Headlines Press Releases Views-Features Letters Poll

 
 

Bossano gets death threat linked to Nov 7

The leader of the opposition Joe Bossano has received a death threat with 7 November - Referendum Day - as the limit for execution.

Whereas Mr Bossano had received an earlier threat, this is the first time that a date is given.

The new threat is written in Spanish - like an earlier one - and the Police CID are investigating.

The police appear to be following some leads in the hope of discovering who is behind the threats, which the police always take seriously.

It is thought that the person behind it can only be someone who is against Mr Bossano's political beliefs, which include keeping Spain out of Gibraltar. It is not clear why 7 November should have been chosen, as the referendum as such is not something that can be exclusively linked to him.

It could be that it is a date that is in the public limelight and has been mentioned as such.

The letter received was passed on to the police by the GSLP. The police would not make a copy available for fear it could interfere with their investigations.

Caruana resorts to insults to hide facts, says Opposition

The Opposition says it regrets Mr Caruana's reaction to the Opposition's views on the issues of business tax reforms. "As is Mr Caruana's usual practice when he is caught out, he resorts to insults and vitriolic language in order to deviate public attention away from the facts. No amount of insults can cloud the fact that Mr Caruana hoped to avoid an investigation by the European Commission into the tax reforms by consulting them beforehand. Once this failed, he says that such an investigation was expected all along, and proceeds to lash out against anyone who dares to suggest otherwise," says an Opposition statement.

CORRECT

The Opposition reacted to leaks in the Spanish press which the Government claimed were half-truths and hashed up, and which in fact have been proved to be explicitly correct. Not only has the European Commission confirmed what the Spanish press had predicted, but the Government says it welcomes the investigation into the tax reforms which it claims it had always envisaged.

Mr Caruana says he made a statement in the House of Assembly on 30 April explaining this. This is not true, says the Alliance. No such statement was made on 30 April. In the Question and Answer session which started on that date, Mr Caruana answered a question from Mr Bossano on State Aid Rules. Mr Caruana then said that the investigation from the Commission was one of the great problems facing Gibraltar because it created market uncertainty, and indicated that he would be negotiating the new tax reforms with the Commission.

In June, in the Budget, he confirmed that the UK Treasury was helping the Gibraltar Government in steering the Tax Reforms through the Commission and it was hoped to have them ready by 1 July, but there could be slippage. On July 12th, a ministerial statement was made provoked by the fact that there had been a breach of confidentiality and the proposals were about to be leaked. Again it was indicated that the consultation with the Commission had continued and this meant that the Tax Reforms would be put back to July 2003 because it was impractical to introduce them retrospectively or part way through a tax year.

NO INDICATION

The Opposition adds: "At no stage was any indication given that Gibraltar's tax system would be subjected to a new investigation. On the contrary, the whole purpose of the consultation with the EU was clearly intended to avoid a further investigation with the damaging market uncertainty that would come with it."

Moreover, Mr Caruana also withheld information from the House in explaining the Tax Reforms, and that information has now been made public by the Commission. He refused to say how much tax utility companies (like telephones, water etc) would pay because he said it was one of the issues under discussion with the Commission. The Commission has now revealed that it is 35%. He also failed to state what the actual sum payable per employee per annum would be. The Commission has now said it is £ 3000. He also failed to say that the 15% maximum tax would be further capped by a maximum tax payment of £ 500,000 irrespective of the level of profits, which has now also been revealed by the Commission.

"It is regrettable that the Government has refused to keep the Opposition informed either in the House of Assembly or on a confidential basis on an issue which is claimed by them to be in the national interest. It is also regrettable that the Government should now claim that they had always envisaged that the Commission would start again with another investigation when their previous statements in the House clearly indicate that they were negotiating with the Commission the content of the Tax Reforms precisely in order to avoid such an investigation," says the statement.

Footballer of the Year

Colin Dyer of Gibraltar United has been named Footballer of the Year by PANORAMA Daily, with Aaron Payas of the local Manchester United named Young Footballer of the Year. The trophies were presented on behalf of PANORAMA by Damaris Hollands, the reigning Miss Gibraltar.

Both have been playing football most of their lives, progressing from junior to senior football, and were delighted with the awards. Positive comment was made about the quality of the awards.

