Friday, 7th September 2012
Spain ‘will regulate waters around Rock’ says Margallo
by Brian Reyes
Spain’s Foreign Minister issued a clear threat to Gibraltar yesterday in the latest salvo of words in the fishing dispute.
Jose Manuel García-Margallo said Gibraltar’s stance in the row would lead to repercussions in other areas affecting the Rock.
And in a serious development, he made clear that Spain would step up its efforts to regulate fishing, bunkering and other activities in its EU-approved nature site inside Gibraltar waters.
The Foreign Minister’s intervention followed persistent Spanish media reports that the Royal Gibraltar Police was ‘harassing’ Spanish fishermen at sea.
Speaking on Onda Cero radio during a wide-ranging half-hour long interview, Sr Garcia-Margallo was asked about delays at the border and responded by linking them directly to the fishing dispute.
“This is a two way street,” he said.
“The approach we take on other issues will depend on the treatment that the Government of Gibraltar gives to our fishermen.”
Sr Margallo added that Spain would ensure that Spanish fishermen were “protected” by the Guardia Civil and able to continue to fish close to the Rock.
He said Spain wanted a negotiated solution but would “not be given the run-around” by Gibraltar.
The tough talk drew a sharp response from the Gibraltar Government, which said it would not be swayed from ensuring that the rule of law was maintained in Gibraltar waters.
“It is regrettable that official circles in Madrid have still not learnt the lesson that a policy of hostility and antagonism towards Gibraltar simply does not work,” said No.6 Convent Place in a statement.
“The latest threats from Spain are totally unacceptable between democratic partners in the European Union.”
“It is shameful that the government of a large and powerful country like Spain should continue to bully a small country like Gibraltar in this way.”
It added: “It is regrettable that official circles in Madrid have still not learnt the lesson that a policy of hostility and antagonism towards Gibraltar simply does not work.”
The Spanish minister’s comments coincided with the British Government once again restating its position on Gibraltar waters, this time in a written response to a question in the House of Commons.
David Lidington, Britain’s Minister for Europe and NATO, told the Commons that the British Government was “deeply concerned” by Guardia Civil incursions into Gibraltar waters.
“Spanish agencies do not have any jurisdiction in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters [BGTW],” Mr Lidington said.
“We are confident of UK sovereignty over BGTW and are committed to upholding UK sovereignty.”
“We make this clear to the Spanish Government whenever appropriate.”
SPANISH NATURE SITE
The Spanish Foreign Minister said Spain would soon seek to regulate certain activities inside its EU-approved nature protection site in Gibraltar waters.
The site is the subject of a legal challenge in Europe, but that has not deterred Spain from pushing ahead with plans to increase its role there.
Sr Margallo said Spain would upgrade the site to the category of Special Area of Conservation [SAC], which under EU law will require Madrid to implement an environmental management plan.
He said Spain would seek to regulate certain activities in these waters including fishing, oil spills, bunkering and reclamation, as well as “some other things”.
The move will further heighten tension in Gibraltar waters.
Britain and the Gibraltar Government have already designated their nature site as an SAC and have a management plan in place.
London and Gibraltar are adamant that Spain has no jurisdiction in Gibraltar waters and are challenging Europe’s decision to approve the Spanish nature site. But that view was rejected yesterday by the Spanish Foreign Minister.
Sr Margallo said Spain could not intervene on what happened on land in Gibraltar. Under the treaty of Utrecht, “…that is something we cannot get into,” he said.
“But we can get into the issue of the waters because we consider them to be Spanish,” the Spanish minister added.
“If the Commission has said that Spain is responsible for preserving the environment in these waters, then that is what we are going to do.”
“We are not going to remain impassive.”
Sr García-Margallo also repeated his oft-stated position that Spain wants a return to bilateral talks over Gibraltar.
He said the tripartite forum was over and said that Gibraltar must not have a veto on any bilateral talks.
Sr García-Margallo spoke about Spain’s latest challenge to Gibraltar’s new tax regime, which he said was damaging Spanish companies.
The Spanish Foreign Minister displayed a very close knowledge of Gibraltar affairs during the interview.
Questioned on Gibraltar’s challenge to Spain to resolve the dispute over the waters in an international court, he did not shy away.
He said the Treaty of Utrecht clearly defined which waters had been ceded – only those in the interior harbour – and that this overrode any territorial rights set out in the later UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.