Wednesday, February 12, 2014


It appears the entry fee scam perpetrated on those sitting in the lengthy queues in their cars at the border is back. I suppose one has to ask, did it ever go away?

On Friday I received this email from Philip. He wrote: “Today a scruffy man tried to take 20 euros off my partner and I as we drove into the queue to get into Gibraltar from Spain. He scribbled something in marker pen in the bottom near side windscreen. He rubbed this out when it became apparent we would not be paying as we failed to see how this could help. The man was still around later in the day, we drove past and ignored him.”

Philip closed his email by asking: “Is this a regular thing?”

My answer would be that I thought it currently isn’t but it certainly was. I can’t remember seeing these scammers in recent years in the queues but they certainly were a common sight during the 1990s.

In those days the tactic was to sell drivers in cars the scammers had identified as belonging to tourists an actual ticket to get on to the Rock. This they were assured was needed and they were asked to hand over pesetas in those days. And what did they get in return? An ONCE lottery ticket torn in half. At least if it was an actual valid ONCE ticket you might have ended up winning some cash instead of being out of pocket.

Of course this ploy would only work with tourists as a Spaniard would know an ONCE ticket when he or she saw one and Gibraltarians and regular visitors would know only too well there was no charge or indeed tickets.

As the drivers are being targeted in La Línea’s lengthy queue, where they are sitting ducks for the shysters, there is little on the face of it that Gibraltar or Gibraltarians can do about it. However it should be of major concern to us as the victims will feel they have been conned whilst visiting Gibraltar and hence our named is blackened by the scammers.

Gibraltarians and those who cross by car in to Gibraltar on a regular basis can help. If you see the scammers at work then please warn the innocent tourists they should not pay. A loud blast on your car horn will probably do the trick!

Clear signs on La Línea’s lampposts along the route of the queues in English and Spanish warning drivers that no ticket is required to enter Gibraltar  would also be a great help. Cracking down on the scammers is as much in our neighbour’s interest as it is ours.

Our Chief Minister and La Línea’s mayor now work closely together on many fronts. A word from Mr Picardo in Gemma Araujo’s shell-like should do the trick on the tricksters.


The Chief Minister has been attending a conference hosted by the British Virgin Islands at which he was one of the key speakers. There are two aspects of this encounter which interest me which I shall return to in a moment.

However the first point I want to make is that traditionally Gibraltar has looked to the UK as being its main partner in the world. Although this relationship is still of major importance and the bed rock of Gibraltar the nation there is a much bigger world out there to which we have to relate.

Unlike the UK, an island nation, Gibraltar is an integral part of the continent of Europe. In many ways the importance of the EU in our daily lives is far greater than it is to Britons. If the UK was to withdraw from the EU then it would spell economic and political disaster for Gibraltar. As the Chief Minister has previously stated in Brussels: Gibraltar wants more Europe and not less.

However what his visit to the BVI demonstrates is that apart from the UK and Europe the British Overseas Territories are not just a club we belong to but a club in which we should be a major player. I do not believe an MP speaking for the British Overseas Territories at Westminster is a good idea because quite simply the interests are too diverse. In contrast I do believe the OTs should organize themselves in to a working union centred on themselves and not via the UK.

This brings me to the first aspect of the BVI meeting which interests me. It was when the OT Premiers first met in Gibraltar last year that our Chief Minister highlighted to them that each of the Territories are world leaders in diverse fields and should be seeking to leverage that together internationally. This is something he has carried through to the BVI conference. He again pointed out that Bermuda is the world leader in captive insurance business; the BVI is the top jurisdiction for company registrations in the world; the Cayman Islands are the main jurisdiction in the world for the incorporation of Hedge Funds; and the Falkland Islands enjoy potentially huge oil reserves and fishing grounds; with Gibraltar being the "online Las Vegas" in virtual gaming. Suddenly collectively they are transformed from being smaller players to world leaders and as a collective unit are a formidable group.

The second aspect is when the Chief Minister explained that, in Gibraltar, he is about to launch a platform of e-government through the use of information and communication technology. This will provide a more efficient and effective administration which will make Government services more accessible and will make more information available to citizens, thus intentionally making the Government more accountable. The Chief Minister also announced that his government will shortly introduce a new identity card which will be allow for even greater e-government applications to be accessible to citizens.

Well three cheers for that! In October I attended a Committee of the Regions Conference at the EU in Brussels where towns, cities, communities and small nations demonstrated how they were using information and communication technology to do exactly what the Chief Minister described. The point I have always made is given the relative small population in Gibraltar and the compact nature of the community then e-government and e-democracy should be relatively easy to introduce here. Not only that but once up and running Gibraltar should then become a reference point across Europe and the wider world of these very technologies.

What we are seeing is Gibraltar pushing itself out from its traditional border, promoting itself beyond its traditional alliances. Whilst these alliances remain important Gibraltar’s place amount the OT world leaders and at the forefront of the development of e-government is what marks the future.


The reported statements of King Juan Carlos of Spain in the 1980s that his country did not really want Gibraltar back because it would add pressure on handing over Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco has the right in our neighbouring country on the run.

The last thing Rajoy and those of the Gibraltar Español clique want is any linkage between their claim over sovereignty of the Rock and Morocco’s demand for Ceuta, Melilla plus the numerous islands such as Perejil to be handed over to Rabat.

So it is not surprising that Europa Sur should carry an article on Saturday dismissing any similarity between Gibraltar and the North African enclaves. Penned by Quino López it may also have appeared in other newspapers belonging to the Joly stable.