Colin, at 23, is a centre back with Gibraltar United who are sponsored by Straits Overseas. The head of the selection panel said: At the time of the retirement of former GFA stalwarts Anthony Sayers & Maurice Ocana, United were left with a massive hole in their defence. Colin Dyer who had joined the previous year from Lion FC as a midfielder, was delegated the responsibility of shoring up the United defence. During last season’s championship winning campaign for United he excelled in his partnership with Desmond Victor and managed to shut out most of the top strikers in their division. Colin looks cool and accomplished even under severe duress and never doubts in assisting his team-mates in attack. He has managed crucial goals like the first goal in last season’s Rock Cup final, a crucial equaliser in the last game against nearest challengers Lincoln FC.

Aaron Payas, at 17, is a midfielder with the local Manchester United team. Said the head of the selection panel: Aaron is an extremely skilful midfielder who looks comfortable in any of the midfield positions. United have seen injuries to stalwarts like Ivan De Haro and the retirement of Adrian Olivero affect their midfield. Aaron has shown maturity beyond his age and together with fellow youngster Wayne Asquez has assumed the responsibility of driving their team forward. I expect him to make an even bigger impression this year given that he can draw upon the experience of a full season on the top division.

Congratulations to the winners in this new sports award from PANORAMA, the daily paper that believes in getting involved with the community it serves. And thanks to lovely Damaris for kindly presenting the trophies.

Team of the Year

PANORAMA has also selected the names of those who would make up the Team of the Year. This is as follows:

Goalkeeper: (Joint selection) Kevin De Los Santos (Glacis Utd) and Christian Wink (Gib Utd).

Defenders: Dylan Moreno (Glacis Utd), Colin Dyer (Gib Utd) and Christian Sanchez (Lincoln FC).

Midfield: Aaron Payas (Man Utd), Gary Berini (Gib Utd), Lee Casciaro (Lincoln FC), and Daniel Duarte (Lincoln FC).

Forwards: Aaron Lima (Gib Utd), Douglas Balloqui (Gib Utd), Aaron Asquez (Man Utd).

Manager: (Joint selection) Poppy Perez (Rock Wolves) and Richard Duarte (Gib Utd).

Congratulations to everyone - and well done to all those, on the pitch and outside the pitch, who contribute to keep football alive in Gibraltar.

Finance Centre in CRISIS: European Commission opens investigation into Gibraltar Tax plan 

As predicted by PANORAMA, a major crisis is now engulfing the finance centre with uncertainty the order of the day. It follows the decision yesterday by the European Commission to formally open an investigation into the Government's tax plans to try and save the finance centre.

The chief minister Mr Caruana found out through a Press release issued by the Commission yesterday afternoon. 

Equipped with a copy of the Press release, Mr Caruana rushed to the House of Assembly, which was in session, and read it out to members.

I would not have come to this House to make a statement had the investigation been limited to the merits of the Gibraltar reform itself," he said, but there had been an unenvisaged development.

This was in relation to the Commission seeking to equate Gibraltar with the UK system. He was not clear if the commission was 'threatening to seek or threatening to investigate" whether Gibraltar is entitled to have a different tax system to the rest of the UK.

Consideration of the merits of the Gibraltar tax proposals was one thing, but what was not envisaged is the questioning of whether Gibraltar is entitled to have a different tax system to the rest of the UK at all."

He thinks this argument, known as regional selectivity, will pit the Commission into confrontation with many member states. "Furthermore, specifically in the case of Gibraltar the argument is misconceived because Gibraltar is not part of the UK, for EU purposes or otherwise," he added.

The Government would 'robustly defend' the tax proposals during the investigation on the basis of both the considerable body of pre-eminent European legal advice that it has received in relation to the validity of proposals. and the U K government's judgment to the same effect in respect of the vast bulk of the proposal.

£3,000 Payroll tax

For his part, Opposition leader Mr Bossano welcomed that a statement had been made to the House. But he pointed out that the £3,000 per employee 'payroll tax', for example, had not been disclosed by the Government when announcing the tax proposals last July. The Opposition had found out through the Commission's press release.

He described the new element that has emerged as 'most peculiar' but added that it was predicted by the El Mundo article, so it seems they were telling the truth in respect of the comparison being made between Gibraltar and UK tax structure.

The length of time the investigation could take "presumably cannot be guaranteed", so it puts us back to the position of the previous investigation where the industry is unable to market the products as it is not known if such products will survive the investigation.

That, in itself, is detrimental to the finance centre industry, independent of the result of the investigation.

He hoped that the Government does not have to start again from zero.

COMMISSION: DOUBTS

Earlier, the Commission said that at this stage, it has not been able to rule out the possibility that the new system would grant State aid to certain enterprises and has doubts that such aid would be compatible with the EU rules."

The proposed reform raises questions which require a thorough investigation, said Competition Commissioner Mario Monti.

