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Gibraltar and La Linea explore joint opportunities as Brexit and 50th anniversary of border closure loom

Gibraltar and La Linea will jointly mark the 50th anniversary of the border closure next year, reflecting on the damaging impact it had on two communities whose residents wish to strengthen their close ties as Brexit looms in 2019.

That was one of the key messages yesterday as Chief Minister Fabian Picardo paid his first official visit to La Linea, where he was warmly greeted by the city’s mayor, Juan Franco.

The Chief Minister, who was accompanied by deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, signed the city’s ‘Book of Honour’ in the Cruz Herrera museum before attending a meeting with La Linea councillors in the city council building.

The two delegations discussed the latest Brexit-related developments and the need to work jointly to find opportunities to attract investment and create jobs despite the challenges ahead.

There was talk, for example, of scope for La Linea to further complement Gibraltar’s gaming sector, something that would require the central Spanish government to put in place the necessary regulatory framework.

But Mr Franco said La Linea had been ignored by Madrid, a sentiment that was starkly illustrated later the same day as cross-border commuters faced two-hour queues to leave the Rock.

Even so, the sentiment and the focus during the visit was on the positive relations between the Rock and its Spanish neighbour.

picardo la linea 3

At a press conference Mr Franco and Mr Picardo told reporters the friendly relations currently enjoyed by Gibraltar and La Linea provided a stark contrast to the days of a closed frontier less than 50 years ago.

Mr Picardo said it was “ironic” that Gibraltar would leave the EU on the year of the 50th anniversary of the border closure.

Almost 50 years ago Spanish dictator Francisco Franco ordered the closure of the border gate on June 8, 1969, with the frontier not fully reopened until February 1985.

Picardo in La Linea 2

“I think it is important that we understand that in 2019 Gibraltar will be leaving the EU and in 2019 it will be 50 years since the frontier was closed,” Mr Picardo said.

“The two towns most affected by this should be the ones to commemorate that moment and celebrate the fact that the border is now open and will always remain open.”

“We want to work together to ensure that any commemoration is respectful.”

“We look forward to further co-operation between La Linea and Gibraltar and even joint exhibitions of grand painters such as the Gibraltarian Gustavo Bacarisa and Cruz Herrera.”

“Also I think meetings like this should be the norm. It is something that for us is essential.”

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Video taken by Gabriella Peralta who was reporting from La Linea.

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