Thursday, 14th June 2012
Margallo, in Her Majesty’s Service
by F. Oliva
If a conclusion can be drawn from the hectic succession of events that have had an impact on cross-border relations in the past few months, it is that Mariano Rajoy should sack all his advisors on the Gibraltar question. From his perspective, their staggering ineptitude is probably the single most influential factor responsible for burying Spain’s public image locally and pushing Gibraltarians further and further into the arms of Britain. It is incredible that after all this time Spanish diplomacy should be stumbling over and over again on the same obstacles that they themselves continue to erect. In the current scenario with minimum effort in the form of a ‘minor’ royal visit, and with the little ‘help’ of a terrible Euro zone financial crisis that is threatening the viability of Spain as a prosperous western European nation and has led to a financial rescue of Spain’s banking system, Britain may well have secured the loyalty of the overwhelming majority of the population for the next 30 years.
As the Chief Minister very graphically expressed it, with queues like we have been getting and the border harassment we have experienced, “Gibraltar will never be Spanish.” But there is a lot in that statement for any discerning mind.
Clearly Margallo’s Euro-Peronismo, which he must already have realised is utterly counterproductive when dealing with Gibraltar, leads simply to the crystallisation of the latent Hispanophobia which in the past eight years was in hibernating mode, and its spillage into the public arena.
It was Alejandro Sanchez who kicked the hornet’s nest with his infamous decongestion charge, to be followed by the fishing dispute, admittedly self-inflicted but exacerbated to greater emotional tension and extent by the Guardia Civil incursions, with the icing on the cake provided by the intolerable frontier delays and several less than enlightened pronouncements about Gibraltar by heavyweight political pundits in Spain.
It can therefore be anything but surprising to see Moorish Castle decorated like a sanctuary to unreconstructed pre-Good Friday Ulster unionism.
International football tournaments are another good barometer of popular sentiments and judging by the reaction on Monday we may have been living in a suburb of Naples or Rome…
It is undeniable that there are heartfelt royalists in Gibraltar. The Chief Minister, Anthony Lombard, Adolfo Canepa are some names that come to mind. However, of the 3,000 who thronged the royal visitors in Main Street yesterday, it is safe to assume that a good proportion of them are reacting emotionally to acts of ‘hostility’, (a term which in the context of the events we see on television screens each evening, for example in Syria, we should apply with severe reservations,) from the Madrid Government and therefore understandably embracing the perceived opposite pole to what Spain represents.
Spain must devise a foreign policy for Gibraltar that respects the Rock’s democratic rights and way of life, which includes not being subject to external impositions of any type (that should also apply to the European Convention of Human Rights, I might add as an aside), and gives us sufficient time for us to ponder on a definitive, hopefully advantageous, international political status. Indeed Spain’s current dramatic economic crisis may procrastinate that even further into the future from both points of view, definitely from ours, continuing Inocencio Arias’ imagery, we are not going to be lured anywhere let alone into the type of liaison he suggests by a patient on life support.
There can be no roll back of Gibraltar’s position and of course we too have our own European obligations to financial transparency and accountability and legal standards to comply with. If they can come to accept such a baseline, I offer them my services as an adviser. For a fee of course, Julio Montesinos take note…!
Gibraltar must be allowed at least a decade of breathing space and the opportunity for an honest introspection of our identity uncontaminated by media headlines and free from the threats, duress and other conditioning and distorting factors that a more aggressive Spanish foreign policy provokes. Only then will we come to grips with an objective scientific assessment that is sadly lacking.
There are two schools of thought regarding this: one which promotes, argues and defends the view that when God created the world he created an entity known as British Gibraltar, which has been articulated with more or less success and with more or less intellectual elaboration to make us all believe that Gibraltar is an intrinsically British unit, beyond the purely political circumstances and historical development of the territory, and a non-mythical explanation which sees Britishness as the purely functional defensive mechanism we have used as a response to an external negative stimuli, in this case the unfriendly predator at our doorstep.
The cross-border tension has succeeded in exciting the nationalistic demons on both sides which would best have been left undisturbed, and undone the small advances and confidence building that had been painstakingly achieved since 2004.
The Tripartite Forum remains the only possible blueprint for managing cross-border relations. Even one which gives due weight to local Spanish sensibilities and aspirations in a manner that would not alter the founding principles, methodology or aims of the architecture for dialogue and precludes any attempt at downgrading Gibraltar into a bilateral process with the Campo subservient to the British and Spanish positions.
The very interesting Royal Calpe Hunt exhibition at the Garrison Library came and went practically unnoticed by most. Following the actions of a miniscule group of so-called animal lovers and ecologists who staged a demonstration outside the Instituto Cervantes last month to protest at the lectures on bullfighting, on the basis that it was promoting a blood-sport, it was to be feared that they would be repeating their antics rehearsing similar arguments on this occasion against a different type of blood sport, not Spanish but British.
But it was not to be. The conclusion to be drawn is that it was not the ‘cruelty to animals’ aspect of bullfighting that principally incensed these protestors, but the fact that it is widely regarded as Spain’s national sport or pastime that is deeply embedded in the Spanish psyche compounded by the location of the event. It was a good excuse to vent other sentiments and make other political points. It would seem from this that Spanish blood sports are wrong but British blood sports are fine.
The protestors had taken a leaf from the Catalan nationalists’ legislative ban on bullfights in the region, as a political act to gradually distance themselves from Spain and eliminate all links with Spanish culture.
Though not an aficionado myself, I appreciate the value of freedom of choice, remote controls are very useful artefacts, and am more concerned and preoccupied about modern day inquisitors who go round advocating prohibitions, today bullfighting, tomorrow boxing, hunting, fishing or anything else they may personally dislike, than about an ancestral tradition, an anthropological reminder of our savage past. An interesting item of information that emerged from the whole Instituto episode is that close to 150 tickets and abonos for bullfights in Spain have been sold in Gibraltar in recent weeks.
Congratulations to former Chief Minister Adolfo Canepa on his appointment as Speaker of the Gibraltar Parliament that will take effect later in the year. Adolfo is a true gentleman of local politics, a shiny example of public service, moral and political calibre and utmost personal integrity. At a time when it is fashionable to question the trustworthiness and reputation of politicians and establishment figures not just here but everywhere, Mr Canepa serves up a good helping of much needed and solid old-school values and is a role model and point of reference for any aspiring politician in Gibraltar.
I would just like to remind readers of the publication of my new books ‘Imaginary Death of a European Poet’ and ‘Poemario Gris Dorado 2009-2012’ two volumes of poetry one in English the other in Spanish, available at all local bookshops. Check book promo on Youtube under book title.