The reasons for opening the investigation included "the advantage conferred on Gibraltar companies when compared with those operating in the United Kingdom," said the Commission.

Spain will, of course, now be entitled to put its views before the investigation.

Statement issued yesterday afternoon by the European Commission:

Commission opens State aid investigation into the proposed reform of corporate taxation in Gibraltar

The European Commission has today launched a formal State aid investigation into the planned reform of Gibraltar's company taxation laws. The reform would abolish taxation of company profits and replace it with a payroll tax (a fixed tax per employee) and a business property occupation tax. In addition, two sectors, financial services and utilities, would be subject to "top up" taxes on their profits at a rate of 8% and 35% respectively. At this stage, the Commission has not been able to rule out the possibility that the new system would grant State aid to certain enterprises and has doubts that such aid would be compatible with the EU rules. 

This is the first time that an entire corporate tax system has been notified to the Commission for approval under the State aid rules. 

Commenting on the case, Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said: "The proposed reform raises questions which require a thorough investigation. However, I welcome the willingness of the United Kingdom authorities to introduce a tax system in Gibraltar that complies fully with the State aid rules." 

The UK proposals aim to reform the taxation of company profits in Gibraltar. They would replace the existing legislation on so-called Exempt and Qualifying Companies that forms the basis of Gibraltar's offshore sector and on which the Commission started formal proceedings in July 2001. 

According to the new scheme notified to the Commission by the UK authorities, companies will instead be subject to a payroll tax of £3,000 per employee per annum and a business property occupation tax (BPOT). 

The total liability for tax (payroll + BPOT) will be capped at 15% of profits or £500,000, whichever is the lower. If a company makes no profit, it will have no tax liability. In addition to the payroll and property taxes, financial services companies will be charged a top-up tax at a rate of 8% of profits from financial service activities. Total taxation of financial services companies (payroll + BPOT + top-up) will also be capped at 15% of profit or £500,000. Utility companies (telecoms, water, sewage, electricity, petroleum) will be taxed at a flat rate of 35% of profits. 

The reasons for opening the investigations include doubts about the impact of the 15% and £500,000 caps and about the advantage conferred on Gibraltar companies when compared with those operating in the United Kingdom.

The limitation of liability for payroll/property tax by means of the two caps would apear to depart from the logic of a payroll tax system and may give an advantage to certain Gibraltar companies. The whole of the Gibraltar economy (except utility companies) seems to be granted an advantage compared with companies in the United Kingdom in general. The main rate of corporation tax in the United Kingdom is 30% of profits, whilst under the reform, the maximum rate of taxation in Gibraltar is 15%.

Crisis day at No. 6

Yesterday was a crisis day at No. 6 Convent Place, in the wake of the news that the European Commission was taking action in respect of the Government’s plans for the finance centre. Gibraltar first heard about it from a Spanish press report.

The Chief Minister Mr Caruana who attempted to dismiss the seriousness of the situation, cancelled engagements and remained at No.6 awaiting developments.

A scheduled recording of a debate at GBC in the afternoon did not take place.

Unaware of this, deputy chief minister Keith Azopardi called for the adjournment of the House until after the scheduled recording at 5pm. But a phone call from No. 6 advising of the change, was late - the House had been already adjourned.

Since the House was adjourned, it could not be un-adjourned. Members arrived at 3pm as if the House was not adjourned and continued with their business, with Question 820.

Meanwhile, the European Commission in Brussels issued a statement announcing that a formal investigation of the Government’s finance centre plans.

The drama of the day was completed when Mr Caruana rushed to the House of Assembly to suspend standing orders to allow him to make, at 4.37pm, what can best be described as a “crisis statement”.

As PANORAMA advanced yesterday: Gibraltar is getting The Full Monti, as EU Commissioner Mario Monti continues with his crusade against tax haven facilities.

Finance Centre Council make  fools of themselves

The pompously-sounding Finance Centre Council has made a fool of itself, issuing a Press Release lambasting El Mundo and any other paper who dared to point at the evident seriousness of the emerging news.

It even welcomed an investigation into the tax proposals which, by the nature of things, can generate uncertainty and can destabalise further the industry they are supposed to represent. Is this the way of defending the best interests of hte industry?

What has emerged is so serious that Mr Caruana found it necessary to make a statement to the House, in dramatic circumstances.

In future, the Finance Centre Council should concentrate in doing what is best for its members, instead of wasting time attacking the Press.

Sewers: Will the smell go away?

