Much expectation in Campo ahead of Dastis visit today
Alfonso Dastis, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, will visit the Campo de Gibraltar today to offer reassurance to Spanish workers uncertain about Brexit - and, the Campo mayors hope, to announce major infrastructure investments.
Sr Dastis will visit Algeciras this afternoon before travelling to La Linea, where he will take part in a formal session at the council followed by a question and answer session organised by Foro Joly, part of the group that published Europa Sur.
As far as Gibraltar is concerned, Sr Dasti will seek to reinforce the Spanish Government’s message on Brexit.
As he has done on numerous occasions in the past, he will repeat Spain’s co-sovereignty proposal and make clear that Madrid will seek to protect the interests of Spanish cross-border workers.
In an interview published this week in the specialist magazine Diplomacia XXI, Sr Dastis set out the Spanish position on Brexit.
“In the ongoing negotiations Spain will pay particular attention to the circumstances of Spanish nationals in the United Kingdom and Britons in Spain, as well as Spanish companies and investments,” he said.
“As for Gibraltar, we have made a generous offer that the United Kingdom will have to ponder once the time comes.”
“In any case, we have made clear that any disposition within the Brexit process that affects Gibraltar’s relationship with the EU must be the subject of prior agreement between Spain and the United Kingdom, and that any solution must prioritise the interests of Spanish workers in Gibraltar and the socio-economic development of the Campo de Gibraltar.”
The PSOE MP for Cádiz, Salvador del la Encina, urged the Spanish Government to use the visit as an opportunity for cooperation.
“Dastis has to understand that the Gibraltarians are not our enemies,” he told the Spanish newspaper Viva.
“They have been used as hostages by Margallo, as have Spanish workers in Gibraltar.”
Sr de la Encina welcomed the change of tone since Sr Dastis, a career diplomat, took over the Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
He also highlighted the need for infrastructure investment in the Campo and noted that over 90% of Gibraltar’s services business was with the UK.
“Only 10% is with us,” Sr de la Encina said.
“It’s clear that the Campo has a lot more to lose with Brexit than Gibraltar.”
The PSOE MP urged the Spanish Government to work with Gibraltar and focus on developing “economic opportunities instead of political stand-offs that lead nowhere”.
“Sovereignty is something between Spain and the UK and has nothing to do with Brexit,” he added.
That message was later echoed by Luis Angel Fernandez, the PP councillor in Algeciras and president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios.
He urged the Spanish Government to invest in the Campo and seek cross-border cooperation “so that Brexit becomes an opportunity to create wealth, instead of a problem.”
Sr Dastis is, infact, expected to announce investments and progress with longstanding railway infrastructure for the region.
In that sense, his public statements today and tomorrow, when he is due to meet the Mancomunidad, will be scrutinised by the region’s mayors.
“His visit must go hand in hand with real commitments for the seven municipalities of the Campo de Gibraltar,” said Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix, the PSOE mayor of San Roque.
He urged the Spanish government to put in place fiscal and business incentives “so that the Campo de Gibraltar can compete with the advantages on offer in Gibraltar” and generate more jobs.
He also called for progress on longstanding infrastructure projects including the rail connection between Algeciras and Bobadilla and the dual carriageway project running from Algeciras to Tarifa and Vejer.
For one mayor in particular, Sr Dastis’ visit carries much weight.
But Juan Franco, the mayor of La Linea, is also hoping that the minister will acknowledge his city’s “singular” position.
“The fact that a Foreign Minister is paying us a visit against the backdrop of the problems we have with Brexit is something to welcome,” Sr Franco said.
“The Campo de Gibraltar has a problem with Brexit, but La Linea has a completely different problem.”
“If there are global proposals for the Campo de Gibraltar that do not take into account La Linea’s unique circumstances, then we will have a problem.”