amended.

Hong Kong Patten pats Spain on the back

EU commissioner for external relations Chris Patten of Hong Kong fame arrived in Madrid for an EU conference - and patted Spain on the back as regards Gibraltar.

Patten, who has the dubious distinction of having been Governor when Hong Kong was given to China, rejected the criticism of British conservatives against the Anglo-Spanish negotiations.

He must be a firm beliver of handing people to another state against their wishes.

He said that the criticisms responded to an "antiquated" version of what is Spain.

He could not understand that the criticism against Jack Straw came from the Conservatives, given that similar discussions were being held when the Conservatives were in power under John Major.

What the ex Hong Kong governor fails to mention is that previous UK governments ended up rejecting joint sovereignty proposals while the present one is in fact fully immersed in such a process.

He added that the EU was not directly implicated in the negotiations, even though they had a bearing on EU policy.

Patten could have done one of two things: Remain silent, as presumably his role as EU commissioner encourages him to remain prudently impartial in such red-hot issues, or else to have asked for an investigation into why Gibraltar's EU rights are being systematically ignored and trampled upon by members of the organisation he belongs to. 

Gibraltar being used as transit point for stolen cars, says police

On April 24th, officers from the Marine Section of the Royal Gibraltar Police arrested French national Stephane Gaspar as he was about to board the ferry to Tangiers.

At the time of his first arrest, Gaspar was driving a silver coloured Mercedes Benz E500 year 2002 model. Subsequent enquiries carried out by officers of the Criminal Investigation Department revealed that the said vehicle had been stolen in France and at the time it was detained by Gibraltar Police only 7 weeks had elapsed since its first date of registration in France.

Following his arrest, Gaspar was charged with the offences of handling stolen goods and driving a motorvehicle whilst not covered by insurance policy. He appeared before Magistrates Court and the case was adjourned with a cash deposit bail of £ 7, 500.

On Tuesday 14th May, Gaspar re-appeared before Magistrates Court and pleaded guilty as charged. He was then sentenced to three months imprisonment and to a fine of £ 2,000 or in default of payment a further twenty-eight days imprisonment.

The current second hand market value of the stolen vehicle is over £ 45,000. This is the third vehicle this year detained by the Royal Gibraltar Police following information that suggested Gibraltar was again being used as a transit point for stolen vehicles from Europe onto Africa via Tangiers.

On 27th March a Mercedes Benz S320 CDI was also intercepted prior to boarding the ferry and the driver, a French national with dual Italian nationality, Marcel Raschi was arrested and then granted bail by Magistrates Court upon a cash deposit of £ 5,000.

The case is adjourned to 12th June.

The second hand market value of this vehicle is over £ 35,000 and it is believed that it was stolen in Italy, says Police.

On the 17th April a Mercedes Benz S430, reportedly stolen in Germany and with a second hand market value of approximately £ 40,000, was also intercepted prior to boarding the Tangier ferry and the driver, Italian national Roberto Pau appeared before Magistrates Court and was bailed upon £ 5,000 cash deposit.

He has since failed to surrender to his court bail and a warrant for his arrest has been issued.

All three vehicles are under custody of the Royal Gibraltar Polce pending the conclusion of each case.

Vehicles are subsequently reclaimed by their respective owners.

Colour advert campaign in UK press

The Government's political lobbying campaign to persuade the British Government not to do a done deal on the principles affecting Gibraltar's sovereignty and future political rights moves to a new phase today, with the placing of full-page colour advertising in the UK press.

The advert is exactly as shown on our front page today, but obviously in different sizes to fit the full pages of different newspapers.

The campaign, for ten days, starts with 'The Times' today. All UK daily and Sunday national newspapers will be used.

The adverts are designed to reach out to and seek the active support of the British general public as widely as possible.

GIBRALTAR SEEKS YOUR SUPPORT, it says. No deals with Spain against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.

A colour photograph of the March demonstration is included.

"The Chief Minister will be spearheading this new phase of the publicity campaign with selected interviews in both the British and Spanish media over the next few days for which purpose he will be traveling to London at the weekend and then to Madrid," says the Govt.

In London on Monday Mr Caruana will deliver a speech to the International Institute of Strategic Studies and will also meet with the Foreign Affairs

Select Committee of the House of Commons.

"We said that our campaign would be incremental. Now is the time to reach out directly to public opinion in this way. The advertisements are designed to explain what Gibraltar is, and what the British government propose to do with our sovereignty and other political rights," he said.

No reference to progress as Straw and Pique end talks

London Wednesday: BRITAIN and Spain have admitted to "real difficulties" in their negotiations on the future of Gibraltar, following the latest ministerial meeting in London.

In a joint statement, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw and Josep Pique, his Spanish counterpart, said the talks had taken place in "a friendly and constructive atmosphere".

But they did not claim any progress had been made in the ongoing attempts to reach an agreement that will be put to the Gibraltar people in a referendum.

And they said they would not meet again until late June or early July - leaving little time before the target date for striking a deal of late July. Foreign Office sources hinted that the main barrier to progress was Spain's refusal, for the forseeable future, to limit its demands to a form of joint sovereignty.

Britain has not asked Spain to renounce its claim to the Rock, but will not risk putting an agreement to Gibraltarians unless it can be portrayed as final.

It is understood that the sovereignty issue is a far bigger stumbling block than the question of control of Gibraltar's military base.

The full joint statement said: "We met today to continue our discussions on Gibraltar in a friendly and constructive atmosphere. We have made good progress since July 2001 and remain committed to reaching agreement by the summer. At the same time we both acknowledge that there are real difficulties which remain to be resolved. We have agreed to convene a further formal Brussels Process meeting in late June or early July."

Mr Straw and Mr Pique met for about one-and-threequarter-hours for what was described as a "working lunch". Their talks were set to have taken place "one-on-one".

During prime minister's questions in the Commons, Tony Blair was urged by a Conservative backbencher to accept reality and abandon the doomed negotiations.

But Mr Blair insisted he was determined to continue with the talks which, he pointed out, had been started by the Tory government under the Brussels Process of 1984.

Self-determination is the only way

- Dr Garcia tells Swedish TV

The Leader of the Liberal Party Dr Joseph Garcia has said that there is no political party and no member of the Gibraltar Parliament in favour of joint-sovereignty with Spain. These comments were made in an interview with the Swedish public television channel SVT for broadcast next week to coincide with the Blair-Aznar meeting.

Dr Garcia explained that the way forward for Gibraltar was through the principle of self-determination, and this meant the Gibraltarians deciding freely and democratically what they wanted. He told the journalists that Gibraltar was a colony, one of seventeen remaining colonies in the world, and that we wanted to be decolonised through our freely and democratically expressed wishes and not through dictats from London and Madrid.

The Liberal Leader rejected the suggestion that Gibraltar was too small to aspire to self-determination. He pointed to the position of mini-states like Liechtenstein, with a population smaller than Gibraltar's, which had found its place in Europe. Dr Garcia said that the majority of people in Gibraltar wanted to keep their links with the United Kingdom, in a decolonised arrangement, with greater self-government. This was the basis of the proposals approved by the House of Assembly in February.

In answer to questions, Dr Garcia defended Gibraltar against accusations of smuggling and money laundering. He said that there was a tight regulation system in place which went back to the Bank of England and the British Treasury.

The Liberal Leader said it was amazing that the Foreign Secretary Jack Straw had not come to Gibraltar until recently instead of coming before the negotiating process had started last July. If he really wanted to establish what people wanted he should have done so at the beginning of the process not at the end. He would then have learnt that nobody wanted joint sovereignty.

Linares accuses Linares

Opposition Education spokesman Steven Linares has accused Education Minister Bernard Linares of inconsistencies at the last meeting of the House of Assembly in relation to the setting up of pupil referral unit in Gibraltar.

Steven Linares reminded the Minister that when he was the headteacher of Bayside School he would constantly argue that a pupil referral unit should be established. This is a unit where children who are suspended from school or have behavioural problems can continue to receive education from specialist teachers. The unit would cater for the specific needs of the children, look after their education and remove disruptive persons from the classroom to a specialised set-up where these needs would be catered for.

When he was the head of Bayside School not that long ago, Bernard Linares used to be a firm advocate for such a unit to be set up. The Minister told the House of Assembly that he sees no need for such a unit to be set up.

The Opposition considers that it is quite amazing how the Minister believed in one thing when he was an education professional, and now believes in the opposite when he is a Minister.

In response to further questions from Steven Linares the House was told that 19 children had been suspended from school. In such circumstances, it is surprising that the Government does not want to set up a pupil referral unit when the need for it is even greater than before. It is important to note that of the 19 suspended children, 2 are from first schools. In this context it would be important for such children to be taken in by the unit at an early age in order to modify their behaviour and help them not to get suspended again.

The Opposition maintain that Bernard Linares has shown himself to be hypocritical and inconsistent in his attitude towards setting up a pupil referral unit. It is appalling that the Government is not prepared to look at this matter even though the demand clearly exists.

I.L.F. to attend European Congress

A delegation from the I.L.F. led by Party Leader Lyana Armstrong-Emery will attend the forthcoming Congress of the European Federation of Green Parties (EFGP) to be held in Berlin this coming weekend.

Mrs. Armstrong-Emery commented today “We are delighted to have this opportunity to put Gibraltar’s case ‘face to face’ to such an important body. Green Parties in Europe have become much more aware and supportive of the Rock in recent months, partly because of the ILF’s international lobbying. We look forward to making or renewing acquaintance with the delegates at Congress and also the invited Keynote Speakers who include:

Ralph Nader, former Green Party US Presidential Candidate.

Joschka Fischer, German Foreign Secretary

Emilio Gabaglio, Secretary General, European Confederation of Trade Unions

Michaele Schreyer, European Commissioner”

She continued “This Congress is an excellent opportunity for us to build on the awareness of Gibraltar among Greens in Europe. We look forward to reporting positive progress to the Gibraltarian people when we return home after the weekend."

Gibraltar at regional seminar

The non-self governing territories delivered their statements at the United Nations Annual Regional Seminar on Decolonisation in Fiji yesterday. 

After delivering his statement, Mr Azopardi was asked a number of questions by the Committee which entirely centred on the question of what options Gibraltar would want to pursue to achieve decolonisation. He argued that Gibraltar should be allowed to exercise the right to self determination under the terms of the fourth option.

The seminar continues with interventions from the UK and Spain expected early in the morning tomorrow. Mr Azopardi has already reserved his right to respond to those interventions.

After explaining what the situation in Gibraltar is all about, he added: Gibraltar is our country and the people of Gibraltar as a colonial people have the right to self-determination and fundamentally also the right that anachronistic demands that put land claims over the rights of peoples be abandoned as inconsistent with modern times.

He went on to refer to the current Anglo-Spanish negotiations, saying that the Gibraltar Government "have been excluded from such discussions," paying lip service "to our fundamental rights."

He added: If the process of dialogue is about Gibraltar, it would be a bizarre proposition for anyone to defend that the democratic representatives of the people of Gibraltar should have less of a say in that process than the government of the sovereignty claimant.

He went on to explain flaws as regards any declaration of principles and any referendum.

He then asked the seminar to acknowledge the inalienable right of self-determination of the people of Gibraltar, and that any process of dialogue address to this basic principle.

He called for the Gibraltar government to be allowed full and equal participation, and that the UK and Spain should not enter into a declaration of principles against the wishes of the government and people of Gibraltar.

Caruana’s referendum arguments "complete nonsense", says Opposition

The Opposition warmly welcomes the visit and message by Michael Ancram the Shadow Foreign Secretary that a future Conservative Government would not enter into joint-sovereignty negotiations with Spain and would not stand by the proposed Declaration of Principles that London and Madrid are currently negotiating.

This stand considerably reduces the value of the joint Declaration of Principles to Spain, and increases the prospect of still derailing the process and stopping the Declaration from being made. Mr Caruana's judgement that derailment was not "attainable" has conditioned the Gibraltar Government's strategy. He had accepted that it was attainable, and had he agreed to obtain a mandate from the people for derailment by holding a referendum on whether the UK should negotiate sovereignty concessions with Spain and make a joint-declaration, the Labour Government would have had little choice but to abandon the attempt.