The actual repair works to the main sewer were completed on the 4 October. The Contractor is currently completing the works above ground, involving the reinstatement of the retaining walls and parapets in the area. It is expected that the gravity flow in the repaired section of sewer will be restored shortly once the area immediately upstream and downstream of the repaired section is desilted. Desilting works commenced on 5th October and it is estimated that it will take 13 weeks to cleanse the section of main sewer from North Jumpers to Cumberland Steps. However, to reduce this contract period, improve performance and minimise the inconvenience to the public, two vehicles will be used, the second vehicle will be arriving shortly.

As part of the repair works to the main sewer, it was necessary to drive a new shaft down to the area of the collapse. Whilst such works were on going, this shaft naturally acted as a vent to the system. In addition, there was a need to have a number of manholes open both to ventilate the system to allow personnel to enter the same to undertake the repairs as well as to provide access for the over-pumping operation.

This regrettably resulted in the release of foul smelling gases and it is this that has caused an inconvenience to the public, something that is regretted but was the unavoidable consequence of having undertaken this very difficult and risky operation within such a confined area.

Once gravity flow is re-established and the over-pumping operation removed and all manhole covers replaced, it is expected that the foul smells will no longer be present. In addition, old gullies in the area have been replaced with new gullies that incorporate traps to prevent the release of gases and the whole drainage system in this area is being inspected to ensure that any defects that may contribute to the emission of foul smells are rectified.

Vote NO says House motion

Opposition Leader, Joe Bossano is moving a motion in the House of Assembly urging people to vote in the referendum and to reject sharing joint sovereignty with Spain.

The Motion reads as follows: -

This house:

(1) Rejects the broad agreement in principle arrived at between Her majesty’s Government and the Government of the Kingdom of Spain announced in the House of Commons on 12th July 2002;

(2) Considers that the agreement in principle provides for the people of Gibraltar to pass partly under the sovereignty of another state and constitutes entering into an arrangement contrary to the preamble to the 1969 constitution;

(3) Considers the aforesaid broad agreement in principle is contrary to the wishes of the vast majority of the people of Gibraltar;

(4) Calls upon the people of Gibraltar to make every effort to cast their vote in the referendum to be held on the 7th November 2002 and to reject the principle of sharing joint sovereignty with Spain, by voting ‘No’.

Disquiet over finance centre reports

The Opposition considers that the Government's reaction to the news of a European Commission investigation into Gibraltar's proposed new business tax structure raises more questions than it answers. Moreover, they have still failed to explain why a statement on the matter was not made to the House of Assembly on Monday or why the Opposition has not been kept informed even in confidence.

The Opposition considers that serious issues have been raised which cannot be dismissed as simply "a hash of half truths and speculation". There are some facts which are indisputable.

Firstly, the Foreign Office in London has already confirmed that Gibraltar is on the agenda for the meeting of the Commission today.

Secondly, we have also found out from London that it is expected that the Commission intends to investigate the new proposals, and not pronounce themselves on their legality or otherwise at this stage.

Thirdly, this indicates that the Commission may well choose to open an investigation into the new tax reforms, in the same way as they opened investigations into the Tax Exempt Company and Qualifying Company structure last year. The investigation itself will then conclude whether or not the new tax plans are in breach of State Aid Rules.

It is therefore completely misleading for the Government to say that they had always envisaged that the EU Commission would open the formal investigation procedure into whether its business tax package was compliant with State Aid Rules. If this is what the Government envisaged it is certainly not the impression that they gave when the Chief Minister announced the measures in July this year.

When the Chief Minister presented the new tax reforms to the House of Assembly, he said that there had already been consultations with the European Commission. However, their acceptance was presented almost as a fait accompli given Britain's support. There was no indication given that this approval would only come after another full-scale investigation. Mr Caruana said at the time that the Government had hoped to implement these reforms with effect from 1 July 2002. "However, due to delays relating to necessary consultations with the EU Commission, this has not been possible. It is not desirable to commence these reforms part way through a tax year, nor retrospectively. Accordingly the Government intends to introduce the Reforms on the 1st July 2003 (the start of the next tax year). But we are making this statement now to eliminate uncertainty in the Finance Centre, as far as its international clients are concerned." Therefore the suggestion in July was that the "consultations" with the European Commission had taken place.

Both the fact that State Aid investigations have been known to take months, if not years, and the announcement in July this year that the Gibraltar Government expected to implement the new tax reforms in July 2003, suggests that no such lengthy investigation was expected at the time the new tax scheme was made public. Moreover, Mr Caruana went as far as to suggest that the only reason why the reforms were not introduced immediately was because it was not desirable in the middle of a tax year, not because he was waiting for an investigation from the Commission. The explanation given now is different to what the Government said in July.

