Gibraltar’s Fate: UK Takes Control, Spain Watches Closely

The recent proposal for an “area of shared prosperity” in Gibraltar, presented by Spain and the European Commission, must now be accepted by the United Kingdom, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares.

Located at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory claimed by Spain. The British seized this strategic territory in the 18th century and, despite much dissent since then, Gibraltar’s parliament signed a declaration of unity in 2000 stating that it would never give up its right to self-determination and that “ Gibraltar belongs to the people of Gibraltar and does not belong to Spain or Great Britain ”.

Gibraltar’s status has been subject to even greater uncertainty with the UK’s exit from the EU in 2021.

“ We have put on the table a global agreement to build a zone of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar, in Spain ”, declared Mr. Manuel Albares (PSOE, group of European Socialists and Democrats) in Cordoba, reports EFE, media partner of EURACTIV.

“For there to be an agreement, you need not only the Spanish proposal but also the green light from the United Kingdom, so the ball is in the United Kingdom’s court,” said Mr. Albares.

The proposal, sent to London by Spain and the European Commission in November 2022, aims to establish a new legal framework that lays the foundations for a stable relationship between Spain and the European Union, on the one hand, and the territory of Gibraltar on the other hand, in a post-Brexit world.

For the European Commission and Spain, Madrid must take control of Gibraltar’s external borders and perform certain functions for the security of the Schengen area.

At the same time, it is necessary to ensure the free movement of goods between the EU and Gibraltar without increasing the risks for the EU internal market.

During a phone call on May 4, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez (PSOE) and his British counterpart, Rishi Sunak (Conservative Party), agreed on the need to reach an agreement “as soon as possible ” about this question.

Constructive spirit and dialogue with London
“In principle, the constructive spirit of the United Kingdom is also to build this area of shared prosperity,” said Mr. Albares.

Taking into account this “ constructive spirit ”, the minister expressed his hope that an agreement with London will be concluded “ as soon as possible ”. “We are ready for an agreement, but for there to be an agreement, it takes two. »

Spain and the UK have been negotiating an agreement that will govern the EU’s relationship with Gibraltar post-Brexit since a pre-agreement was reached at the end of December 2020, hours after the UK officially left the Union European.

An agreement in principle was reached between the UK and Spain at the end of last year. This stipulates that “ maximized and unrestricted mobility of people between Gibraltar and the Schengen area ”, the removal of the fence at the land border and the relocation of customs controls at the airport and port of Gibraltar, will be conditioned by the presence of Spanish and Gibraltarian police at entry points. The latter will also have to be supervised by Frontex, the EU border agency, for four years, EURACTIV reported.

Gibraltar And The Spanish Elections

According to Spanish media, the border between Spain and Gibraltar (known as “la verja”, meaning “the barrier”) is crossed every day by some 15,000 workers, most of them Spaniards. According to other sources, this figure would be around 30,000.

In the meantime, relations between Spain and Gibraltar operate on the basis of ad hoc arrangements, and there is no specific deadline for the conclusion of an agreement on a new treaty.

Spain will hold regional and municipal elections on May 28, and general elections are due to take place in December, during the last month of Spain’s presidency of the Council of the EU.

The centre-right People’s Party (PP, European People’s Party), the main opposition force, and the far-right VOX party (Group of European Conservatives and Reformists) defend a “ hard line ” on the Gibraltar issue, while the The ruling Socialist Party in the country adopts a moderate tone. On numerous occasions, VOX has advocated for the closure of the border with Gibraltar.

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