Thursday, March 3, 2011


Answer me this. Over 300 years ago you lost a piece of land which in your heart you still believe belongs to you. You try siege then political pressure even cut off access all to no avail. Then one day, you are not given the land back, but you are given some important concessions – concessions which many people who live on the land believe to be a step too far. So what do you do?
My answer would be - grab them with both hands! I suspect yours might be the same – but it hasn’t been the Spanish response.
The Partido Popular has criticised the Córdoba Accord and Tripartite process saying it has been one-way traffic. Only Gibraltar has benefited from the agreements and in a sense the PP is right. It is not that there hasn’t been give and take, because there has, it is just that Spain hasn’t acted on its gains.
Spain has always disputed Gibraltar’s right to the airport land because it views it as land taken by Britain and outside the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht. For years Madrid has hankered after joint use of the airport and under the Córdoba process, whilst joint use has not been agreed as such, there is to be a Spanish terminal. Hence Spain can market the airport for flights to the Campo de Gibraltar.
Yet what has happened – nothing? As Gibraltar has proceeded with its new terminal conveniently abutting the border so it can be used by Spain there is still no sign of the AENA terminal. I am sure the excuse would be put forward that La Línea has been uncooperative yet AENA has only called a meeting for March 11 to discuss the issue. Even if agreement is reached then, the accord has to be put in to writing and construction commenced probably not finished till after the Spanish general election. Are there designs? I haven’t seen them. Perhaps it is to be a garden shed alongside Gibraltar’s glittering terminal.
Direct flights to Madrid, remember them, were also a Spanish win for the accords. Iberia and Gibraltar Airways ran flights for a short while and then apart from Andalus, nothing. I have discussed this with Peter Cochrane (ex GBC) on Talk Radio Europe on a number of occasions. Peter cannot understand why Madrid has not ensured some sort of air service has been in operation as a matter of principal. I understand his point. Yet first they started with the wrong aircraft and bad time slots then the Andalus effort which needed support and marketing by Spain. This service crash landed leaving the under capitalised airline to fend for itself.
Spain has also been given the green light to open a Cervantes Institute in Gibraltar (to teach Llanitos to speak good Spanish). It is a cultural body but like the British Council has quasi diplomatic status and would have been an official Spanish office in Spain. No doubt it also has the right to fly the Spanish flag – but when will it open – Don Quixote alone knows.
When Spain’s foreign minister, Trinidad Jiménez, recently met her British counterpart William Hague in London she had to counter Spanish press claims that the PSOE government had gone cold on the Córdoba – Tripartite process.
One claim was that now the nitty-gritty was being discussed – territorial waters, judicial, police and other key matters – Madrid was backing off. That may be true but it still does not explain why Spain has not grasped the concessions it has achieved already.
It could be the economic crisis and the looming election in March of next year is concentrating PSOE minds. None-the-less it is mighty odd that having worked so hard for an accord with Gibraltar the socialist government is being so slow to take its winnings.
(Photo: F&CO)