"It is plainly absurd that the Government should have made the announcement of the business tax package in July to avoid uncertainty, when now that uncertainty will continue until the Commission completes its investigation and decides whether the measures comply with State Aid Rules or not," says the Opposition.

Spain's EU attitude is "clear warning"

Reports in the Spanish media about the finance centre are seen by the Labour party as Spain applying pressure at every level within the Community to undermine Gibraltar. "This should serve as a clear warning to those who advocate joint sovereignty as a permanent solution for Gibraltar," says a Press release.

The European Commission must not allow itself to become a political instrument of Spain. The rule of law requires the Commission to be impartial and above political considerations when applying Community principles, they add.

Leaks to the media is certainly not the way any responsible, democratic institution should conduct its business and it is very unlikely that the Commission itself would have done that. If the Spanish reports prove to be correct, however unlikely, the Government of Gibraltar should lodge an immediate complaint demanding an investigation on the matter.

The party adds: The European Court of Justice has already held earlier this year that the European Commission was wrong in commencing state aid investigations against Gibraltar's Tax Exempt regime on the basis of the "new aid" with the negative consequences this has had for Gibraltar's finance industry over the last 15 months. The long running battle over Gibraltar's numbering plan over alleged breaches by Spain of its EU law obligations and the Commission's inability or unwillingness to take action is another case in question for which Gibraltar must demand action rather than words.

Gibraltar Liberals at Euro conference

The Secretary General of the Liberal Party of Gibraltar Steven Linares and International Officer Rebecca Faller are in the United Kingdom today to participate in the annual conference of the European Liberal Democrats. The conference is hosted by the British Liberal Democrats and takes place in the historic city of Bath.

The theme of the Congress is "Completing the European Economic Integration". Other issues like enlargement will also be discussed during the deliberations. The Liberal Party became a full member of the European Liberal Democrats last year.

A number of political events will take place during the three day meeting along with keynote speeches from European Liberal leaders. It will also include one of the bi-annual meetings of the Council of the organisation on which the Liberal Party of Gibraltar has one seat. Rebecca Faller is the permanent representative on the Council. In addition to this, there will be meetings of the main Congress itself and of a series of working committees. Mr Linares and Ms Faller will participate in all of these events and will also contribute to the discussions on the drafting of the European Liberal manifesto for the next European elections. They will explain to delegates that following the ruling of the European Court of Human Rights in February 1999, Britain is now committed to enfranchise Gibraltar in time for the next European elections by including us with one of the existing British regional constituencies. This is expected to be either London or the South West.

The conference will allow the Gibraltar delegates to renew contact with friends in the Liberal Democrats, following the very successful participation of Gibraltar at the Lib Dem party conference in Brighton at the end of last month.

EXPENSE

It is important to note that quite apart from the travelling expenses, the membership fees for belonging to this organisation is five thousand euros a year. This will go up to eight thousand euros next year. "This is now proving prohibitive to the Liberal Party of Gibraltar given the limited resources that we have at our disposal. Given that the membership and participation of Gibraltar in these events is extremely valuable, any person, company or organisation willing to help in this respect should contact the Liberal Party offices in 97 Irish Town," said a Press release.

Calling all women!

Not even those who claim that “a women’s place is in the kitchen” could seriously suggest today that women should not have the vote. Yet “the mother half of the human family,” to use Emmeline Pankhurst’s phrase, was fully enfranchised only in this last century. Mrs. Pankhurst was born in Victorian Manchester. In Britain, universal suffrage, including women’s, was granted only in the year of her death, 1928. With courage, strength and determination she stoically shook society into a new pattern from which there could be no going back.

The Gibraltar Women’s Association therefore, call upon all women of voting age, to ensure that in the forthcoming referendum, there is no wasted vote. Please remember that the rights that you have today were hard come by. We urge you first and foremost to check that you are on the Final draft voters list. Then be sure to use your right to vote on November 7th... and use it wisely!

The difference between Government and Opposition

Mr Caruana yesterday claimed that there was no relevant disagreement between the Government and the Opposition on Brussels. This is not true, says an Alliance statement.

It adds: Though Mr Caruana has changed his conditions for attendance at the talks on many ocassions, and did so again yesterday, the Opposition will not support the Brussels process irrespective of the conditions for attendance.

If Mr Caruana were to decide tomorrow that his conditions had been sufficiently met and announced that would be taking up the empty seat as part of the UK delegation, the Opposition would still be against the negotiations.

The process has always been, from its launch in 1985, and continues to be today, a forum for settling by negotiation Spain's sovereignty claim and in the process determining Gibraltar's future and its decolonisation. Only last month, after Mr Caruana and Mr Bossano addressed the UN, the decolonisation Committee again repeated the annual decision which calls on UK and Spain to settle Gibraltar's future. The very principles underlying the process are a denial of our self-determination, irrespective of whatever conditions may be attached to Gibraltar's participation.

Taking part in Brussels under any guise is a de facto acceptance of the legitimacy of Spain's sovereignty claim and gives Spain recognition as a party with a legitimate say in our affairs.

"Notwithstanding these reservations, the Opposition consider that Mr Caruana moved yesterday a step closer to his rejection of Brussels, since he has now laid down as a condition the requirement that he would not attend the talks as long as sovereignty was on the table and the text of the Brussels agreement clearly requires that sovereignty should be on the table," said the statement.

Chief Inspector retires

Chief Inspector Andrew Perera retired from the Royal Gibraltar Police at the end of September after 33 years of loyal service.

Andrew joined the police service on the 12th May 1969 at the age of 19. He was promoted to the rank of sergeant in May 1980, to the rank of Inspector in September 1988 and to the rank of Chief Inspector in March 1998.

During his career he has served practically in all departments of the force and was a qualified Scene’s of Crime Officer, Crime Prevention Officer, coxswain and an experienced Motor Cyclist and CD officer.

He was awarded the Colonial Police Long Service Medal in November 1995 and subsequently the 1st and 2nd clasp. In the New Years Honours list for 2002, Andrew was awarded the Colonial Police Medal. He was also awarded a total of seven commendations during his service.

On Tuesday 1st October, at a well attended farewell party held at the I.P.A. club, Andrew received a number of gifts from the Commissioner of Police and work colleagues.

The Commissioner of Police and all ranks of the Royal Gibraltar Police wish Andrew a long and happy retirement. 

Upper Rock area is rubbish dump

The stretch of road from the so-called Queen’s balcony to the hill leading to the apes den, is rapidly becoming a serious eyesore. And the government should ‘get its act together,’ says the Labour party.

Whilst there has been a slight improvement in some places, complaints continue to be made.

“The state of the stretch of road from Queens Balcony to the point where the steep hill leading to the Apes Den begins, in particular, continues to deteriorate and is rapidly becoming a serious eyesore. 

Rubbish is scattered all over the place and there is hardly any evidence to suggest that proper cleaning or maintenance is being carried out despite the use of this road by tourist coaches,” says spokesman Chris Montegriffo.

A statement adds: The area in question is slowly developing into a rubbish dump rather than a prime tourist site, and the impression given to tourists who pay money to visit the Nature Reserve must be very negative to say the least.

In our view there is little point in the Government spending huge sums of money in trying to attract visitors to Gibraltar if they cannot maintain the Nature Reserve to acceptable standards. 

If the memory tourists will take home with them is of a holiday location in a state of dilapidation, at some point some tour operators will prefer not to promote Gibraltar. 

The holiday destination market is a fiercely competitive market, and the Gibraltar tourist industry will suffer irreparable damage if the Government cannot get its act together.

If Government is committed to the future viability of our tourist product then it is time that they delivered on the basics. 

Expensive marketing campaigns will achieve very little if we then fail miserably to impress tourists when they do come to visit Gibraltar. This will just turn tourists away and damage Gibraltar’s reputation as a holiday destination.

Govt plans for finance centre ‘on verge of collapse’

With the European Commission about to take a decision on the Gibraltar government plan to salvage the finance centre, there are reports that competition commissioner Mario Monti is to declare the plan as illegal. This puts the plans on the verge of collapse, unless the reports from Brussels published in the Spanish press are incorrect.

The Opposition have taken note "with concern" the reports that the EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti has now decided that the tax system applicable to the Gibraltar Qualifying Company and the Gibraltar Tax Exempt Company constitute illegal State Aid. In addition to this, the new proposed tax reforms have also been considered to be illegal State Aid. On this basis, it is understood that the Commissioner will be pressing for the opening of infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom Government at a meeting of the Commission this Wednesday.

The reports, which quotes sources close to the case, indicate that the two British Commissioners Chris Patten and Neil Kinnock as well as the Dutch Commissioner for Taxation Fritz Bolkestein, are against Monti's action to open infraction proceedings against the United Kingdom. However, these same reports claim that within the Commission there are sufficient votes in favour for the matter to be taken forward on Wednesday.