It is clear that even now this can still happen. The deference of our right to self-determination by Geoff Hoon, Labour Defence Secretary, and Sir Michael Rifkind former Conservative Foreign and Defence Secretary, shows that we are stringer than ever and closer than even to achieving recognition of our right and to burying the Brussels negotiation process that denies us that right.

It is true that the Conservatives were the ones who signed the Brussels agreement, but this was only done after the then House of Assembly had approved it in 1984 by Government majority with all Opposition members voting against.

When the GSLP was elected on a mandate to boycott attendance at the Brussels talks, the then Conservative Government respected this position and never made any proposals to Spain on sovereignty or on any other issue post 1988.

It is complete nonsense for Mr Caruana to argue now that if the people of Gibraltar were to reject the holding of negotiations with Spain on sovereignty, or to entertain any in-principle concessions, this would be used against us to weaken our support in the United kingdom. The British press and politicians have all interpreted the hostile reception given to Mr Straw last week and the March 18th walk to the coach park as a rejection of the current negotiations without knowing the result, which is what a referendum would do, and this has strengthened and not weakened our support.

Knowing the benefits, if any, accruing from it. The Opposition reject any sovereignty deal with Spain, irrespective of what is offered. On occasion, Mr Caruana himself has defended this view.

Geoff Hoon, a member of the Labour Government, argues that the majority of us do not support sovereignty negotiations with Spain. A referendum held at the beginning of this year, proposed by us in November, would have strengthened the position of Gibraltar and consolidated the support of those defending us in the United Kingdom.

The UK Government is making a serious mistake

The Spanish Foreign Secretary’s interview on BBC 1 is indicative of the uncompromising mood of the Spanish Government in not relinquishing its claim to full sovereignty over Gibraltar after reaching a joint sovereignty agreement with the UK, says the Labour Group.

Mr. Pique stated categorically that the Spanish Government would never renounce ‘forever’ its historical aspiration to recover full sovereignty of Gibraltar. The only commitment he was prepared to give was not to revisit the claim ‘immediately later on’. It’s absolutely clear that UK and Spanish ‘red lines’ are irreconcilable. Spain will never in reality renounce her historical claim to full sovereignty and will come back for the other half at some point, although a sovereignty agreement is no less acceptable in Gibraltar whether Spain only gets 50% sovereignty now instead of the whole.

The Group adds: the entrenched Spanish position in respect of Britain’s requirement to maintain full control of the military as sets also shows that any Spanish involvement in Gibraltar’s affairs will seriously undermine the UK’s military capabilities. Spain cannot be trusted on this issue and it would be naïve to believe that she will respect any agreement that leaves the UK in ‘full control’ of the military base.

Until now the MOD has only had to contend with the local population knowing full well that the people of Gibraltar and the many families that depend of the MOD for a living have historically stood by the MOD without expecting anything in return.

The people of Gibraltar feel a strong sense of loyalty to the MOD and as British citizens will always defend British interests.

The same cannot be said for Spain or Spanish nationals. If the British Government thinks that Spain after accepting joint sovereignty over Gibraltar will not want to exercise its ‘authority’ on matters of defense, foreign policy and security then they are making a serious mistake and one that will put at risk British defense interests.

The current negotiations therefore have wide reaching implications not only in Gibraltar and we once again urge the British Government to take head at the warnings alleged to have been made by Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon by calling off any agreement with Spain. 

Ancram: no to sovereignty talks

Shadow Foreign Secretary Michael Ancram visited Gibraltar yesterday for the second time in six months to assess the current situation following the last intensive months.

He also met with the Council of Representative Bodies, the Foreign Affairs Committee and Opposition Leader Joe Bossano and strolled down Main Street to judge for himself the extent of concern amongst the people of Gibraltar.

Hon. Michael Ancram stated that the purpose of his visit was to support Gibraltar cause within UK Parliament and to make sure that the people’s wishes go unchanged since last visit.

He reiterated his call to British Government to suspend the current talks since they didn’t include Gibraltar Government in an acceptable way under the ‘2 flags 3 voices’ formula.

He believes they are largely misconducted for being carried out behind closed doors, raising suspicions not only in Gibraltar but also in the House of Commons.

Sovereignty isn’t a matter for negotiation, for being the concept of ‘shared sovereignty’ being a contradiction in terms, which does not lead to realistic negotiation.

There are two possible outcomes, he said, neither desirable: the first is confrontation with the people of Gibraltar and the second confrontation with Spain. In these circumstances the wisest choice is to suspend talks and take stock of the present situation, since there is no point in negotiating matters where no agreement can be achieved.

In the House of Commons Hon. Ancram pledged that a future Conservative Government won’t feel bound by any agreement achieved by Spain and UK above Gibraltar head, without the approval of the people of Gibraltar via referendum.

Any issue regarding sovereignty should be therefore dropped in favour of necessary dialogue regarding normalization of relations between Gibraltar and Spain.

Chief Minister Peter Caruana reiterated that conditions for Gibraltar to enter dialogue are unchanged: they must be safe and dignified. Furthermore, they should meet basic democratic criteria that two modern European Countries such United Kingdom and Spain have achieved within their own Constitutions.

Gibraltar is a willing host to the British and NATO military base and want to be so in the context of an exclusive British Gibraltar overall: splitting Gibraltar in a British-ruled military base and a Spanish-administrated civil population is absurd, he added.

Government pulls out of Strait Games

The Government 'regretfully' decided to withdraw from V Strait Games to be held in San Roque on 31st May and 1st June this year, following the organizers' stubbornness on removing from placards the phrase 'donde reside la de Gibraltar' (where the city of Gibraltar resides), claiming that it's not just a motto but an integrant part of the city's name.

Gibraltar Government pressed on San Roque committee in order to guarantee the neutrality that has characterized the Strait Games so far, where every political allusion is cautiously avoided, from the official flag to the way participants march at the opening to the absence of anthems, but the request of a written pledge to remove the contemptuous motto to all participant cities was defiantly dismissed by a city council assembly.

Minister of Sports Ernest Britto explained in a press conference yesterday that Gibraltar Government gave San Roque the benefit of the doubt when the phrase was first exploited, perhaps being so customary for Sanroqueños to consider it part of their every day life since it's pompously featured in a kind of tiled shrine at the main town entrance, but once Gibraltar removal motion to avoid politicization of a sport event designed for children's fun and enjoyment was rejected, it seemed crystal clear that an intent of provoking was prevailing on true sportive spirit.

Hon. Britto reiterated that in no occasion Gibraltar Government requested to remove the phrase 'donde reside la de Gibraltar' from the town jurisdiction, but just from all items concerning the Strait Games 2002 and submitted evidence of it not being part of the city's name (as for 'de la Concepcion' in respect to La Linea) from the Spanish Government official website and from local historians who clearly state that the phrase was added to the city motto 'Muy Noble y Mas Leal' (very noble and very loyal), when the population of the Rock took refuge in San Roque after British conquer three hundred years ago.

Since the delicate political situation between Spain and Gibraltar, the Government feels that any reminder of San Roque position about who are the true Gibraltarian descendants is outmost inappropriate, especially within an organization which has always taken extreme care to avoid gray areas of misunderstanding.

Hence the Government will demand for next year Games, to be held in Los Barrios, a significant change in the rules about surveying all promotional material related to the Strait Games and a committee articulated in two levels, to ensure that the organizing city will be responsible in front of all members for the correct procedure regarding removal of any potential allusion to whatever isn't strictly sport-related.

The Government regrets once more that the situation will penalize young participants to the Games, but will be supportive if they wish to participate on their own account.

GOVT STATEMENT IN FULL

Reluctantly the Government of Gibraltar has had to decide not to participate in the V Strait Games to be held in San Roque on 31 May and 1st June 2002, and will therefore not attend the Official Presentation today Monday 13th May nor any of the events during the Games.

