In a recent interview with El País the Spanish minister for foreign affairs, Trinidad Jiménez, spoke about the Tripartite Forum and why, for now, no meetings were scheduled.
Spain is in pre-election mode, as too is Gibraltar, and it is doubtful whether the British Foreign Secretary, William Hague, is keen to meet with Jiménez or indeed Caruana in the forum until after those polls have been held and the future governments of the two nations has been decided. This is particularly the case as the opinion polls in both consistently show a change of government is likely.
Jiménez’s reason for not attending the Tripartite Forum is much clearer. She insists the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, demands the sovereignty of Gibraltar’s waters be put on the table. She added that the forum was a good instrument but it was designed to tackle the questions that affect residents of both sides of the border but not sovereignty.
Pointedly Jiménez told El País: “...the chief minister of Gibraltar wants to bring to the forum questions on sovereignty and the jurisdiction of the waters around the Rock. The government is clear that these are affairs for only bilateral discussions between the UK and Spain, and therefore, we decided not to convene it.” Pressed by a journalist on Caruana and sovereignty – she stressed – “if Caruana insists on raising the sovereignty of waters – there will be no meeting of the Tripartite Forum.”
Well Jiménez may be many things but I have yet to hear her called a liar and nor am I aware of any official contradiction from London or Gibraltar of her comments.
Now let us move on to Tuesday’s press conference after the meeting between the chief minister and the mayor of La Línea, Gemma Araujo. Here I shall quote from the press release directly in Spanish: “Con referencia al Foro de Diálogo de Gibraltar, dejó patente el ministro principal que no es bueno plantear el fin del diálogo. “Cuando hay problemas es cuando no hay que abandonar, sino reforzar el diálogo y hallar puntos de colaboración para darle solución a los ciudadanos. Yo no quiero, ni en el Foro ni fuera de él, hablar de soberanía”.
So despite Jiménez insisting the chief minister demanded that “sovereignty” and “the waters issue” be on the table for discussion at the forum Caruana tells us: “Yo no quiero, ni en el Foro ni fuera de él, hablar de soberanía”.
However back in July 2009 Caruana was interviewed by Herrera on Onda Cero radio. He surprised the esteemed presenter by saying he was prepared to raise the sovereignty issue during the forum sessions. I presume he meant he was willing to discuss the future sovereignty of Gibraltar which of course fits in with his later statements in Spain in favour of an Andorra style solution, which to all effects is joint sovereignty.
So Caruana asks Spain to put sovereignty on the table, then is accused of causing the abandonment of the forum because he insists on discussing sovereignty but then in La Línea has the brass neck to tell the media and have us believe: “Yo no quiero, ni en el Foro ni fuera de él, hablar de soberanía”.
Hmmm. Caruana has previous when it comes to sovereignty. He comes from a “Palomo” background, it has yet to be determined whether he mislead Tony Blair and Jack Straw over Gibraltar’s willingness to opt for joint sovereignty in 2001 and 2002 which of course, if he did, fits in nicely with his promotion of an Andorra settlement in Spain but on which he says nothing in Gibraltar.
The problem for the chief minister is he believes truth is a branch of economics and hence is very economical with it. When he named me during his Budget speech in July, a rare honour for a mere hack, he accused me of having stated in an article in Panorama on June 22 that the GSD and his government had been party to misleading the UK over joint sovereignty in 2001 and 2002. It will come as no surprise to you to learn that whilst there were 771 words in the article I wrote no such thing. What I did suggest, and I am yet to be disproved, is that maybe he misled them not the GSD or his government.
The fact is because of his continuous wriggling on this issue Caruana cannot be trusted by the people of Gibraltar over their sovereignty. And if a Gibraltarian cannot be trusted on this keystone issue what can he or she be trusted on?