The company tax reforms were announced by the Chief Minister in a statement to the House of Assembly on 12 July, and these were planned to come into effect from 1 July 2003, precisely due to delays relating to consultations with the European Commission. The reforms introduced one rate of zero tax for all companies whether offshore or onshore as well as a new Company Payroll Tax and a new Business Property Occupation Tax which would be capped at 15% of profits for both taxes combined. Financial Services would be taxed on profits at 8%, and aggregated to the other taxes capped at a maximum of 15%. There would also be a separate rate for utility companies.

At the time of the announcement, the Gibraltar Government made it clear that the new tax proposals had the support of the British Government, and that these would be presented by London to the European Commission for approval. The impression that was given was that this approval was almost a formality given the United Kingdom's support. Indeed, it was claimed that the tax package was going to be used as a model by other financial centres who were facing similar problems of their own with international tax initiatives. The news that the Commission has rejected the tax reform package has therefore come as a complete shock to the Opposition given the optimism that had been generated.

The reports claim that the United Kingdom authorised the new tax scheme for Gibraltar in August of this year. Following the information given by the Chief Minister to the House of Assembly in July, it is now incumbent on the United Kingdom to defend the package that they approved, before the European Court if necessary.

The Opposition imagined that the Gibraltar Government would know of this decision before it reached the Spanish press, and that on that basis a ministerial statement could have been made yesterday morning to the House of Assembly taking advantage that it was meeting. "It is profoundly regrettable that the Opposition has had to rely on the Spanish press for this information," said a statement from the Alliance.

Unanimous support for referendum

The Gibraltar government plan to hold a referendum on November 7 received unanimous approval in the Gibraltar parliament yesterday. The electorate will be asked to accept or reject the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over the territory, which has been British for nearly 300 years and which Spain wants back.

The Chief Minister Peter Caruana told the House of Assembly that he expects a "massive" vote against the joint sovereignty plan which would form part of an Anglo-Spanish agreement, being worked on by London and Madrid, for the future of the Rock.

A motion presented by Mr Caruana, which received the full support of the parliamentary opposition led by former chief minister Joe Bossano, "regrets and condemns" that the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw informed the House of Commons last July that after twelve months of negotiations, the UK and Spain were in broad agreement on many of the principles that should underpin a lasting settlement of Spain's sovereignty claim over Gibraltar and that these included the principle that Britain and Spain should share sovereignty over Gibraltar.

The planned Anglo-Spanish deal has not progressed after a number of points of disagreement arose just before the summer, with Britain insisting that the joint sovereignty should not automatically lead to full Spanish sovereignty(as Spain wants) and that the military base should remain under exclusive British control. The Spanish have also expressed reservations about a referendum Britain would organise in Gibraltar once a deal is settled with Spain, to allow the Gibraltarians the final say.

Gibraltar has, however, pre-empted the UK referendum and on November 7 will ask the electorate to say 'No' to the principle of joint sovewreignty as such.

"Joint sovereignty is not the way forward for Gibraltar," Mr Caruana told parliament on Monday. "It would condemn future generations to a neo-colonial status."

Pressed by the Opposition, Mr Caruana revealed that, after the Gibraltar referendum, he would expect to push forward with constitutional proposals which have already been unanimously agreed by both sides of parliament. Such proposals envisage a greater degree of self-government for Gibraltar, which would remain exclusively under the British political umbrella. Negotiations over the implementation of Gibraltar's constitutional proposals would have to be agreed by Gibraltar with the British Government.

Opposition leader Mr Bossano spoke of a conflict of interest between Gibraltar, as the colony, and Britain, as the colonial power.

"The British government capitulated to Spain from the beginning," he protested. But the Opposition would campaign strongly for a rejection of joint sovereignty with Spain. A 'No' vote would close the door on sovereignty concessions for the foreseeable future.

All political parties in Gibraltar are upset that the Labour government in Britain should have persisted with plans to share sovereignty with Spain in the knowledge that the parliament and people of Gibraltar are against it. They point to the 1969 Gibraltar Constitution where Britain commits itself not to enter into any arrangements over the transfer of sovereignty unless freely and democraticaly supported by the people of Gibraltar.

First report from Regulatory Authority

The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority has published its Annual Report for the year 2001 — 2002. The report was laid before the House of Assembly by the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana.

This is the first Annual Report prepared by the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority since its establishment under the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority Ordinance, which came into effect on 12th October 2000.

On 19th July 2001, the Government liberalised the telecommunications sector in Gibraltar with the commencement of the Telecommunications Ordinance and the publication of a number of Legal Notices which implemented a raft of EU Directives. The Gibraltar Regulatory Authority was assigned the duty of regulating the industry and advising the Minister for Telecommunications on licensing new entrants into the market.

