Spain would not object to Gibraltar joining Schengen

by JOE GARCIA
The Spanish Government would not object to Gibraltar Joining Schengen, PANORAMA understands. This would allow the removal of passports and immigration controls at the frontier.

EU countries that belong to Schengen allow almost absolute 'freedom of movement' across territorial boundaries.

Britain does not belong to Schengen. The question will be asked if Gibraltar should join without Britain, as Gibraltar joined the EU as a European territory for whose external relations Britain is responsible.

Joining Schengen without Britain could be construed as entering Schengen with Spain, and this could give rise to political considerations.

It could well be that Spain would not object as they see the move as favouring the Spanish position on Gibraltar. It is not known, anyway, if the British Government would have no objections as well.

Sources within the tripartite forum have been hinting that if Gibraltar wants a freer frontier, then it should consider joining Schengen..

AIRPORT

Passport and immigration controls have been obstacles to an airport deal, in that passengers to and from Spain would be entering and leaving a non-Schengen territory as is Gibraltar.

It would also mean that, if Gibraltar joined, it would be seen as an oddity that passengers arriving from Britain would have to go through passport controls, even if the Spanish do not.

It could well be that Spain would welcome Gibraltar joining as it would remove an obstacle to an airport deal.

However, all entry points are also subject to customs controls, and unless Gibraltar also joined VAT and the common customs union, the Spaniards could still use the frontier as a political weapon as they have done in the past, as everyone in Gibraltar thinks.

Regular frontier crossers argue that the frontier remains subject to abnormal treatment by the Spanish and that it lacks the facilities which should be available at any European frontier.

The question of the frontier has been discussed within the tripartite talks, but it is not making the kind of headway that has been experienced with other issues.

There is a school of thought in Gibraltar that the government should place the frontier at the same level as other issues, such as the pensions, in that an agreement on the frontier should be necessary before agreements on other issues.

NO CHANGE

The Spanish Government representative at tripartite talks, Sr Jose Pons, once committed himself to exploring improving frontier flows by holding meet-

ings in Madrid with those Spanish Government departments which are also involved in such matters. The meetings may have taken place, but nothing dramatic has so far emerged. Frontier controls remain subject to the vagaries of those involved in it, and there remains an absence of normal facilities.

At the tripartite talks held in Portugal last July, Sr Pons went to the extent of making known his displeasure when reporters kept referring to the 'frontier' and not the 'verja', as official Spanish jargon is that what separates Gibraltar from Spain is merely a 'fence', which shows the level of discord that exists.

Meanwhile, successive governments in Gibraltar have always shown little interest in Gibraltar joining VAT and the customs union, and there is no reason to suggest that this is not the case today.

Trading circles say that the frontier has to be brought up to the operational levels of all other European ones, with red and green channels, and elimination of unnecessary queues, even if Gibraltar retains the EU derogations that have applied to it since the Rock became part of EU territory, with Britain, in 1973.





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