Spain out to Derail Memorandum of Understanding!
|by LEO OLIVERO
It is now becoming patently clear that Spain is now playing another card in its efforts to do anything possible to create a situation where the fishing dispute and coming talks is placed at a disadvantage and collapses!
But as most of us have now realised this was never about catching fish, but gaining ground on sovereignty.
Not only that, but Spain (not too cleverly I may add) appears hell-bent in derailing the memorandum of understanding reached 11 days ago between the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and La Linea Mayor Gemma Araujo and fishermen from the neighbouring town.
But looking at the Spanish position that has been adopted, particularly over the last few weeks, it is difficult to imagine a less inspiring and more evidently fatigued political environment than the one we are witnessing from a Spanish perspective.
It seems as though the Madrid administration, having exhausted virtually every topical subject on the political agenda related to keeping their country financially afloat, this before it sinks titanic fashion. The fishing dispute has been a politically timely gift to the spanish government!
There is no doubt that Spain has a very uncertain future, internally both major Spanish political parties are locked in a vicious circle of constantly invoking the past as an antidote to the present, here is exactly what the PP government appears to be doing with Gibraltar, by continuously citing excerpts of the now boring ‘1713 Treaty of Utrecht’.
Although bringing up the past (with lies) is what our dear neighbour is particularly good at, with sovereignty, border controls and discrediting Gibraltar and its people high on the list of ‘cheap Spanish diplomacy’ better suited in their favourite anachronic Utrecht era!
Over the past few weeks tension in the bay has been at boiling point mostly promulgated from Madrid. The current fishing dispute has seen the Spanish government work overtime; they have been able to crank-up the national media machinery successfully turning this matter into a major national issue. Naturally not to lose a valuable opportunity, the fishing dispute has once again been nicely turned into the age old territorial waters and sovereignty crisis!
On the 22 May the Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and La Linea Mayor Gemma Araujo agreed on the creation of a cross-border joint working group to examine all aspects of the current fishing dispute. The meeting attended by representatives of the La Linea fishermen also signed up to the conditions in the ‘communiqué of understanding’ one of which included that ‘they would not defy the laws of Gibraltar currently in force’ this as we know has not been the case with continuous incidents all this week on the western side of the Rock.
The now familiar ugly disturbing and dangerous scenes in the bay, including the outright unlawful transgression by the guardia civil (under government orders) is typical. This is a foreign power and so-called friendly neighbour who has displayed total disregard for the laws of Gibraltar and local agencies, with daily attempts to impose themselves and make a mockery of the integrity of British Sovereign Waters.
The point we have reached now is one where after Tuesday’s meeting in London between both foreign ministers who jointly concluded, that the Gibraltar Government has the competency to resolve this issue with the fishermen. Although I would have thought that in a political perspective, this decision by the ministers would have meant something. I know that this is the case with Mr. Hague, but what of Mr. Margallo who continues to send his paramilitary, armed guardia civil into BGTW to make a mockery of what was agreed in London certainly not the spirit of what was reached with Mr. Hague!
PERSONAL INSULTS IN THE AIR
It is also clear that the fishermen both from Algeciras and La Linea intend to continue fishing whilst being escorted by the guardia civil. This was the case the other night when at least 3 or 4 guardia civil vessels escorted a handful of fishing boats.
However it all got rather nasty on Wednesday night after one of about 5 Royal Navy warnings including one from Lloyds Signal Station to the GC, a voice suddenly answered directing the message at the RN dispatch, and made an insulting remark, this started a tirade of abusive insults in Spanish to and from various (what appeared to be non official entities) on this marine radio band. In fact these unofficial abusive transmissions continued for quite a while.
Channel 16 (156.8 MHz) is the international calling and distress, safety channel also used for port operations and commercial shipping. All ships are required to carry a radio with this facility; most coast stations maintain a listening watch on this channel. It is not however a radio frequency that should be used for personnel insults of this nature as taking frequency space to insult or let off steam as we saw the other night, may danger someone life who may need to get through in a real emergency!
It is clear from statements already made that fishermen particularly those from Algeciras, intend not only to continue fishing, but also to take part in the joint working groups, but on their conditions! Their objective it seems even before joining the working group is to fish within Gibraltar waters and with the nets they say they have always used. This is the same line (not surprisingly) as the Spanish government particularly Mr. Margallo!
How will the joint working group be able to sit round the table and discus anything, especially if one sector of the fishermen has it predetermined in their heads that the only favourable outcome for them, can only be the status that they have illegally enjoyed for the past 13 years, since 1999!
The joint working group will be at a disadvantage even before it starts because if fishing and the guardia civil presence are to continue throughout with nothing happening to put a stop to it, then by the end of the first week, not only will the 6 fishing boats from Algeciras be fishing nightly or every morning, but the 53 other boats from La Linea will say ‘what the hell’ we’ll join them! The same condition in the memorandum of understanding must apply to all, unless that part of the memorandum is changed!
But personally I find it totally unethical to expect any trust to exist within the two bodies in the joint working group, especially when a scenario like I have described is being played out in the bay every day and night.
It is a situation similar to an industrial dispute and like asking for example the government, to try and settle or agree by dialogue, a pay and conditions claim from workers with the union, when the workers themselves are taking industrial action or on strike and want to remain like that throughout negotiations.
But it’s clear to me at least, that this is another ploy from Madrid to derail these talks and bring about additional areas of divergence, this in an attempt to induce failure and the collapse of the initiative by the Gibraltar Government!