What are we doing to counter Spain’s aggression against Gibraltar?
|by Leo Olivero
It’s coming from all quarters now, the Spanish Government’s ongoing campaign against Gibraltar appears to have no bounds! The question many are asking and one I have pointed out a few times already is… What are we doing about it?
Spain’s Policy of Political Intimidation and Aggression
It has become abundantly clear that the name of the game for Spain regarding Gibraltar is a policy of ‘Political Intimidation and Aggression’ The Spanish PP Government even before they came into power had an agenda set out to disrupt and destroy Gibraltar’s healthy equilibrium.
Slowly, or since the start of the year Madrid have systematically unfolded a series of planned political moves, many of which are reminiscent of the Franco era, which has clearly exposed Spain (from a local perspective) for what it really are regarding Gibraltar. The Spanish government has been applying political pressure at every opportunity, principally of course to further its own cause over the rock.
Whichever way you look at it, even in its mildest form, it is a clear case of a Spanish policy of ‘political intimidation and aggression’ over the people of Gibraltar!
Spain’s Modern Day Siege Over the Rock!
The whole scenario at the moment is as if ‘Gibraltar is again involved in what can be termed as a modern day siege with Spain to capture the rock’. Not that Gibraltar has been immune to Spain hostility, because history books are very clear on the Spanish siege mentality of our nation.
Admiral Sir George Rooke in 1704 Captured Gibraltar from the Spanish, but after mounting unsuccessful attempts to recover the rock Spain ceded the rock to the UK in 1713 via her favourite accord the Treaty of Utrecht.
The Spanish bless them, way back then continued their aggressive stance in an attempted to get Gibraltar back, there were further confrontations with spain in 1727, 1739 and 1779 so as you can see, the ‘battle blood lines’ are engrained in the Spanish DNA when it comes the rock which are still live and kicking today it seems!
TimeLine That never Charges!
Here’s my own personal snapshot, a kind of a timeline that exemplifies that nothing has really changed with Spain regarding Gibraltar - our neighbour is what she has always been ‘a pain in the posterior!
1939...Let’s fast forward quite a bit from Admiral Rooke’s days to the 20th century and talk about another of Gibraltar’s infamous spanish friends, who came onto the scene in the shape of the inimitable General Franco. Franco as most people know was quite partial in indulging in a war or two of his own, even with his own people.
So there was no great surprise when the general himself started, what was in a sense the start of the ‘modern day campaign to capture Gibraltar’. In fact Franco’s modern day demands to capture Gibraltar started sometime in 1939/40.
When the queen visited Gibraltar in 1954, it did not go down well with old Spanish general (well not so old at that time), who renewed Spain’s claim to sovereignty over the rock. This in fact started the precedent of Spain complaining every time a British Monarch made a visit to Gibraltar…The same complaints we saw before, during and after last weeks royal visit by Prince Edward and his Wife. So no change there!
In 1955 Spain was admitted to the United Nations they wasted no time and even before they sat in the UN chamber had already initiated a claim over Gibraltar, arguing that the principle of territorial integrity, not self-determination, applied in the case of the decolonisation of Gibraltar, and that the United Kingdom should cede sovereignty of the Rock to Spain…Quickly to 2012… only a few days ago Spain’s ambassador to the UN asked the UK to “engage in conversation over sovereignty of Gibraltar.” Has anything changed with these people? Not even time or a modern political world has changed Spanish minds over the rock. Spain appears to be in its own time-warp?
In 1969 as most Gibraltarians know, especially those of the older generation, Spain closed the border with Gibraltar and severed all communication links. The closed border went on for about 13 years. It was opened after Spain joined the EU and had to abide by the various EU conventions. It was either that or Spain having to fully open the frontier with Gibraltar which they did in (1985) or miss out on all the benefits from the vast array of financial packages awaiting them from the European bank. Although you have to say that all that EU money handed to Spain over the years, has not made them economically astute, as we are witnessing today because of the economic hole they have got themselves in!
1984 - Under the terms of the Brussels Process, UK and Spain agreed to try and resolve differences over the Rock. They also agreed to provide equal rights for Spaniards in Gibraltar and for Gibraltarians in Spain, the latter never really materialised!
2002 – date that infuriated Spain… when the Referendum held in Gib showed that 99% of resident in Gibraltar opposed the British and Spanish plan to seek joint-sovereignty.
2004 - Another date that enraged Spain …when the Gibraltar celebrated 300 years of our being British.
The Friendly Years 2004/11
The Tripartite Process heralded by the previous government as some miraculous political breakthrough, which in my view only saw much talk, tons of hugs and kisses and back slapping, countless dinners and vino sipping lunches that delivered in reality very little from a Gibraltar perspective.
In fact during the ‘so called friendly years’ when the PSOE (2004/11) government were in charge, who can really say that Gibraltar was any better or that anything has really changed? The Guardia Civil during these so called friendly years were in and out of waters as if it was their own, frontier queues never got any better, on the contrary they were getting worse, friendly spain was still hassling Gibraltar at every opportunity at EU, UN and other international forums including sporting, social and the likes.
2006 - Ministerial delegations from Britain, Gibraltar and Spain sign the Cordoba and the packages that came with it, including the important one from a Spanish point of view regarding pension compensation for former Spanish workers, there were happy Spanish faces over the border for this one, yet in return Gibraltar received very little.
