Tuesday, 6th August 2013
MEPs angered by Spanish aggression
by Eyleen Sheil
In a series of statements and letters, Gibraltar’s MEP’s have hit out at Spain and their present treatment of Gibraltar and its residents.
Gibraltar’s Liberal Democrat MEP, Sir Graham Watson, has written to the President of the European Commission, Commissioner Jose Manuel Barroso, to seek his “active involvement in persuading Spain to desist from its actions.”
In his letter Sir Graham said that the Government of Spain has chosen to escalate tensions concerning the sovereignty of Gibraltar and that this has had an impact on the rights of Spanish, Gibraltarian and other EU citizens under EU law.
Sir Graham also stated that he appreciated the commissioner’s position and that the Commission prefers not to become involved in territorial disputes between Member States. “But it has a duty to see the rights of all Union citizens upheld,” he added.
In the letter, he tells the Commissioner that on a number of occasions in the past year there have been lengthy delays at the Spanish-Gibraltar border; noting the most recent delays, which saw our Government needing to distribute 11,000 bottles of water to those affected.
Sir Graham does not dispute Spain’s right to make proportionate checks on persons and goods crossing the frontier, but notes that stop and search checks taking place on practically every vehicle lead to lengthy delays. He also mentions that commercial traffic were targeted, which is a contravention of the rules of the single market.
Sir Graham recalls the recent incident where a Guardia Civil officer discharged a firearm at a citizen using a jet ski in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.
In his letter he states that the suggestion from Snr Margallo, to introduce a fee of €50 for citizens crossing the Spanish-Gibraltar border, suggests to him “that the time has come for you to act,” saying that this is completely at odds with EU Treaties, especially the provisions of Article 18 and 21 TFEU.
“The rights of my constituents under EU law cannot be ignored or forgotten by the EU’s institutions. I am therefore appealing to you to ensure that the rights of the citizens of Gibraltar are fully upheld and that the Commission publicly reminds the Spanish Government of its Treaty obligations to all citizens of Europe,” said Sir Graham’s letter.
“Moreover I urge you to send observers from the European Commission to monitor the situation at the border, as per the request made by representatives of the Government of Gibraltar at a recent meeting with Commissioner Semeta,” he added.
Sir Graham released a copy of
his letter to the press, Commissioner Semeta, the European Commissioner for Taxation and the Customs Union, David Lidington MP, Minister of State for Europe, Giles Paxman, British Ambassador to Spain, Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, its Deputy Chief Minister, Dr Joseph Garcia, and the Governor of Gibraltar, Sir Adrian Johns.
Ashley Fox, Conservative MEP, joined fellow Conservative MEP’s Giles Chichester and Julie Girling in accusing Spain of “desperation and recklessness” over its increasingly outlandish threats against the British territory and its citizens.
In a joint statement, they said: “It is clear this posturing and chest-beating is an act of desperation and recklessness.”
The trio said that they believe the Spanish Government faces so many problems domestically that it is desperate to create a diversion. “A bout of sabre-rattling at Gibraltar provides the perfect distraction.”
“The Spanish papers love it and it keeps Premier Rajoy’s calamitous difficulties off the front pages,” they added. Calling themselves “responsible parliamentarians”, they said they wish to remind Spain that this, their “megaphone diplomacy”, should have ceased with General Franco, stating that it has no place in a modern Europe and in addition it does a disservice to the people of modern Spain.
They also note that this treatment flies in the face of all the rules on the free movement of people and goods.
They concluded their statement by saying: “If they think such a boorish rant will advance their case one iota, they are wrong. We and the people of Gibraltar will be resolute against such bullying.”
William Dartmouth, UKIP Euro MP for Gibraltar said: “To see this sort of behavior from a so called ally is sad in the extreme, it is more suited to Argentina than a mature European democracy.”
Stating that it is time for the UK to pull its finger out and stop mouthing diplomatic niceties to Madrid, he said: “It is becoming obvious that the Spanish Prime Minister, caught up in a corruption scandal and with a shrinking economy with over 50% of their youth out of work, needs a distraction, and their futile claims over Gibraltar seem to fit his bill.
According to Mr Dartmouth, Gibraltar is not dealing with “an entirely rational Government in Madrid.” He states that repeated maritime incursions into sovereign Gibraltarian waters, blocking the border, threatening the airspace and singling out Gibraltarian citizens for enhanced audits lead him to this conclusion. “What Mr Rajoy and his Government must remember is that the people of Gibraltar withstood the behavior of Franco, as they have every attempt to intimidate them over the past three hundred years. They are not going to kowtow now,” said Mr Dartmouth. “For once the British Government must show some backbone to support the people of Gibraltar. By sending a frigate to Gibraltar, the message will ring out loud and clear, Gibraltar is British,” he added.