Thursday, December 20, 2012


We have just celebrated the 30 th anniversary of the re-opening of the frontier with Spain and fittingly on that day our Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, met with the mayor of La Línea, Gemma Araujo.

This is in line with the chief minister’s stated desire to have on-going discussions with the representatives of the border town. It is not clear just what was discussed on Friday other than Araujo raised the claim that Spanish workers were losing their jobs in a discriminatory manner which the chief minister effectively dealt with.

It always struck me that if there was to be a benefit from the Córdoba Accord it should be that the situation at the border crossing should be dragged from third world status to one fitting the frontier between EU member states.

I am sure Gibraltar desperately needed the telephone lines along with other deals under the accord to benefit our companies and institutions. However for Córdoba to have gained universal popularity it needed to give a tangible benefit to the people of Gibraltar and indeed those across the border too.

Sadly that opportunity was wasted and instead all we got was a Cervantes Institute and a Gin Palace of an air terminal which cost an arm and a leg. Gibraltarians were forced to pay for the former Supreme Leader’s vanity but received nothing in return.

The frontier is in the hands of the Guardia Civil and the Policía Nacional so is under the control of the Ministry of the Interior in Madrid. Our government has spoken of introducing more crossing points and having more lanes but if Spain won’t tango we can’t dance. Or can we?

I am sure there is a lot that can be done to improve the border than can be achieved municipally in La Línea. For instance does traffic have to stop every time a pedestrian or a person pushing a bike or riding a motorbike crosses the road? Surely some form of pedestrian access can be created to separate walkers from those on vehicles.

When there is a queue to enter the Rock there is a battle between those vehicles who line up, often for hours, whilst others force their way to the front by pushing in at the last roundabout. Sorry to say but Gibraltarians are amongst the guilty here. More often than not there is no barrier or police officer to stop them doing this.

If the last mayor of La Línea could devise ways of channelling the traffic so it had to pay tolls surely Araujo can find a way of making entering and leaving Gibraltar easier for all.

All this is done to an extent on the Gibraltar side where traffic is regulated so everybody takes their turn with cars and two-wheelers going into their own respective lanes. If the RGP can do it then so can the local police in La Línea.

Of course La Línea is bankrupt so hasn’t the cash to pay its police let alone anything else. However if our chief minister and the mayor are talking of co-operation here would be one place to start. The RGP could work with La Línea’s police to design systems for queuing: our road planning experts could help theirs look at the lane system across the border. If it means we co-fund police or officials to organise the queues it would be a good way to spend our cash. After all it is Gibraltarians, our workers and visitors to the Rock who are currently paying the price for this border fiasco. The same border fiasco is damaging our image, driving away tourists and causing endless frustration for all who have to come in and out. If Madrid can’t or won’t sort it, then perhaps with La Línea’s help we can.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Spain’s Foreign Secretary Margallo has been caught again telling porkie pies about having bilateral talks with the UK on environmental issues. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office has been called upon to deny it and it duly has.

However if we believe that London does not talk bilaterally to Madrid about Gibraltar then we are being extremely naive. Of course it does.

When the Spanish Ambassador was called to hear the UK’s protest over its warships entering our waters that was a bilateral meeting simply because no person representing Gibraltar was there. I am sure on that occasion Madrid’s man received a stern ticking off, because now the defence of Gibraltar’s waters is very much in the UK’s self interest. Yet like it or not it was a bilateral encounter.

Spanish and British officials meet all the time be it in London or Madrid. It is what Foreign Office mandarins and diplomats do. I am sure that for now British officials and diplomats staunchly defend the stated position on our Sovereignty and the fact that jurisdiction on all matters except defence and foreign affairs is constitutionally with Her Majesty's Government of Gibraltar. Let be frank, it has not always be so.

None the less it beggars belief that over cups of tea and digestives in Whitehall, chocolate and churros in Madrid and on the cocktail circuit that diplomats and officials do not chat about Gibraltar. They chat about the border queues, the environmental issues and numerous other topics that relate to the Rock – and they do it bilaterally because our Man in London is not there and we do not have a Man or Woman in Madrid.

Of course Margallo and his sidekicks can make mischief out of this situation by saying they have had bilaterals with the UK – which of course they have. We then nag the sweet FCO to issue a denial which they do because in their terms they haven’t. Spaniards are cute enough to know this keeps our nerves jangling and sows the seeds of doubt.

I see no reason why in this day and age Gibraltar cannot have a desk at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office staffed by Gibraltarians. The same should apply to all British Overseas Territories. Gone are the days when Gibraltarians were treated like a class of schoolchildren – patted on the head when good or sent to stand in the corner when bad. When the issue of Gibraltar is raised we should have somebody on the spot to at least be a party to the discussions: then they would be trilateral.

It is not just in cases of conflict that a Gibraltarian should be on hand. The current crisis over the environmental supervision of our waters would never have happened if a Gibraltarian had been involved in the original process of establishing what were Spain’s and which were Britain’s. There are also numerous other issues affecting primarily the EU and how they impact on Gibraltar that needs to be properly represented in Whitehall. We should no longer tolerate the impact on the Rock being discovered or discussed as an afterthought.

We have a Governor and his staff in Gibraltar whose email addresses betray all too clearly that they work for the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and not for us. They are the FC&O on the ground here. What Gibraltar needs, and needs now, is its own feet on the ground in Whitehall –and even Madrid.

Thursday, December 6, 2012


I am the last person in the world to counts their chickens before they have hatched. Indeed even when hatched I wonder if they could pop back in to their shells. However it is looking increasingly likely that Gibraltar will be admitted to UEFA next May. I say that with caution because it is Spanish chickens we are counting here and they have been known to give you a nasty peck when you least expect it.

The reason for my optimism comes from Ireland. Jim Boyce is a vice president of FIFA, the world governing body of the beautiful game. He has been speaking to the British tabloid The Sun about Gibraltar’s admittance to UEFA. He believes Gibraltar will be admitted as it has the law on its side in a favourable judgement given by the Court of Arbitration in Sport.

The FIFA chief Sepp Blatter has made it clear he does not favour Gibraltar’s admittance to UEFA and he has no intention of opening the door to his organisation. FIFA can block our membership as Gibraltar is not recognised at the UN as a nation. UEFA now has the same rule but it was added after Gibraltar applied for membership so doesn’t count. As you probably know Sepp is thick with Spain’s representatives and said he will back Madrid’s candidate to host the Olympics – he has a vote as he also sits on the IOC – but is seemingly powerless to act against Gibraltar.

I have always argued that this time around Spain would find it harder to block Gibraltar’s admittance, which we now hold on a provisional basis. The Spanish FA will try and twist arms hard ahead of the vote but as Boyce points out I doubt if many national football associations want to defy the court.

Boyce will be present when UEFA meets for its 37 th Ordinary Congress in London in May 2013 but he will be there as a FIFA observer and can’t vote. It will be then that UEFA members will vote on whether to adopt Gibraltar as a full member. However on Wednesday Gibraltar went in to the draw for next year’s Under 17 and 19 Championships: so what happens if the vote doesn’t go through in Gibraltar’s favour – are our kids then kicked out? Obviously that is what Spain would like but on this occasion the ball is not in their court – its with the Court of Arbitration in Sport where this game will head back to if we are not admitted.

It was at the start of October that the executive committee of UEFA meeting in St Petersburg in Russia admitted the Gibraltar FA to its ranks on a provisional basis ahead of the formal vote in May. Naturally Spain played Russian roulette and opposed the move but in London the Spanish FA could shot itself in the foot whilst Gibraltar scores a triumph at Wembley. Game on – as they say!