At a meeting of the Games' Organizing Committee held in San Roque on 4 April 2002 the San Roque authorities, organizers of these year's Games, were made aware that the Gibraltar Government could not agree to their use of the phrase "donde reside la de Gibraltar" (where the city of Gibraltar resides) in reference to San Roque, in any item directly connected to the Strait Games, although it was made clear that San Roque was not expected to remove this phrase from other items not directly related to the Games. It was further explained that the use of that phrase was contrary to the spirit and intent of the statues of the Games.

Following the meeting of 4 April there has been an exchange of correspondence, several telephone contacts, and meetings, most instigated by us culminating in a meeting held in Gibraltar on Thursday 25 April 2002, in an effort to find acceptable solution to the problem created by San Roque. Unfortunately, San Roque did not honour their agreement to reconsider and confirm in writing their final position on this matter. Therefore the Gibraltar Government has had no option but to decline to take an active part in the 2002 Strait Games.

Nevertheless, in accordance with our policy that politics should not impose itself on sport and that Gibraltar's sports associations are autonomous, the sports associations that are organising Gibraltar's participation in these games are free to decide whether to participate or not in these Games. Such decisions will be communicated to the organizers of the Games, as necessary.

The Government of Gibraltar wishes to make it very clear that at no stage has it been its intention to politicise this problem as it is has, contrary to San Roque, dealt with this, at all times, not publicly but strictly within the ambit of the Organizing Committee of the Games. The Gibraltar Government continues to consider the Strait Games as a viable and beneficial exercise to further develop sport and foster understanding and better relations amongst the young people of all the participating cities and therefore we are all looking forward to the VI Strait Games to be held in Los Barrios in 2003.

Government “witholding factual information”, says Opposition

During question-time in the House of assembly last week, the Leader of the Opposition asked specifically what the British Government was asking the Gibraltar Government do to in respect of Community Care Ltd and when was this first raised. Mr Caruana said that he did not believe that it was in Gibraltar's interests to discuss this matter in public, and that he would be happy to provide a private briefing instead. Given this explanation, the line of questioning was dropped.

The Opposition was not asking information about Community Care Ltd, which is a private charity, but about what London was asking the Gibraltar Government to do. We regret deeply that this information, which was only about what London was pressing for when, which is therefore a political issue, should not have been answered publicly.

At the same time as Mr Caruana refused to provide the information in the House of Assembly, the Minister for Europe Peter Hain was providing the answer in the House of Commons. In answer to question from Labour MP Andrew Mackinlay, Mr Hain explained the whole background to the Spanish pensions issue, giving a detailed chronology of when the matter was raised with the Government of Gibraltar. This chronology could easily have been provided by Mr Caruana to the House of Assembly, instead of Gibraltar having to rely on friends in Westminster to find out the information.

The opposition considers that it is not in the public interest to withhold factual information on what the British Government is demanding, when it has been raised with the Government of Gibraltar so that we are all equally aware of the position that London is adopting. For the avoidance of doubt, the Opposition wants to make clear that, as far as we are concerned, Gibraltar Community Care is an independent private charity and no Gibraltar Government can tell it what to do.

Neath petition attracts nearly 1,000

The Neath petition organised by Rock on the Rock Club Voice of Gibraltar Group, has totalled 982 signatures, the vast majority coming from Peter Hain's constituents. Rock ion the Rock's James Martin handed them into Mr Hain's Neath office and said, "Everybody in this exercise can give themselves a big pat on the back. We can confidently say that our conversations in Neath lead us to conclude that hardly a soul there appears to support Mr Hain in what he is trying to do in Gibraltar. We had no more than about half a dozen people refuse to sign. Most were enthusiastic and I think the fact that we were there for six hours managed to get over 700 signatures speaks volumes. We were averaging over 100 signatures an hour."

The support came from across the age range and the media exposure the previous day of Jack Straw's visit to the Rock undoubtley mobilised public opinion in support of Gibraltar. One man took away some blank petition forms and handed James over 100 more signatures by Thursday. Another woman came up on the Saturday and said most poignantly, "My son died on the Sir Galahad during the Falklands War. If they are going to give Gibraltar away why did my son have to die?" The Welsh suffered a disproportionately high number of casualties in the Falklands campaign.

