PDP reject Airport agreement as it can impact sovereignty, jurisdiction and control
|FULL TEXT of PDP statement
OUR GENERAL STANCE
The PDP as a party is committed to reasonable and constructive tripartite dialogue. Our policy is to engage Britain and Spain positively and constructively so as to achieve safe progress for our community. In that context we would in Government be willing to participate in discussions under the Trilateral forum with Britain and Spain. Our approach is moderate, progressive, modern and puts the aspirations of our community and the safeguarding of our sovereignty at the centre of our programme.
We welcome the fact that a Ministerial meeting between the Governments of Gibraltar, Britain and Spain has been held because of the recognition of Gibraltar that this represents. This is a positive step in our struggle for recognition of our rights.
I should say that as member of the GSD for 14 years I supported the reasonable approach that the party had towards dialogue with Spain. As a Minister of the GSD government and as its deputy Leader I fully supported the concept of tripartite dialogue. My position has not changed one iota. The PDP also stands for reasonable tripartite dialogue. We therefore welcome the existence of the Trilateral Forum and would seek to fully participate in that forum if elected to Government.
We support the Government in having taken part in such discussions. However the fact that you have a right as an equal party in a Trilateral Forum to agree or disagree before agreements are entered into is not enough. The Government has an obligation to get it right and make sure that agreements reached do not compromise Gibraltar's sovereignty, jurisdiction or control directly or indirectly.
I will now explain our position on each aspect of the Agreements:
TELECOMS, PENSIONS AND FRONTIER FLOWS
Equally the PDP welcome the recognition of Gibraltar's 350 international dialling code and the promise to lift the telecommunications blockade. It is also pleased to note the expressed intention to loosen frontier restrictions to expedite freedom of movement.
Whilst we welcome this aspect of what has been achieved and understand that dialogue has been necessary so as to unblock this issue it is worth noting, though, that these measures should have been taken a long time ago by Spain. If there has truly been a "sea-change" in attitude by Spain these restrictions should have disappeared much earlier and without extracting a price in negotiations.
In return for such removal Spain is obtaining the resolution of a long-standing issue of concern to it - the payment of pensions to former Spanish workers - which is largely of its own creation. Having said that we have no difficulty with the Pensions Agreement and welcome that this issue will no longer be an issue between the three Governments.
As a general principle the PDP believe that this agreement now allows a raising of Pension income for Gibraltar pensioners and would, in Government, also support a rise in this.
With regards the Cervantes Institute we do not object to the establishment of such an institute in Gibraltar. We as a people and as a party are confident enough to realise that such an institute poses no threat to us as Gibraltarians and that cultural initiatives should be welcomed.
However and while we believe in tripartite dialogue there is one agreement within the package that we find fundamentally unacceptable. We consider it our solemn duty as a constructive alternative to raise these issues and make our position clear.
If what had been produced did not in our view impact on sovereignty, jurisdiction and control then we would have supported it. But unsafe, dangerous and bad agreements are precisely that. However much you examine them it is impossible to reconcile this with our objections of principle.
The PDP rejects the Airport Agreement announced as part of the Trilateral Process between the Governments of Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and Spain in Cordoba on Monday.
A future PDP Government will not be bound by this Agreement and will not implement it.
The Airport Agreement is objectionable in principle and surrenders influence and effective control in a number of areas to Spain. It is in some ways no more than the 1987 Airport Agreement in new and more subtle clothing. It is a wolf in sheep's clothing and worse still arguably a wolf with sharper teeth! What was unacceptable then remains unacceptable today. In certain aspects the 2006 Agreement is worse than the 1987 version as it bears the endorsement of the Gibraltar Government. This can only legitimise any objectionable features of the Agreement. It is the PDP's firm view that any degree of greater use of our airport should not be subjected to direct or indirect Spanish control mechanisms.
The Party regrets that the removal of restrictions on flights to and from Gibraltar is conditional on the implementation of the Airport Agreement which, it believes, is not good for Gibraltar in a number of key respects.
The PDP has previously stated that its policy position is that any agreement that, directly or indirectly, impacts on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control should be put to the people for acceptance or rejection in a referendum.
The PDP believes that this Airport Agreement includes aspects which are politically unacceptable and can impact on sovereignty, jurisdiction and control. As such the Party's view is that this Agreement should be put to the people in a referendum.
As far as the PDP is concerned one of the biggest concessions that the Gibraltar Government has made is the acceptance in both the Joint Communique and the Airport Agreement that "the Government of Gibraltar understands and accepts that references to sovereignty are bilateral to the UK and Spain." If the agreements are truly sovereignty-neutral why has such an admission been necessary? And why has it been made by the Gibraltar Government without first consulting the people of Gibraltar? They have had no mandate to concede this point and we are astonished that they have.
