What has changed?

Just how desperate and hare-brained the Mayor of La Linea's scheme is became evident at the press conference. The whole scheme is ill-thought through, manifestly illegal and will result in putting cross-border relations at their lowest ebb since 2002, says the PDP.

It adds that he made a massive U-turn to earlier promises that Gibraltarians would not be affected by the toll by leaving the possibility ambiguously in the air. He purports to want good relations with Gibraltar but will single-handedly be responsible for dramatically worsening the state of relations with Gibraltar. He calls the toll a congestion charge when it is nothing of the kind. If it were a congestion charge it would not be placed near to the border and exclusively aimed at Gibraltar bound traffic.

"Given Mr Sanchez's persistent comments about how La Linea wants a share of Gibraltar's economic success all that this toll represents is a tax on our success. It is undignified to see local Government in La Linea resort to envy as a basis for municipal taxation," says the party.

In any event if the La Linea Mayor is worried about the state of unemployment in his city he should reflect that the level of unemployment would be far worse were it not for Gibraltar providing jobs for thousands of Spanish workers. Wrecking relations with Gibraltar, making access across the frontier more difficult or undermining Gibraltar's economy will affect those workers sooner or later. The party adds: *If the La Linea Mayor wants to make visitors stop at his city he needs to do so by making La Linea attractive and not by tax measures on Gibraltar. *If he builds his ability to pay his municipal workers on our success he is binding his success to our continued success. In that context it is ironic and completely foolhardy to place this tax on entry to Gibraltar.

The toll is manifestly illegal, says the PDP. It is a hurdle on cross-border freedom of movement. The Spanish Government should now act decisively to completely stamp out this proposal. But this action needs to be taken politically and not legally. What would be similarly unacceptable is for there to be a legal challenge that takes three years to resolve through the Spanish or European Courts.

"People in Gibraltar are justifiably indignant about this measure. It is illegal, politically unacceptable and complete nonsense. But this is not a single issue. It is building on massive frustration on other issues. The promised end to frontier queues has not materialised. These were supposed to be continually "monitored" to introduce improvements. The Gibraltar Police throw massive resources on our side to guarantee free flow of traffic. We never see the same attitude in Spain. Indeed there has been little to improve the situation. "The PDP has been calling for years for the introduction of a second green channel going into Spain. Nothing happens. Now most recently we are given the excuse that the dismantling of the Spanish fair was the cause of traffic gridlock.

"If there was political will resources would be deployed in Spain to alleviate this kind of situation.

"Spanish incursions into our waters continue unabated. These are fuelled by the Spanish Government who could easily issue instructions to its law enforcement agencies. The fact that it does not speaks loudly. "Spain continues to maintain its legal challenge on our waters and refuses even to allow our athletes to participate at ceremonies part of international championships organised in their country. What has changed? It is up to Spain to demonstrate that there has been real change," said PDP Leader Keith Azopardi. Equally it is now incumbent on the Gibraltar Government to break its silence on this issue and explain what it proposes to do on this matter. No matter how nonsensical these proposals are they are a test of the Tripartite process. That process is supposed to improve the quality of life of citizens. If the Government cannot even secure an end to this toll within that process then it calls into question the process itself. It needs to demonstrate that whatever diplomatic efforts it is making deliver actual results.

"The PDP is clear that if it were in Government it would demand a withdrawal of this proposal and ask the Spanish Government to intervene in what is an internal Spanish matter that threatens to affect Gibraltar. It would also ask the British Government to place diplomatic pressure on Spain. More importantly if action were not delivered a PDP administration would, if necessary, suspend its participation in the Tripartite process.

Clearly we believe in a tripartite process designed to deliver cross-border progress. But we have said time and time again that this has to be genuine and consistent. It needs to deliver real improvements and curb real threats. What cannot happen is that Spain acts one way within the tripartite process and another way outside of it. If action is not taken it is absolutely understandable for people to feel that we are not being taken seriously or treated with respect by Spain. In those circumstances a PDP Government would not be satisfied that it would be sending the right signal by continuing with business as usual. It is time to stand up and be counted" said Keith Azopardi.

11-08-10



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