The furore over the chief minister’s remarks on an Andorra style (photo above) future for Gibraltar has had one useful purpose – it has opened up the debate on what future Gibraltarians want for their homeland.
Whether Caruana favours an Andorra model is neither here nor there. The decision will not be made by him or any other holder of his office but by the people of the Rock in a referendum. He like every other Gibraltarian will have one vote.
Yet it is time for Gibraltarians to decide what future they want for Gibraltar, not just for them, but their children and their children’s children.
It would help for instance if Gibraltarians knew what the status of the Rock is. Spain says it’s a British colony. Gibraltar has a new constitution which was heralded as taking the Rock beyond being a colony. Gibraltarians who know more about such things than I assure me no such move forward has taken place. Britain just mumbles. So first of all we need to know where Gibraltar stands before the Rock can take any step forward.
I am told, again by people who spend their time studying these runes that Gibraltar cannot be independent – it has to be tied to another larger entity. Gibraltar’s current future depends on its links with the EU. Gibraltar is not a member of the EU – it is a member by virtue of Britain being a member. Hence if Gibraltar broke that link it would be outside of the union.
If an independent Gibraltar then applied for membership its application would be blocked by Spain. Of course if Gibraltar joined with Spain on some sovereignty basis then it could maintain the EU link.
There are people on the Rock who see Gibraltar’s long term future in a federal EU. This would see member states such as Spain break down with regions such as Cataluña, the Basque region, Andalucía taking their place and at that table would be a seat for Gibraltar. Yet that is a long term bet.
So if Gibraltar can’t be totally independent – which sounds logical given its size is that of a small British town or large village – it needs to plot its future in partnership with somebody be it Britain, Spain or the EU.
As was demonstrated in 2002 Britain would be happy for Gibraltar to move to a joint sovereignty status with Spain or even possibly an exchange of full sovereignty. Britain and Spain are EU and NATO partners and the mutual interests of London and Madrid do not revolve around the Rock. As Spain’s foreign minister Trinidad Jiménez recently stated rows over Gibraltar have been going on for 200 years and are not going to spoil bilateral relations. It should also be taken in to account that the number of Britons living in Spain by far outnumbers those in Gibraltar. The emphasis has changed.
It is because Gibraltar is being marginalised in British Spanish relations that determining the path for the Rock’s own future is a priority. It won’t be done in the general election process because parties bidding for power will seek the solution that will secure the most votes rather than what is best for Gibraltarians over the long term. It is a debate for the people because it is their votes which will be required to make it happen.