In his statement in the Annual Report, Chief Executive, Paul Canessa, says that in Gibraltar, liberalisation gives rise to two specific concerns. First and foremost, the continued refusal by Spain to recognise Gibraltar’s IDD code (350) coupled with the European Commission’s continued failure to address this problem as requested by the two complaints filed with it by Gibtel and GNC in 1996, means that the availability of numbers, the essential raw material, remains seriously circumscribed in Gibraltar. He adds that it is difficult to see how effective competition will be achieved when numbers are not available for new entrants to the market. Secondly, a great effort has been made to implement the EC liberalisation measures in Gibraltar. It now remains to be seen the extent to which a market the size of Gibraltar’s can bear full competition without undermining the provision of essential facilities and services. Mr Canessa says that this is a matter to which the regulatory authority intends to pay close attention in the forthcoming years.

The Annual Report also deals with the activities of the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority and provides information and statistics on the telecommunications market in Gibraltar. There is also a section on licensing the use of the electromagnetic spectrum (formerly, wireless telegraphy).

The report is available on the Gibraltar Regulatory Authority’s website at www.gra.gi.

Britain sends secret team of inspectors to Gibraltar

In a secret, unannounced move, Britain is sending inspectors to carry out certain investigations in Gibraltar. The investigations centre on the port. but it is not clear at this stage if the inspectors will delve into security or environmental matters, or both.

PANORAMA has been told that the inspectors are from the UK's Department of Trade and Industry.

Sources said it was strange. as normally technical assistance is given when Gibraltar asks for it, but the visit appears to have caught some on the hop.

The DTI in Britain has wide powers to assist overseas in connection with enquiries Such investigations are not announced.

The question of pollution in the bay has been a topic as of late.

The European Commission has recently formally proposed a draft directive on environmental liability, which is wide ranging and goes beyond the legal systems in place in the UK.

The Gibraltar Government at he end of last month published the upgraded Gibraltar Bunkering Code of . Practice. It sets the various procedures that must be followed by bunker operators in the course of their operations

Bunker deliveries last year rose by nearly I 1% on t lie previous year. with just under 3 tonnes being supplied.

There are have several oil spillages in the bay which La Linea has told Madrid that Gibraltar is to blame, although this has been denied locally.

Another issue affecting the port is that of security, at a time when concern is heightening in the wake of terrorist attacks.

In another development, the RAF is carrying out this week an exercise on "force protection of airfield" by a squadron which has been deployed in support of operations in Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. The squadron will be dressed in protective clothing, including gas masks.

It has not been made clear if the exercise is to familiarise the squadron with Gibraltar or whether they are training here for deployment elsewhere.

RAF in ‘protection of airfield’ exercise

No 2620 Squadron Royal Auxiliary Air Force arrived on the Rock on 13th October to practice their deployment role of force protection of airfields at a forward operating base. 

They will exercise at RAF Gibraltar, from 15 October. 

The exercise, in the planning for over a year, will enable No 2620 Squadron to practice procedures after a variety of incidents within an unfamiliar environment. No 2620 RAF Regiment Squadron comprises mostly of reservists with a small element of regular service personnel. 

The scenario allows No 2620 Squadron to perform, within peacetime constraints, the roles they would expect to conduct in a potentially hostile environment. 

In recent years forces such as 2620 Sqn have deployed in support of operations in Sierra Leone (Freetown) and Afghanistan (Kabul and Bagram).

During the period No 2620 Sqn will be seen on the airfield dressed in protective clothing, including respirators (gas masks). The exercise will also involve personnel at RAF Gibraltar and Gibraltar Squadron personnel. 

The participating personnel will face realistic scenarios, both on the airfield and within the territorial waters, that will fully test their training and will enable valuable lessons to be learnt.

After the exercise on the airfield the Squadron will move to the Buffadero Training Area carry out further training.

Connections with Gibraltar

The connection people have had with Gibraltar often comes to light when they die.

Sam Alfer was a caravan manufacturer in England. 

He used to own a hotel in Gibraltar and was instrumental in setting up the Gibraltar Heritage Trust and the Friends of Gibraltar Heritage Trust in England, said his obituary. 

He died this month.

During the war, many escaped across the “freedom route” from France to Gibraltar.

Wounded and taken prisoner near Dunkirk in 1940, Colonel Jimmy Johnson escaped and went on to cross France and Spain to the freedom that Gibraltar afforded. 

He died recently.

LAST WEEK'S STORIES 

Search





 

  • Books

  • Magazines

  • Posters & Prints

Top