Before and shortly after Mariano Rajoy became Spain’s prime minister he was been mocked in that country’s media for not speaking English. Many media commentators felt he let his country down when he went to international forums and had to have a translator to hand because unlike other national and business leaders he spoke only his native tongue.
This problem seems to have translated to the United Nations which Rajoy addressed on Tuesday. There, in Spanish but with simultaneous translations in to other languages, he called on the UK to re-open dialogue with his government on the sovereignty of Gibraltar.
Of course since the Partido Popular has been in power in Madrid the British Government has made it as clear as can be that it will not re-open talks on the sovereignty of Gibraltar without our government participating as equals or without our government’s agreement. I have suggested here in the past this has more to do with the sovereignty of the Falklands than Gibraltar but we cannot look this gift horse in the mouth.
The British Government is clear, there is no reason to believe a Labour Government would take a different view, and hence the future sovereignty of Gibraltar is safe – so what doesn’t Rajoy understand? English!
If he doesn’t understand what Cameron, Hague, the Foreign Office, our ambassador in Madrid and Gibraltar’s own government and people are telling him (except Caruana) no wonder he still believes this is a matter for discussion.
Rajoy has called for a dialogue, “direct and sincere” on the decolonisation of Gibraltar which he told the UN had been lost for ten years. He lamented there had been no discussions on a bilateral basis between the UK and Spain since 2002 because the Gibraltarians had objected.
Well the dialogue may be direct but it can hardly be sincere when you are calling on Britain to disregard the people of Gibraltar’s right to self-determine their own future and impose one, not of their making or to their liking, decreed by London and Madrid.
It cannot be sincere when you call for London to decolonise Gibraltar by in effect making it a colony of Madrid.
It cannot be sincere when you treat Gibraltarians as non-people who have no right to a say in the future of their nation.
With the Catalans going to the polls on November 25 in what will be a referendum, except in law, on that region’s determination to seek independence, with a further referendum proposed for the next legislature, you would have thought Rajoy had more to worry about than Gibraltar. Then of course he doesn’t speak Catalan either.
As I wrote here on Tuesday Spain is in very real danger of disintegration or at least descending in to a series of federal states. In that scenario any imagined claim a Spanish federation of autonomous regions may have over Gibraltar will go out of the window.
The key issue in Spain isn’t Gibraltar is it the economy, unemployment, major cuts, homelessness and the determination of the autonomous regions to break from Rajoy’s Madrid. That is what the protests in regional parliaments and on the streets are all about. Rajoy doesn’t seem to have got that message either.