2011/12 the change of power in Spain brought the people of Gibraltar in contact with the new Spanish PP Administration, who even before they won the elections had spelled out clearly their tough position on Gibraltar. They also unreservedly distanced themselves from the so called friendly approach over the rock adopted by the previous government. Soon after coming into power the PP government binned the Cordoba agreement, the tripartite forum and then went for the sovereignty-jugular vein once again!
Spanish Royals Used as Political Pawns There appears to be no messing with the PP administration over gibraltar, they know what they want, which is really the same as all previous spanish governments before them ‘they want sovereignty full stop’
In fact the spanish government are now using senior members of the own royal family to heighten tension even further. They government stopped the Spanish queen from attending a function in London during the jubilee celebrations. Last week they announced the King himself, injured hip and all will be paying a visit tomorrow to algeciras in a gesture of support for the Guardia Civil efforts during the fishing dispute. As if the king was about to visit Spanish troops in a war torn area around the globe… How Pathetic!
But it is obvious that Spain today has not changed one jot on anything Gibraltar. Considering the concept of modern day diplomacy and today’s politics, including the globalised world in which we live and the stacks of conventions and directives that nations must respect and abide with, as well as the generally respected right “that people have a right to determine their own future”
Unfortunately these are Concepts that Spain Know Very Little About or Ignore-Argentinian Style!
Spain’s List of Shame Gets Longer!
To emphasis even further that Spain has not changed and lives in another era, here are some other issues that are the same or worse then decades ago.
• There has been no change at the frontier its actually far worse
• The air space issue is still the same
• Spanish gov still attempts to undermine the Rock's Finance Centre
• Our neighbour still attempts to exclude Gibraltar from EU Directives
• Spain still Refuses to accept Gibraltar's police, courts, legal system and our laws as we see out in the bay with the current guardia civil and fishermen dispute
• Spain still attempts to block any EU measures which confirm the separate existence of Gibraltar's administrative and jurisdictional systems
• Constant attempt to deny Gibraltar membership of international sporting bodies
• Spain still accuses Gibraltar of being a money-laundering haven and that we are a band of pirates with drug smuggling as our main source of income
• The refusal by the Current Spanish government to accept the Rock's Territorial Waters, in fact Spain says we have no waters because it belongs to them!
• She still maintains restricted air corridors to land and take off at the airport.
• The latest Spanish move was last week when our lovely neighbour filed a complaint in Brussels alleging Gibraltar’s new 10% tax regime contravenes EU rules on state aid.
There are more many examples that unquestionably prove that Spain has not changed at all in respect to anything to do with Gibraltar, in fact their attitude has hardened. Although on this point I’ll leave you with a quote that is credited to general Franco when he once said “I make a fuss about Gibraltar when I don't want Spaniards looking at me” something that certainly rings true today if you consider the almighty financial mess spain has got it self into!
The fishing problem and incursions by the Guardia Civil and of course the renewed Sovereignty Claim are at the moment the three most important and pressing issues that Gibraltar has to contend with!
Governor Gives the Game Away!
The fishing dispute and the incursions by the GC is a ticking time-bomb, it has the potential to create a serious or fatal incident and something has to be put in place to end to these dangerous stands-offs out in the bay. I have been involved in many such stands off’s with the GC, this during the last fishing dispute in 1998/99 and I can tell you…it can turn into an extremely dangerous situation at the blink of an eye, anything could spark off a real nasty incident!
However on this point I have to say that I was not impressed with the Governor who practically made public, particularly to the Spaniards, when he said ‘there is no question of any armed or physical confrontation by the Royal Navy with the GC out in the bay’(or words to that effect) This may be the case. “But I see little strategic or operational value of publicly giving away or informing the enemy exactly what you are not going to do! Because that information will not only be used, it could also encourage the GC to come more often into our waters and in more numbers, and even become more brazen than they are now, particularly if they know now nothing will happen
Recently I have published articles regarding Gibraltar’s response to the current Spanish onslaught which continues to gather momentum. In only a week Spain have filed a complaint with the EU regarding Gibs new tax scheme – (at the UN they are up to their old Franco tricks and demanding the UK talk about sovereignty) - and to cap it all - King Juan Carlos is making a purpose built visit to algeciras including a trip on the guardia launch to this side of the bay, part of a ‘royal moral boosting gesture’ for those poor old gibraltar bay guardia civil war veterans!!!
We Need A Pro-active Strategy to Defend Ourselves!
Do we take Spain seriously? Well I think we have too, Spain is a powerful and strong country, although not financially strong at the moment, but Spain does pack a big voice around the world. Spain has a vast press and public machinery to be able to put her case across and be listened too, a tool she users quite effectively. She also has the support of many nations. Gibraltar has to do the same or more if possible!
I have to say again that the Gibraltar Government needs to adopt its own plan to combat these incessant anti-Gibraltar attacks by Madrid. We must get our own strategy up and running. We can do a lot more ‘this is the 21 century where millions of voices can be heard and as many ears can be reached at the click of a button’ There are many other options to fall back on, from the halls of Westminster to the plush corridors of Brussels. It’s all about using or imaginations like the Spaniards do in a very effective way!
Gibraltar has to engage a ‘pro-active mode.’ We cannot possibly wait for Spain to come up with its next anti-Gibraltar move. In fact we should be in a position to pre-empt or anticipate any negative Spanish move towards Gibraltar, so as to batter their efforts away and destroy whatever they are conspiring!