Crunch time on the fishing front
|By Leo Olivero
All the indications coming from various sources suggest that the six month fishing row with Spain may be drawing to a close!
The row itself was sparked off when in march the GSLP/liberal government made good a pre-election manifesto commitment that they would 'not permit illegal fishing with nets' and maintained their position in government that 'the 1999 fishing agreement entered into by the Caruana administration breached Gibraltar law'
The new government said at the time they were elected on a policy on the application of the said legislation (1991 nature protection act) which clearly included a total ban on the use of all types of fishing nets!
Always a sovereignty not fishing issue with Spaniards
During the last six months the fishing dispute has in many peoples opinions, turned into something far away from the original issue, which was at the centre of the row 'which was the illegal fishing in British Gibraltar territorial waters' (BGTW)
In fact the issue from a Gibraltar perspective was not a dispute at all, because we have an undeniable and international right and obligation to protect our waters and environment! However the Spanish government together their regional cohorts, turned the whole matter from a regional fishing dispute into one of the most serious 'sovereignty confrontations with Gibraltar ever recorded in recent times'
This sovereignty dispute, because this in my opinion is what it is, has continued in varying degrees of intensity. On the way many characters have joined in from the
Political and diplomatic arena to the highest level of British and Spanish diplomatic relations, right up to the involvement of the king of Spain, who also thought he needed to poke is regal finger in the sovereignty fish pie.
However the most serious of all issues regarding the whole shebang, has been the Spanish governments decision to break all international laws, sea faring regulations, directives and what have you 'instruct their paramilitary forces in the shape of the seaborne Guardia Civil division' who have continuously broken all sorts of conventions and laws of sea by invading BGTW practically at will.
This if anything is the one issue and continuous illegal act that has taken the whole matter to another dangerous and political level, and not necessarily the decision to apply Gibraltar laws in BGTW as they stand and appear in local legislation!
Sadly, not only has the political atmosphere been dark and grey with Spain, but local politics has been at odds with each other!
Two completely contrasting local political points of view
Locally there are two completely contrasting political points of view: the government for their part stand firm by their written electoral commitment and their now established position on the matter. This led to the chief minister criticising opposition leader peter Caruana in parliament during a few heated debates alleging that Mr. Caruana had entered into a politically expedient agreement in 1999 in response to "a few hotheads" who blocked the border and that the basic principle of the rule of law had allowed Spanish fishermen to breach Gibraltar legislation'
For their part the opposition has also attempted to maintain their own steady political line on the issue. Saying at one point that they rejected the analysis by government, because the 1999 agreement was a way of avoiding unnecessary conflict by enabling the RGP to exercise discretion in the way it enforced the law
Mr. Caruana has also said he had always stood firm for Gibraltar on critical issues but that the fishing dispute was "completely and utterly unnecessary", adding that "there was no fundamental interest of Gibraltar at stake." He said any reaction from Spain "however unjustified" was completely self inflicted.
As you can see two totally opposing political stand points which have not helped Gibraltar's cause at all.
Although personally I have to take issue with one of these important comments by Mr. Caruana, because it is a point I have raised and have been critical about numerous times over the years, it is where the police are concerned and where the leader of the opposition continues to insist and still tries convince everyone that the '1999 fishing agreement he orchestrated, enabled the RGP to exercise discretion in the way they enforced the law'.
This I must continue saying today as I have said for years 'is pure fantasy by the leader of the opposition, the police did very little over 12/13 years because they were 'politically shackled' by an agreement that was never ratified into local law and also the important point, that they (the police) were unable to apply or enforce the pertinent act, due to constant political intervention from the government of the day'
Looking across the bay now and from a Spanish perspective in the local region, Mr. Landaluce the mayor across the watery way together with the face and voice of the fishermen Pedro Maze have done their best throughout to create and instill a negative atmosphere, not conducive in conducting such an important matter to many in a friendly, honest and effective manner!
Mr. Maze has been a negative influence from start to finish, making unreasonable demands and ultimatums as if he was in charge of the whole proceedings. His latest act and comment to the gullible Spanish press 'that they have been given the go ahead to fish again in BGTW waters as from 16 august and will able to fish in local waters till December 2012' is just the latest. Maze has been bouncing backwards and forwards, he walked out of the working group and said he wasn't coming back, until his government sent him back, he has constantly tried to impose pressure on the whole process and Gibraltar government obviously in cahoots with others in high places.
But as far as Maze is concerned, to me his only interest is in my opinion making Gibraltar look like the baddies in all this, which is exactly the ploy of the Spanish government!
Even king Juan Carlos got roped in to all this, why a monarch should have fallen for such a political trick from his own government, in involving himself in such an issue is best known to the king himself, who has not had the best of times lately with his popularity amongst his own subjects dwindling by the day. Probably it's another case of the Spanish king also wanting to use the Gibraltar card to improve his ratings at home!
The chief minister also held discussions with UK foreign secretary William Hague during the diamond jubilee celebrations in London updating him on the situation particularly on cross-border relations, frontier traffic and the Guardia Civil incursions relating to the fishing dispute.
'There's no doubt about the British position, this has been repeated so many times this year alone, and probably this is hurting the Spanish government as much as anything else'
the working group created by the government, have if anything had a difficult job on their hands throughout the whole process, particularly with all the Spanish intransigent and the manner these people conduct themselves. Who came to the working group table with one thing and one thing only in mind to illegally fish in our waters as they were allowed to do so since 1999!
The Gibraltar government have been patient and allowed the whole process to take its course which was the idea from the start.
The government is now waiting the last report from the experts before making a final decision.
Nothing will change irrespective
However judging by the demeanour of Maze & co and what Panorama understands of the current situation 'the Spanish fishermen will not be getting what they want, certainly not what they think is their god given right, which is to fish in BGTW which ever way they like and in the manner they have been wrongly allowed to get accustomed too'
Although the bottom line to all this is that even if the fishermen were allowed a free-reign of our waters to rape, ravage and destroy our marine environment and deplete our fish stocks, it would not change absolutely nothing with the Spanish government's attitude towards the rock.
The Spaniards will always continue to harass, coerce and attempt to make our lives a misery, something they have been doing for countless years. Even though the good old Cordoba, tripartite and so called friendly years and those famous 'knife in the hand back slapping years' of the previous administration, which got us nowhere!
So what is there to worry about? If it's always much of the same.