Caruana sees progress everywhere

The chief minister Peter Caruana said in his New Year message last night that this has been "another hugelysuccessful year for Gibraltar economically; great progress has been made on the housing front and very significant improvements and advances have been achieved in our health service."

This Constitution puts us into a modern, non-colonial constitutional relationship with the UK, while at the same time fulfilling our aspiration to truly govern ourselves to the greatest extent possible consistent with our wish to retain British Sovereignty and close constitutional links with the UK.

And of course,he added, the UK Government has recognised two very important things: firstly, that the referendum by which we approved and accepted the new Constitution is an exercise of our right to self determination; and secondly, that the new Constitution results in a modern relationship between the UK and Gibraltar, which cannot be said to be based on colonialism. Neither of these is compatible with Gibraltar's status being, in reality, colonial. A colonial status cannot be said to be a modern relationship or one not based on colonialism. This is the route to and manner of decolonisation that the GSD Government set out: decolonisation through modernisation of our constitutional links with Britain.

Our airport is now open to normal air links with the rest of the world. Flights to Madrid have already resumed, and we hope that flight to and from other countries will follow soon.

Gibraltar airport is and will remain Gibraltar Airport. As promised, there are no implications for Sovereignty, jurisdiction or control of the Airport or the Isthmus.

Management and control of the airport is and will remain exclusively in our hands - as will all forms of political, administrative and legal jurisdiction and functions, he said.

And added: The settlement of the Pensions issue brings three huge benefits for Gibraltar. Firstly, it lifts a big political and financial risk and uncertainty from the future; secondly it removes an obstacle to good cross border relations and thirdly, but by no means least, it enables the Government to raise the level of Gibraltar pensions for all other pensioners. Consequently, and without affecting Community Care, our pensioners will be able to enjoy a very significant improvement in living standards when old age pensions rise by 65.2% in April.

The frontier measures are now coming into effect and the early signs are that frontier fluidity will improve, as well as reflecting a more normal frontier regime. And finally, in mid February, Spain will accept our 350 code, and normality will be restored in all aspects of telecommunications between Gibraltar and Spain.

According to the Chief Minister, "Spain will not, now or after 2008, be exercising any control whatsoever on anyone relating to their leaving or entering Gibraltar. Nor will Spain be able to deny anyone the right to enter Gibraltar, nor deny anyone the right to leave Gibraltar (except of course by refusing their entry into Spain as they can do to-day at the border). None of that will or can happen under the Cordoba agreements."

He went on to say that the Government seeks the maximum possible degree of friendship and normality in relations with Spain, but we do so from a position of firmness in our resolve to uphold and protect our political rights and aspirations as a people. We have shown that it is possible to do both.

The economy has also had another excellent year. Employment levels have remained at record highs, the finance centre continues to mature, develop and grow and the gaming industry continues to prosper despite various external challenges, particularly the criminalisation of on-line gambling in the USA. Some Gibraltar operators are responding by reducing jobs, but these jobs will be replaced by new companies that the Government is licensing and by growth in others. The private sector economy continues to perform very well and the economy as a whole continues to grow by around 7% a year. For their part, Government finances remain very strong, despite the untrue claims to the contrary with which you are bombarded at budget time each year.

Similarly, he added, the Government continues to carry out a wide ranging and extensive capital projects investment programme designed to enhance and modernise all physical aspects of facilities in Gibraltar.