Gibraltar is a nation under colonial rule, says Bossano

UN address by the leader of the opposition, Joe Bossano

Your Excellencies,

Some weeks ago Spain?s Foreign Affairs Minister, Sr Moratinos, told the General Assembly he wanted to see Gibraltar?s decolonisation, finally resolved.

That, coming from Spain, is a bit rich.

Gibraltar is a nation under colonial rule primarily because, for 40 years Spain has done everything in its power here, at other international forums and bilaterally with UK, to impede and frustrate our progress towards decolonisation.

Only last week we had an example of this.

Jack Straw explained at the British Labour Party Conference that UK?s foreign policy was driven by the values Labour has always stood for and are in the blood of the party.

The British Labour Party has played an important role in the emergence from post war colonial rule of many nations.

So I asked him the next day at a meeting of sister Socialist Parties representing almost all the UN member countries, whether he could confirm, given his previous statement, that he remained committed to Gibraltar?s decolonisation and our people?s right to self determination, irrespective of Spain?s views on the subject.

He first confirmed what I have just said, that but for Spain we would have been decolonised decades ago.

Then, astonishingly, especially at a Socialist gathering, he said that in Gibraltar?s case it was not so simple because UK had a Treaty with Spain from 1713 under Article 10 of which, the King of Spain had the right to claim sovereignty over Gibraltar, if the UK Crown ever gave it up.


In 1964 UN confirmed that the Declaration on Decolonisation applied fully to the territory and people of Gibraltar and UK defended this. Therefore no bilateral treaty, let alone one from 1713, can override the provisions of the Charter which applies to all territories covered by chapter 11.

So if this 1713 Treaty is the reason we are still on your list today, let us take a closer look at it.

I imagine few of Your Excellencies are familiar with the text, but you will have noticed that only Article 10 ever gets mentioned, as if the whole purpose of the Treaty was to prevent our decolonisation.

The Treaty reflects the Europe of 1713, when the very notion of human rights did not exist. A cursory glance shows the text to be the denial of the very values that the UN was created to uphold and defend.

For those of Your Excellencies that represent the millions of human beings that have emerged from colonial rule, but still suffer its consequences, in the African continent, the text makes interesting reading.

Article 8 prohibits trade with the West Indies that is not licensed by Spain. For these 18th century European Powers, the children of Africa were not even human beings, let alone persons with human rights. They were mere merchandise. Thus Article 8 requires a trading licence to traffic in or introduce negroes, goods, merchandise or anything, into Spain?s American dominions.

So much for the Treaty that is responsible for delaying our decolonization for decades. It deserves your contempt, not your support.

And that is not all, Britain was given as from 1st May 1713 the right to engage in the capture and transportation of innocent African men, women and children in accordance with a Spanish slave trade code named ?Pacto de el Asiento Negro? which was incorporated in Article 12 of the Treaty.

May the First, with all that this date means to Socialists, yet we have two Socialist Governments, in Spain and UK, hiding behind the pseudo legitimacy of this bankrupt, long defunct, Treaty, to justify their flagrant failure to observe their obligations under the Charter, to a people under colonial rule.

Sr Moratinos also called for the resumption of negotiations with UK. And UK replied that they had to respect our wishes.

Our wishes are not difficult for the colonial power to discover and therefore respect.

We wish the UK to tell Spain, in appropriate diplomatic language, that our decolonisation is none of their business and that they should not stick their nose in where they are not wanted.


Our wish is to agree with UK a new Constitution to achieve the maximum possible level of self government beyond which there is only emergence as an independent sovereign state.

That is the only way Gibraltar can be decolonised and UK released of its obligations under Article 73e of the Charter.

Last year UK explained that it did not subscribe to your policy that Article 73e reports have to continue until the General Assembly decides a territory has achieved a full measure of self-government. UK?s view is that this is a decision for the territory and its former colonial power and not the UN.

We do not agree with UK.

We agree with your policy.

However, since you do not, in our case, show the remotest interest in participating in the decolonisation process currently underway, we will have to settle for second best.

When our current negotiations are finalised and we proceed with our decolonising referendum, we shall hold UK to its word and expect reports under 73e, to cease.

That also will be the end of this consensus decision, arrived at without a vote and without debate every year.

No great loss, if I may say so, given that whilst it suits Spain to claim that it reflects the doctrine of the UN, as Sr Moratinos did this year, it is crafted by UK and Spain, and no one else.


Gibraltar is a culturally distinct and geographically separate country. Even Spain now accepts this. It is like the other 15 remaining colonies. This year the Special Committee clearly stated its goal was to obtain self-determination for all 16, including us.

Chairman Hunte closed the recent St Vincent Seminar by saying it was not the intention of the Special Committee to be a party to a process of inaction with the adoption of resolutions as their only goal.

I submit Mr Chairman that this Committee would do well to adopt this view when it considers again this year the pointless and meaningless ?decision? it is being asked to approve.

How can you continue to urge the resumption of bilateral talks between Spain and UK when you know full well that no such talks will take place.

Last year?s ?decision? urged UK and Spain to listen to, and presumably promptly ignore, our aspirations, and then reach a definitive solution to our decolonisation in the spirit of the Brussels Statement and the spirit of the Charter.

The text of the 1984 Statement and the text of the Charter, let alone their two spirits, are mutually exclusive and in flat contradiction with each other. That, is an indication of how meaningless this annual exercise has been and continues to be.

Coming here, year after year, Mr Chairman, one might be forgiven for thinking, with the greatest respect, that this august body adopts the approach of the three wise monkeys, you do not hear, you do not speak and you do not see what is blatantly obvious. Except that there is nothing wise about it.

Our neighbour has no say whatsoever in our sovereign decisions over our future and our homeland. The whole of our homeland, including the isthmus that joins our country to theirs.

In last year?s session, this Committee passed another resolution which said that in the process of decolonisation there was no alternative to the principle of self determination.

Spain voted in favour, and then, with typical inconsistency, added that it was not the only principle, because in Gibraltar the principle of territorial integrity should also be applied.

Your Excellencies regularly approve a resolution on the dissemination of information.


In May an excellent leaflet spelling out the options and the roadmap to decolonisation was produced by the Information Department and we have distributed it in Gibraltar.

There is not one word there, of the alternative principle of territorial integrity, invented by Spain.

The novelty this year is the Tripartite Forum.

This, we have been told, requires Gibraltarians to give up their irredentist position and make concessions.

Spain believes this will generate a climate in Gibraltar, more receptive to making sovereignty concessions as part of a deal with UK.

I am afraid, Your Excellencies, that Sr Moratinos is going to be a very disappointed man.

This is not going to happen. If Spain overnight dropped all its restrictions and asked for nothing in exchange, it would still not happen.

Spain dangles before us, once again, the carrot of the great prosperity we would derive as a result.

We are touched by its desire to make us even more prosperous, but need to remind them that we already occupy the 11th place in the world league table of GDP per capita and they are 29th on that same list.

If we were to reach the number one spot with their help, the answer would still be no, to any discussion of our sovereignty, let alone any sharing of it.

Before 2010, in pursuance of the Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism, we shall achieve decolonisation and exercise self determination.

Article 73e will no longer apply to us and we shall no longer be on your list.

We would prefer to do all this with your support and involvement and with Spain accepting its inevitability, knowing there is nothing they can do to stop us.

But if this is not to be, we shall achieve it by ourselves, as so many of you have done when you emerged from colonial rule.

Thank you Mr Chairman. I will be happy to answer any questions the distinguished delegate of Spain or any other member may wish to put to me.