Another interesting case came in the shape of an Amnesty international supporter. He refused to sign dismissing Gibraltar as a military base and nothing more. But he was prepared to listen to the arguments being put forward by VOGG's Paul Tunbridge, for the best part of an hour. Although he departed without signing, he returned a couple of hours later and said, "I've thought about what you said and I'd like to sign the petition." This was a cause of major celebration by all the other campaigners!

As promised Jamie Chiappe sang the Rock Solid song only a few metres away from the Neath Labour Council owned Gwyn Hall, which earlier this year banned the Rock Solid concert from taking place. The song proved a hit with everybody and resulted in a prolonged busking session by Jamie and other musicians.

Message from Ancram to Straw -
STOP THE TALKS!

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram is on a 24-hour visit to Gibraltar. He brings a clear message: Mr Straw must be told to stop the talks!

Following close on the heels of Mr Straw's abortive visit, the Conservative foreign affairs spokesman has had his views reinforced by the lessons to be learnt from the foreign secretary's visit.

The negotiations with Spain against the wishes of the people are totally undemocratic and will lead to nothing positive. If anything, as the Straw visit showed, the pent-up feelings of the people can give way.

There has been much provocation of a people who feel betrayed by the Foreign Office.

Mr Straw's visit was also the-worst organised, the most chaotic and the most mishandled visit by any member of the UK government.

The local press were badly handled, with some being discriminated against. It was a spin mission that went badly wrong.

Details of his visit were not released - not even to the police! - until a few hours before his arrival.

A briefing with editors was not held. What facilities were available were not released until too late.

Despite all such nonsense, Mr Straw got the worst reception ever given to any UK minister, from the moment he stepped on Gibraltar.

It is clear that advisers in The Convent are incapable of understanding what makes Gibraltar tick. What a mess they concocted!

Joint sovereignty will not work - the Gibraltarians to decide

Shadow foreign secretary Michael Ancram latched on yesterday on the row between the MOD and the Foreign Office to stress his rejection of talks on sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians.

In a Sky news interview, Mr Ancram said the MOD had told the Foreign Office 'hands off sovereignty' as regards the military base.

He was referring to the letter sent to Mr Straw by the defence secretary Geoff Hoon, which stressed that the proposed joint sovereignty deal was contrary to the principle of self-determination and that all available evidence showed that the clear majority in Gibraltar were opposed to the negotiations. The deal could damage the operational capability of the naval base and airfield.

The British government is going about it the wrong way, said Mr Ancram, urging Mr Straw to learn from what he saw inhis visit to Gibraltar. Minister Peter Hain had abused and insulted the Gibraltarians.

Asked what he would do, Mr Ancram spoke in favour of three sided talks.

He repeated this formula in another interview published yesterday in the Spanish daily El Mundo. We should follow the Northern Ireland formula, he said. The principle of joint sovereignty was unacceptable, so there was no reason to justify discussing it. It would have been a waste of time, since any agreement required the majority consent of the people.

In three-sided talks, the Gibraltar government would have the right to participate, not as part of the UK delegation, but in its own right.

We have made it clear, he told the Spanish daily, that we do not believe in joint sovereignty because it would not work. Sovereignty is something that should be exercised by a single sovereign state. "The Gibraltarians are British, they feel British and want to continue being British," he added. 

He also restates the phrase he coined when he started defending the Gibraltarian cause:

Sovereignty shared is sovereignty surrendered.

What Britain and Spain want is to submit to referendum the declaration of principles and not the agreement itself. Any deal, he added, must have the absolute and total support of the Gibraltarians - and if a referendum rejects the deal, then there can remain nothing of that deal.

When asked about the UK having a colony 'in the territory of another EU member," Mr Ancram retorted that there were other places with strange situations - such as Ceuta and Melilla, for example. The challenge facing the EU is if it is possible to find a solution over Gibraltar where its people want to retain British sovereignty.

