Commission technical experts visit Spanish side of border
Technical experts from the European Commission visited the Spanish side of the border on Tuesday afternoon alongside Spanish officials, the first part of a two-day fact-finding trip to learn about the “unique” nature of the frontier between Gibraltar and Spain.
This morning, the technical team will visit the Gibraltar side of the border, including the port and airport, alongside officials from the Gibraltar and UK governments.
Few details of the visit have been released and, given the team is made up of civil servants, there are no press briefings planned as part of the itinerary.
The Commission delegation includes experts on customs and home affairs, as well as representatives of the Secretariat-General, a European Commission official told the Chronicle earlier this week.
“It is a technical fact-finding visit that should allow experts to get a better understanding of the region,” the official said.
The visit is taking place ahead of the fifth round of talks in the ongoing negotiation for a UK-EU treaty on the Rock’s future relations with the bloc.
The next round of talks is expected to take place in Brussels during the week of January 28, though the date has yet to be confirmed and arrangements could change given the disruption of Covid-19.
Earlier this week, the Gibraltar Government said the visit would help the Commission negotiators have a clearer idea of how arrangements under negotiation might work in practice.
“It is hoped that experiencing the area at first hand will provide a better understanding of its unique nature to all concerned,” a spokesman for No.6 Convent Place said.
The negotiators hope to reach an agreement allowing a common travel area between Gibraltar and the Schengen zone.
Spain, as neighbouring country, would take responsibility on behalf of the EU for Schengen immigration checks in Gibraltar, but Frontex officers would carry out the actual physical controls on the ground, at least for the first four years.
There is also the possibility of a bespoke arrangement on customs.
The negotiations to date have been conducted out of the public eye, with few details released as to the nature and content of the discussions or the main areas of disagreement.
But after the fourth round, all sides in the process indicated positive progress and a shared willingness to agree a treaty within the first quarter of the year.