Thursday, November 25, 2010


The Polisario Front has spoken of its dismay at the lack of support from the Spanish premier, José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, which it described as “minimal”. It also accused him of having “little interest” in the situation in the Western Sahara capital of El Aaiún, after the violent dismantling of the protest camp at Gdeim Izik on November 8.
In statements to Saharan journalists the prime minister of the self proclaimed RASD government, Abdelkader Taleb Omat, considers that Zapatero had ignored in his declaration at the NATO summit in Lisbon the serious situation existing at El Aaiún under Morocco’s control.
Taleb Omat spoke of his surprise that the Spanish government had not demanded an urgent independent international investigation as to why Morocco will not lift its blockade on the free access to the region of Spanish journalists and international observers to the Western Sahara. He added this would save lives and would protect the Saharans from the Moroccan policy to exterminate them.
The RASD premier also deplored the fact that Zapatero did not raise fundamental questions on a referendum for self-determination and the respect for human rights.
Now of course the majority of Gibraltarians will be dismayed at the treatment of the people of the Western Sahara – but you may wonder if there are there any lessons to be learnt. I believe there are three.
Spain’s new minister for foreign affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, held off condemning Morocco’s actions in the Western Sahara. She said it was not clear what was happening there. We still have no idea how many were killed, injured or disappeared. The reason for that is no reporters, Spanish or Euro MPs or observers were allowed in. So she could have started by protesting in the strongest terms over Morocco’s blockage. Lesson one: Trini, who is now the minister overseeing Spain’s relations with Gibraltar, is not the brightest bulb in the Madrid chandelier.
Zapatero and his socialist government have completely failed to defend the Western Sahara’s right to a referendum on self-determination and independence. What is all the more inexplicable is these have been core issues for European socialists and the far left for years. Lesson two: If PSOE can’t support the people of its former colony on self determination and respect for their human rights what hope would Gibraltarians have under a joint sovereignty agreement with a socialist Madrid?
The next one is a surprise. The Western Sahara was abandoned by Spain in the dying days of the Franco regime. Yet it is the centre right Partido Popular that is now calling for the Spanish government to condemn “the serious violation of human rights” on the part of Morocco in the Western Sahara. It also wants Spain to return to its former position of openly supporting the decolonisation process. Lesson three: if the PP is supporting human rights and self-determination in the former colony of the Western Sahara it cannot be allowed to deny the same rights to the former colonial people of Gibraltar.
In his recent address to University of Cádiz law students in Algeciras the chief minister, Peter Caruana, told them he had nearly reached an accord with the PP government in Madrid before it lost the March 2004 general election. The inference was that had the PP won that agreement and not the Tripartite process would now be in place. Also if the PP wins in 2012 – and he is still chief minister – a similar accord could again be on the table.
I found this statement by the chief minister riveting. It is interesting he opted to tell students in Spain because as far as I am aware he has never told the people of Gibraltar about the substance of this accord. What is even more stunning is that having given both London and Madrid a black eye each in the referendum rejecting joint sovereignty in November 2002 within 16 months he was close to a deal with the same Spanish government. There is another lesson here but I will let you work this one out for yourselves.

Thursday, November 18, 2010


If you ask a Spaniard whether he or she believes that Gibraltar is Spanish the majority will answer yes. It is no good quoting the Treaty of Utrecht to them or talking of the right of self-determination because their belief that Gibraltar is Spanish isn’t political its in their heart and soul.

Likewise if you ask a Gibraltarian about the status of the Rock he or she will reply it is their homeland. Their view is hardened like steel over centuries of siege which in a sense continues to this day. The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians reject any Spanish involvement in their “country” and believe the Rock is not for London to give away or Madrid to take – it is theirs.

I now move on to the political front. The two main parties in Spain, PSOE and the Partido Popular, encapsulate the majority Spanish view that Gibraltar is Spanish. In the case of PSOE it prefers the carrot and entered the Córdoba and Tripartite forums with one objective - to persuade the people of Gibraltar through mutual co-operation there was nothing to fear from joint sovereignty eventually leading to sole sovereignty. The view of the PP is more hard nosed and uses the stick. It views the people of Gibraltar as being an irrelevance and the decisions over the future of the Rock should be struck between London and Madrid.

