Tension as meeting with Spanish
fishermen ends in deadlock
By Leo Olivero
The third round of negotiations between the Gibraltar Government and the delegation of Spanish Fisherman ended as the previous two others, basically, with a not to convincing commitment (on the Spanish side) to continue finding a way, if that’s possible, to come to an agreement that would pave the way for the creation of a Working Group.
Although it has to be said that even before the meeting got underway it was noticed particularly from the Spain side again that, and as I reported during the last meeting, that part of their delegation as they entered 6 Convent Place looked tense, long faced and one delegate was even heard telling the spanish press present “not to go because this would not take long”.
Even on their way out after the meeting finished the Spanish delegation left with hardly saying a word except for one member who said he ‘was hopeful that an agreement would be reached and that talks would be on going’ although even that short statement did not sound or look too convincing, judging by the hurried exit by the rest of the spanish delegation as they left the Chief Ministers Office.
Chief Minister Looks Semi-Optimistic, I think?
The Chief Minister for his part said that no agreement had been reached and both sides had agreed to keep in touch to find ways if possible, to create a draft agreement for the creation of this Working Group.
Mr. Picardo was asked about the recent incident where three Spanish fishing boats had been summoned for process by the police - the CM said ‘that if the fisherman were fishing contrary to Gibraltar laws that was an issue for the police to take such measures as the police thought it appropriate’
The CM said that the important thing was for the Government of Gibraltar to carry on the process of discussion if that was possible and in order to reach an understanding so that a working group in turn could also understand the issues that are important to all sides involved, saying it would be like ‘plucking a needle out of a haystack’
The Chief Minister did not appear to want to get to drawn into the police incident the other day regarding the three spanish fishing boats and the fact that police had summoned these people for process, he said ‘that there were different ways of getting people to understand that they had breached the law and that reporting for process is another way of enforcing the laws, which he thought was perfectly appropriate in certain instances’
Mr. Picardo went on to say again that attempts were being made to get a draft agreement set up for a working group to look at all the points of view of all sides and this the CM reiterated included the ‘Laws of Gibraltar Entirely’ if this is possible the CM or whether there is any room for manoeuvre or areas of agreement that may not be possible or if nothing emerges because there is no area of agreement…the CM repeated that is ‘needle in a haystack’.
When asked if fishing again by these boats particularly whilst these negotiations were in the air would ‘heighten tension’ or have any effect on any possible agreement the Chief Minister said that ‘if people come to Gibraltar to commit criminal offences they are dealt with by the people who are responsible for that’
The Chief Minister did cover one intresting area when he said that the Spanish fishermen had told him that ‘they could not fish to the waters North of Gibraltar even though they have 8000 miles of coastline because as he as told ‘there are no fish’ and added to that was the environmental protection zones were also in place. Mr. Picardo also said that the fishermen could neither fish in waters to the West of Gibraltar because it is an environmentally protected area, and the fishing they can do in this area does not allow them under spanish laws, to use some of he equipment they want to use in Gibraltar waters’
Another pronounced comment from the CM came when he said that “fishermen can earn a living in the waters around this area and perhaps not necessarily in Gibraltar Waters”
The Chief Minister thought that if there was the remotest possibility, attempts should be made to try and achieve an agreement, but also said, that “if this was not possible he would not rather be the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, then be a Chief Minister of Gibraltar who signs up to an agreement that turns a blind eye to the application of Gibraltar laws”. A reference of course to the 1999 agreement!
In an answer to a specific questions from Panorama ‘on how far apart sides were; the CM said “We are very far apart as what we want to achieve! Although closer he said on how they might sit down on the different positions. Although Mr. Picardo was sceptical that not everyone on the Spanish side of the table really wanted an agreement!
There was another passing–shot at the previous Chief Minister when Mr. Picardo said that “if Mr. Caruana thinks that there is any merit to the argument made that his (Mr. Caruana’s) agreement did not suggest that Gibraltar Laws should not be breached, he is banking on people not reading the document (1999 fishing agreement) but would understand that Mr. Caruana did a deal that outside 225metres from Gib Shores Spanish fishermen could do what they liked, and that was shameful”. Mr. Picardo concluded.
It is obvious that talks have not moved forward in any way, in fact the mood of the Spanish delegation both yesterday and at the last meeting really gave the ‘game away’ that things were not going well or more to the point - in the direction the spanish delegation wanted matters to go!
In my opinion the Chief Minister although attempting to put more of a positive angle to the talks, it was clear to me at least, that Mr. Picardo was also trying to send out the message that both sides were entrenched in their respective positions. Also that the fishermen wanted to do in Gibraltar waters what they were not being allowed to do in their own, because of restrictions and the fact they have fished all the fish out of the sea (if that’s possible).
Another important comment from the CM came when he also said that the ‘fishermen could earn a living but not necessarily in our waters’ these are examples of the important points within the contents of the talks that indicate to me, that the Government and the Spanish Delegation are polls apart in coming anywhere near an agreed consensus, especially one, that would make way for a group of any kind to be created to look at this issue any further.
I’ve not said the word yet - but ‘DEADLOCK’ comes to mind, and if Spanish boats are now going to start to do, what they want to do in Gibraltar waters which is fish with nets, than the whole negotiation process is really dead - because ‘RESPECT’ particularly for our laws, would have been lost!
I have no doubt that ‘Police Contingency Plans’ would have already been put in place in the event of the whole matter escalating…which I also have no doubt that probably (although I hope I’m wrong) will be the case in the coming days or weeks.
I have grasped the point - or the cryptic message coming from 6 Convent Place, which is: