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At UN decolonisation seminar, contrasting views on joint sovereignty

The UN’s annual decolonisation seminar this week heard two sharply contrasting versions of Spain’s co-sovereignty proposal: For Madrid, the “generous offer” was in line with UN resolutions and would safeguard the “socioeconomic wellbeing” of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar in the face of Brexit. For Gibraltar, the proposal was “a farce” that ignored the wishes of the Gibraltarians and would perpetuate colonial rule.
The exchanges in St Vincent and the Grenadines set the scene for the forthcoming meeting of the UN’s Committee of 24 in New York in June, which will discuss Gibraltar as it does every year.
Brexit will have “grave repercussions” for the “closely interconnected” economies of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar, the Spanish Government told the UN seminar.
After setting out Madrid’s traditional position on Gibraltar and the principle of territorial integrity, a Spanish Government representative said the co-sovereignty proposal complied with the UN’s call for the UK and Spain to engage in dialogue over the Rock’s future.
“That is why we do not think it is coherent for the UK to hide behind the wishes of the inhabitants of Gibraltar,” the representative said, a reference to Britain’s double-lock commitment on sovereignty.
“We believe in an international society ruled by law, enshrined here in UN resolutions, in which each complies with his obligations.”
While the Spanish proposal was addressed to the UK as the sovereign power, “we would find a way of listening to the interests of the population of Gibraltar” in any negotiations, the Spanish representative added.
“It is an invitation to negotiate and, as such, we want neither to impose it nor to repeatedly insist on it,” he told the seminar.
Spain’s offer sought not only to move ahead in “resolving the controversy over Gibraltar”, but also to protect “the socioeconomic wellbeing” of Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar.
But the Spanish intervention at the meeting was robustly rejected by the Gibraltar Government.
As the Chronicle reported last Thursday, the UN seminar also heard from Joe Bossano, Gibraltar’s Minister for Economic Development, who described the Spanish proposal as “a farce”.
“This is a proposal manifestly designed to perpetuate colonial rule and [for Spain] take over joint responsibility as administering power with UK,” Mr Bossano told the seminar.
“This could not possibly result in a change in our international status as a colony or the de-listing of our country, since the level of self-government that we enjoy would not have been advanced one millimetre.”
Mr Bossano said Spain had opposed “every single step” in increased self government which the people of Gibraltar had “wrested from the UK” since the Rock’s decolonisation was first raised at the UN.
“How could anybody seriously believe that the very country that has attempted to prevent us progressing, now purports to be interested in sharing with the existing administering power the responsibility for encouraging our progress as mandated by Chapter 11 [of the UN Charter] and reporting our annual progress to the UN?” he asked.
Mr Bossano said the UN decolonisation committee must not signal support for the Spanish proposal.
He said the committee’s role was not to get involved in “competing real estate claims” but to defend the rights of people’s who do not enjoy full self government and to help them obtain this.
For the UN committee to support the Spanish proposal would be “…the most serious betrayal of its mandate since it came into the existence,” he said.

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