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.