In Gibraltarian political terms the governing GSD has always been viewed as more friendly to Spanish advances than the GSLP. Hence it is no surprise that the GSD has embraced the Córdoba and Tripartite process yet it also showed its steel on November 7 2002 when it held the referendum to totally reject London and Madrid’s bid to bounce the Rock into a joint sovereignty agreement.

Now the PSOE government has been totally honest about its objectives for Gibraltar. Hence I am rather surprised that Gibraltarian eyebrows should be raised when the new minister for foreign affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, restated the mantra of both PSOE and the PP in parliament. That is Gibraltar is Spanish and the purpose of the Tripartite process is to woo Gibraltarians into accepting a joint sovereignty or sole sovereignty agreement - so it should be supported by the PP. Indeed there can be no reason for anybody to doubt that objective as it has been clearly stated by the Spanish premier, his successive foreign ministers and Senator José Carracao – probably the Spaniard who best understands Gibraltarian sensibilities.

Hence given PSOE’s openness in its approach the GSD government in signing up to Córdoba and the Tripartite process has either deceived Madrid in its intentions or the Gibraltarian people – possibly both. The purpose of this accord is not to improve co-operation with a self-governing Gibraltar it is to improve co-operation with Gibraltar ahead of an eventual Spanish take over.

A Cervantes Institute is being established in Gibraltar to teach Gibraltarians how to speak acceptable Spanish – or Spanish that is acceptable in Madrid. The row over Gibraltar’s waters is not a conflict in Spanish terms. Gibraltar has, insists Madrid, no territorial waters hence those of the bay and off the coast are Spanish. Why would Spain acknowledge these as being Gibraltarian when its ultimate aim is to swallow up Gibraltar when the waters would be Spanish anyway.

There was a low level forum that was headed by the chief minister, Peter Caruana, and the former mayor of Los Barrios, Alonso Rojas, which was aimed at close cross border co-operation between Gibraltar and the municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar. That sadly seems to have been kicked in to touch long ago.

What we are left with is the Tripartite process which can never work because it is based on false assumptions. Spain sees it as creating the environment for future joint sovereignty leading to sole sovereignty whilst Gibraltar views is as improving relations between a self-governing Gibraltar and the Spanish State. Sadly never the twain will meet.

PS1: I should add that I fully support dialogue between Spain and Gibraltar. However it has to be on an agreed basis at not at cross purposes.

PS2: I would like to welcome Lenox Napier and readers of The Entertainer online to this web page. Napier is of course a name long associated with Gibraltar and The Entertainer is where this column first began.