If an agreement is reached by London and Madrid which does not count with the support of the Gibraltarians, the Conservative party would not consider itself bound by it.

An editorial in the same paper says: It is better to keep Gibraltar as it is at present than concede in essential matters.

Red lines, says Hain

Jack Straw and I have been negotiating 'very toughly' with the Spaniards on some of our bottom lines, minister Peter Hain said in Breakfast with Frost yesterday.

Britain would retain total control over the military installations, whatever agreement is reached.

That is a cardinal red line for us, he told David Frost.

Mr Hain went on to repeat his well-known points, speaking of the 'enormous opportunities' for cooperation. Gibraltar can have the leading airport in the southern Iberian peninsula and can have the best harbour, mentioning Algeciras as if it was part of Gibraltar!

Asked if the Gibraltarians would have a veto, he said: They would have the final say in a referendum.

He was not asked what had to be given in return.

PSOE want base as part of deal

The Spanish opposition party PSOE says it would be unacceptable to exclude the base from any deal. The party claims full sovereignty over Gibraltar, even if there is a transitionary period of joint sovereignty leading to it.

Govt accuse postal workers of holding community to ransom

The Government has accused postal workers of holding the community to ransom "with unreasonable demands in exchange for a deficient service that needs to end."

It adds that "the levels of absenteeism by some postmen is appalling," which results in the creation of backlogs of mail whenever they choose to create them. "They then claim extra money, through overtime, to clear those backlogs," said the government today.

It was reacting to the overwhelming rejection of Government proposals, but the government says that the system cannot remain as it is. "The problems at the Post Office cannot be resolved simply by employing more postmen under the current system," says a statement. "This would leave postmen free to continue to abuse the system at the unacceptable expense of the quality of the postal service. 

There are already more postmen than 'postal walks'. The problem is abuse of absenteeism.

Despite the efforts of the government and the union, "the postal workers continue to hold out for a maintenance of the status quo," says the government which will now consider he options for action "to deliver on its commitment to ensure that improvements are delivered to this important service on a substantial basis."

The proposals by government were to introduce a unified single grade for sorters and postmen, which would represent an annual increase for postmen of £2,271 and for sorters of £809.

A bonus scheme would have been introduced conditional on satisfactory attendance at work and the sorting and delivering on a 'same day basis' of all mail received. It would have allowed postal grade to earn £8,800 per year over and above their UK counterparts and their basic salary, as long as they maintained an improved attendance at work (not more than 10 days per year over and above their annual holidays) and the sorting and delivering of agreed volumes of mail. The postal service would remain entirely within the public service and the workers would continue to be government employees, said the government.

UK to keep base control, repeats crisis-hit Straw

FOREIGN Secretary Jack Straw has insisted London's control of the Rock's naval base is a "red line" he will not cross in the sovereignty negotiations with Spain.

But Mr Straw has failed to dispel Ministry of Defence fears that the Foreign Office's desperation to strike a deal by July could prompt it to offer a compromise.

In an interview broadcast on British radio on Sunday, Mr Straw insisted that the naval base and military airfield must remain in British hands.

He said: "There are a number of red lines. One of those is the importance of British control of the military base.

"It remains to be seen whether we reach agreement on that part. But if we don't, there will be no agreement. "

Asked by the interviewer whether Britain would consider Nato control of the base, Mr Straw replied: "We are talking about a British base,"

Mr Straw has given the interview amid revelations of a rift between Mr Straw and Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon over the ongoing negotiations.

Both Mr Straw and Mr Hoon have repeatedly emphasised that military assets would remain under British control whatever happened.

However, the Spanish government is understood to be pushing for a "joint use" agreement, similar to those it has with the United States on military bases in Moron and Rota.

MoD and American concern centres on the fact that US submarines can only dock at the Spanish bases with prior notice.

In contrast, at British bases -including Gibraltar- the American submarines are free to arrive at any time.

And, although Spain is a member of NATO, its support for multinational military operations cannot be taken for granted, as British support for America almost always can.

In an interview with BBC Radio Four, a representative of the Spanish foreign ministry insisted there was no prospect of excluding the naval base from any sovereignty deal.


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