The PDP does not and will never accept that sovereignty is a bilateral issue for Britain and Spain. The sovereignty of Gibraltar is vested in its people and is not a bilateral issue for others to determine or for Britain and Spain to reserve for their consideration.
This and other aspects of the Agreement bring to the fore that the Government was fundamentally mistaken to ignore the repeated calls for publication of the draft Agreements that it had, in substance, agreed before Monday 18th September.
There are a number of other unacceptable features of the Airport Agreement;
(1) Spain is not only reserving its position on sovereignty but also on "jurisdiction" of the airport. This introduces a new qualification to their position and belies any assertion that Spain have conceded that the airport is within our jurisdiction;
(2) The Airport Agreement when implemented will - for EU purposes - "be deemed to constitute compliance with the 1987" Airport Agreement. Thousands of Gibraltarians will recall demonstrating against the 1987 Agreement and will find it objectionable in principle that the 1987 Agreement is now to be considered to have been complied with for legal effects within the European Union;
(3) The establishment of a Permanent Joint Liaison Committee between the three Governments to oversee the functioning of the agreement on use of the airport is just an indirect way of giving Spain a degree of influence over the running of the airport. This is clear because, for example, any military use of the Gibraltar airport which affects civilian use will have to be reported to this Joint Liaison Committee;
(4) The arrangements for the arrival, check-in, disembarkation and customs clearance of passengers involve an abdication of Gibraltar controls but an assertion of Spanish controls. By way of example;
a. passengers arriving from Spain to leave Gibraltar airport bound for Madrid will be treated as if they were still in Spain - ie as if this was an internal Spanish domestic flight from one part of Spain to the other. For those purposes the agreement converts our airport effectively into a Spanish airport;
b. a passenger arriving from a Spanish airport and bound for Spain will not pass Gibraltar customs or immigration controls;
c. conversely a Gibraltarian that returns to Gibraltar from a Spanish airport will be treated as if he is in Spain when he arrives in Gibraltar and will be required to pass through Spanish officials before he is allowed thereafter to pass Gibraltar officials to re-enter Gibraltar.
Clearly these are measures that are demanded by Spain so that it can assert territorial or jurisdictional control over air passengers using our airport. In turn this is a statement of the degree of its indirect control over important issues such as jurisdiction.
(5) It is unclear what form of arrangements will govern the operation of the Joint Spanish-Gibraltar company that is to operate the air terminal. It is also unclear whether the Spanish element will be backed directly or indirectly by the Spanish Government. In any event the PDP is against the joint control of our airport. Whether this is achieved by political or commercial means is still in principle objectionable because it occurs against a clear backdrop of Spain continuing to assert its sovereignty claim.
(6) It is regrettable that Spain has not unilaterally lifted its unacceptable air restrictions. These have only been suspended and are conditional on the implementation of the Airport Agreement. If this is not implemented these will not be lifted.
(7) Finally the PDP notes with regret the attempt to ram this agreement through irrespective of any possible Gibraltar objections. The statement [at paragraph 19] that the "commitments in this Statement will be fully implemented unless the three participants agree to the contrary" can only be intended to signify that to refuse to implement this Agreement requires Spanish consent. If this is a statement designed to prevent the possibility of a future Gibraltar Government rejecting this Agreement the PDP makes clear that it will not be bound by unacceptable political agreements that have not been debated before their signature and still less endorsed by the people of Gibraltar.
The PDP is for all these reasons against the Airport Agreement. It will lobby and campaign against it.
The Government should not have entered into this Agreement without popular support expressed in a full public debate and thereafter in referendum. It is a mistake entirely of its own creation because the Government were asked repeatedly to release details of the proposed Agreements for there to be proper debate, consultation and scrutiny. Had Government engaged in such a debate all of these issues would have been raised and if the Spanish mindset had really changed the Government would have been able to achieve an agreement that did not affect sovereignty, jurisdiction or control.
If entrusted with Government we would seek to achieve a safe Airport Agreement to replace this agreement which we believe is fundamentally flawed.
Finally the PDP notes that the Airport Agreement has been subjected to an intensive "hard sell" campaign by the Government. There was blanket coverage on Monday, the Chief Minister had an extensive Broadcast on Tuesday and further programmes are scheduled for Thursday. The PDP hopes that in the interests of fairness those advocating objections to the Airport Agreement will get similar coverage by the media.