Thursday, November 11, 2010


After pressure from the mayor of La Línea, border shop owners and the licensed ‘estanco’ tobacconists the Guardia Civil and National Police have started a crack down on contraband tobacco sales in the town.
This week the Guardia Civil and the Customs service have inspected the various street kiosks in La Línea to determine whether they are selling illicit cigarettes. The campaign is being extended to other premises but as of yet it is not known whether any closure orders have been issued.
The National Police have also set up road blocks in various parts of La Línea to search vehicles to see if they are carrying smuggled cigarettes from Gibraltar.
The Asociación de Estanqueros de Cádiz has long been angry that its members not only in La Línea but in the wider Campo de Gibraltar and beyond are losing out to under-the-counter cigarette sales. Obviously international cigarettes smuggled across the border are sold for far less than the “estancos” who have their prices controlled by law with tax paid. They have labelled what goes on at the border with people openly strolling through customs with black bags containing a carton of cigarettes as “scandalous”.
Since the mayor of La Línea, Alejandro Sánchez, held a meeting with the local security committee including the Guardia Civil, National and local police chiefs there has been a toughening up of the procedures at the border. Now anybody passing through with a carton of cigarettes is sent to a special desk to have their details registered on the customs computer.
The association representing the “estancos” recently had a letter published in the press highlighting the problems its members face due to the trafficking across the Gibraltar border. It says the letter was studied by the Comité Consultivo del Comisionado del Tabaco which includes the ministries of the interior, exterior, tax, health along with the manufacturers and distributors of cigarettes.
Of course some of the international brands of cigarettes that are sold below the counter are genuine packets smuggled across the border from Gibraltar. However criminals being criminals gangs are also introducing cigarettes that look as if they are in authentic packets but which are in fact fake – so the “estancos” are being hit by a double whammy.
The accusation is this fake tobacco is also brought across the border. If it is then it would be of major concern to the Gibraltar Government and the RGP as it would mean the packets were being manufactured on the Rock or smuggled in. I asked my man in the pinstripe suit who said as far as he was aware, no cigarettes are manufactured in Gibraltar. “I doubt very much there would exist a clandestine cigarette factory in such a small place. Neither am I aware of any cigarettes being smuggled in.” More likely the illicit cigarettes are being brought in to Spain by launch from Morocco but it would be in Gibraltar’s best interests to investigate these claims.
On Wednesday the Guardia Civil announced it had seized 559 cartons of cigarettes in La Línea. A Spanish national was spotted carrying various plastic bags which officers suspected contained tobacco. On searching the bags 160 packets of Fortuna, 239 of Pall Mall, 60 of American Legend, 50 Chesterfield, 20 Winston and 30 of Winston Classic were found. So far this year the Guardia Civil says it has seized 18,538 packets of various international brands.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


In the 17 years I have written about Gibraltar the name Feetham has cropped up many times. At first it was Michael in the last days of the Bossano GSLP administration. More recently it has been Danny and to a lesser extent his brother Nigel.
In the small pond of Gibraltar’s politics I have found Danny an interesting and intriguing character. I have followed closely his return from the UK, his flouncing out of the GSLP, his founding and abandonment of the Labour Party and his seeking refuge with and becoming an MP for the GSD.
I have labelled him a political carpetbagger and make no apology for that. Yet on a personal level I have always found him open, friendly and an engaging person.
I had intended to write in the coming weeks or months an article entitled the Feetham Effect as the general election grew nearer and it became clearer how the GSD plans its future. I expect and hope that will still be the case - that I will pen such a piece and Danny impacts in a major way on the future political life of the Rock.
Yet that is politics. What happened in broad daylight in a Gibraltar street on Tuesday afternoon was criminal – as is all too vividly shown by Danny’s blood stains on a car in the press photos. It could all too easily have been a personal tragedy for him and his family – it is bad enough it was a painful shock for Danny, his children and loved ones. I have no hesitation in sending them my heartfelt best wishes.
I have yet to meet a Gibraltarian who does not believe the people of the Rock and their small homeland are extremely special. Yet I ask in all seriousness whether Gibraltarians know just how special this place is? I ask because when a situation is the norm, what you have grown up with it, it is all too easy to take it for granted. However for a person like myself who views Gibraltar with an outsider's eyes you appreciate the uniqueness that is Gibraltar and its society.
The first thing that strikes you is that Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus and other religions all live together in perfect harmony. When you consider that Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or those taking their names in vain, have been or are responsible for many of the major, bloody conflicts in the world you understand just how special that is.
The second point is that if you walk down Main Street on any given day you will pass top lawyers, politicians, business people,  the military and church leaders. The visitor would never know and the Gibraltarian would not bat an eyelid because he and she is used to living cheek and jowl with the good, the bad and the ugly in their community. I was always bemused how often, when I queued for my newspaper in Sacarellos, the late Bishop Caruana was waiting his turn or had just popped in to say hello.
So I hope the Feetham Effect I write about is a political one and not a social one. The dreadful events of Tuesday should not result in Gibraltarians changing how they live. Of course the police must ensure that any official be he or she a politician, legal eagle, military or religious is able to go about their daily life free from attack, especially if they are dealing with measures of a controversial nature.
Yet the real tragedy would be if a Gibraltarian knifeman in attempting to murder the Minister of Justice was able to change how Gibraltarians interact with each other in a free and open manner. It is that which makes Gibraltar unique and must be defended at all costs.