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.