The key part of López’s article is: “La recurrente comparación no tiene fundamentos jurídicos ni históricos El Peñón fue español hasta 1704, mientras que las ciudades autonómas jamas pertenecieron a Marruecos.”
It is true that Ceuta and Melilla were never part of the Moroccan State but neither are they an integral part of Spain, they are not even in the same continent. However to say “El Peñón fue español hasta 1704” is also very misleading to say the least.
Now I am no historian so if you are and I have any facts here wrong then feel free to shout. As far as I understand it until 711, when the Moors took over Gibraltar, it had passed through many hands, Greeks, Romans and Visigoths. Hence up to that point in time it was no more part of Spain than the enclaves were part of Morocco.
The Moors held Gibraltar till 1462. However Spain seemed rather unenthusiastic about making it part of its realm and it floated around various owners till 1501 when it reverted to the Spanish Crown.
So pre 711 Gibraltar was not Spanish. Between 711 and 1462 it was held by the Moors who came across the sea from what now is Morocco, so they held if for 751 years. It was only truly Spanish between 1501 and 1704 and in 1713 Spain signed it away “in perpetuity”. Hence Gibraltar was Spanish for either 203 or 212 years. Since 1704 it has been British so this year it has been non-Spanish again for 310 years.
So let us look at that again. Pre 711 various rulers, 751 years in the hands of the Moors, 203 or 212 ruled by Spain and 310 years British and now Gibraltarian too. Now I am no more a mathematician than I am a historian but if anybody has an historic claim to Gibraltar it is the Moors and if they don’t then the Brits and Gibraltarians certainly do. In last place comes Spain.
Now because I am mischievous and given our good relations with our neighbour across the Strait, many of whose citizens happily reside here, I would say yes let’s go for joint sovereignty – with Morocco. With Britain and Morocco on our side what chance then of Rajoy and Margallo trying to destroy Gibraltar the nation?
Can you imagine the anger and consternation in Madrid if the people of Gibraltar decided to embrace Morocco to partner Britain in guaranteeing the Rock’s future and its security?
It will never happen of course but it doesn’t stop me enjoying the thought of Spain’s response. Meanwhile the Gibraltar Español clique will continue to argue its flimsy case in the hope the world will be fooled and that it will gain Gibraltar and hold on to Ceuta and Melilla.
Dream on, dream on! The way things are going its not winning territory that should be occupying Rajoy’s mind but rather holding on to what he has got. The stampede to leave his State by the Catalans and indeed the Basques is getting underway in earnest. I shall come to that tomorrow.


In 2013 the socialist family in Gibraltar lost two major figures. In April we said goodbye to Charles Bruzon and on the last day of the year to Luis Del Rio.

Both were very different people but had more in common than one might realise. I first met Luis some two and a half years ago. When I was introduced to him he was described to me as being Gibraltar’s Che Guevara. It was said somewhat tongue in cheek but it came back to me when I read Joelle Baglietto’s fond Facebook farewell tribute where she wrote “Say hi to Che for me.”

Some months after I met Luis my dear friend Charles asked me to read through an article he’d written for the Christian Socialist Movement magazine in the UK. What stunned me was that Charles had chosen to use a radical quote from Keir Hardie in which he wrote of Christ the first Communist. I never discussed religion with Luis but I certainly did with Charles. Both men were staunch socialists and I am sure they connected in that conviction via Hardie, Che and Christ the first Communist. Indeed Charles was always delighted when he could connect his devout Christianity with Joe Bossano’s strong no-nonsense socialism, which happened more often than not.

The other aspect of their lives in which they shared much in common was their genuine concern for other people. Both men would go out of their way to help those in need. The disadvantaged in our society could count on their help and support not just in word but also in deed.

Yet Charles Bruzon and Luis del Rio were also very different. I remember well the first time I heard Charles speak in public because I was knocked away by his articulate, impassioned socialist message born of the pulpit. I also remember the last time that Luis stood for the executive committee of the GSLP. Candidates were given the opportunity to make a short speech. That was not Luis’ way, he gave a wave and the party re-elected him because they already knew his true worth.

Charles was one of the public faces of the GSLP first as an MP and then as a Government minister. Luis was one of the dedicated backroom boys. Yet both were wise enough to know you could not have one without the other. Leaders need loyal lieutenants at their side and there was none more loyal than Luis Del Rio.

In losing Luis Gibraltar has lost another part of its historic memory. He came from a Gibraltar very different from the Rock of today and indeed those under 30 probably know little of its existence.

Luis grew up alongside Joe Bossano: a man he was close to all his life. When I interviewed Joe some years ago we spoke of his early life in Gibraltar. Although I grew up some 1,000 miles to the north our mutual families had shared experiences. Poverty is poverty is poverty whether it is Devil’s Gap or Silvertown in London’s dockland. What is common is the battle of families to survive with dignity.

That very hardship is in the DNA of today’s Gibraltarian even though extreme poverty is a thing of the past. It was Luis, along with others, who gave witness to it. Their fight for justice was carried first by the TGWU through to today’s GSLP and Luis was one of the socialism’s constant banner carriers.

I last spoke to Luis at length just days before he flew to London for the hospital tests which tragically bore bad news. If he had any inkling of his pending fate he certainly gave no signs and it was a conversation filled with his usual good humour.

I am not sure if in the after life they read Panorama, perhaps they do online. In my last email message to Luis as he started his final treatment I urged him to have anímo. If he is reading this my message would be the same as he rights any wrongs he sees around him. I certainly send anímo to his close family at their deep loss: a loss they share with the wider socialist family and all Gibraltarians who believe in social justice for all.