‘No fly’ zone is part of Spain's policy of eroding Gibraltar's position, says Opposition

The Spanish restrictions which impose a no-fly zone on military aircraft operating to and from RAF Gibraltar have been formally institutionalised in its defence cooperation agreement with the United States dealing with military aviation. These new regulations, which came into force on 1 February this year, once again serve to show that Madrid will use every conceivable opportunity to undermine and erode the position of Gibraltar internationally, says the GSLP/Liberal opposition.

While the official Spanish position has not changed, this is believed to be the first time that the military restrictions on Gibraltar have been included in a formal agreement in this way and in this instance applied to United States military aircraft. The restrictions were previously applied unilaterally by Madrid.

The Gibraltar clause, which has been leaked to the Spanish press, reads as follows: “Gibraltar. Aircraft departing from or heading to Gibraltar are forbidden to overfly Spanish airspace or to land in Spain. They cannot even file a flight plan which includes a Spanish airport as their alternative destination. The only exception are humanitarian missions which have been previously authorised and emergencies.”

The opposition adds: It is quite incredible that this no-fly zone should be formalised at a time when there is supposed to be a so-called improved climate in relations between Gibraltar and Spain. Indeed, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States are all supposed to be allies in NATO and yet the Spanish Government continues to behave with a degree of hostility towards Gibraltar as if this were not the case. There is also the additional point that the military interests of NATO and of the west in general could be put at risk by the continued Spanish obsession whenever it comes to Gibraltar.

OBSTRUCTIVE

Quite apart from the inconveniences to civilians, it is obvious that in a military sense as well Spain continues to be very obstructive when it comes to Gibraltar with no other objective than to make life as difficult as possible for the military aircraft of any country that may come here.

The GSLP/Liberals recall that last year the Spanish Government refused to grant permission for the Royal Air Force to train in Spanish controlled airspace in the northern half of the Alboran training area. In the end the RAF had to use the southern half only after they were granted permission to do so by the Moroccan authorities.

OUT OF PLACE

The restrictions on military aircraft calling at Gibraltar were imposed by General Franco at a time when Spain was not in NATO and the world was a very different place. The fact that these same restrictions have been maintained by successive Spanish Governments after the dictatorship is completely out of place in this day and age when both the UK and Spain are members of NATO, they say, and add: "That Spain should now formally include the restrictions in a bilateral agreement with the United States, applicable to US military aircraft, takes the issue one step further. Instead what Madrid should have done is drop the restrictions completely."

31-03-11



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