There was a subtle, yet important change in Spain’s address to the UN Committee of 24 in New York yesterday. The shift lay not so much in what was said, but rather what was not.
Spanish diplomat Francisca Pedrós, an old hand who has for years handled decolonisation issues at Spain’s Permanent Representation to the UN, delivered a speech that was neutral in both tone and content. So neutral, in fact, it verged on the bland.
This was a history lesson on the Spanish position on Gibraltar, touching on all the core points including territorial integrity, the waters, the isthmus and Madrid’s unfulfilled desire for bilateral dialogue with the UK.
She mentioned too, as Spain has done at every opportunity since it was tabled in 2016, Spain’s co-sovereignty proposal, ignoring the fact it has been repeatedly knocked back by Gibraltar.
There was nothing new in Mrs Pedrós’ speech. It was what she left out that mattered.
There was no mention of tobacco smuggling, for example, or of fishing disputes. Neither was there any accusation of Gibraltar being a tax haven or a leech on the surrounding Campo de Gibraltar.
These have been regular features of Spain’s contributions to the UN under the Partido Popular and, in particular, during José Manuel García-Margallo’s time in office as foreign minister. Their omission yesterday was no oversight.
How much one can read into that omission remains to be seen, but it did not go unnoticed.
Even before she spoke, the Chief Minister, anticipating a softer stance, adjusted his speech accordingly, removing entire sections focused on Campo drug trafficking and other thorny issues.
Fabian Picardo, as one would expect, left no doubt as to Gibraltar’s position. “Gibraltar will never be Spanish,” he told the committee, as he has done on each of his appearances there over the past seven years.
But he insisted too that Gibraltar sought strong and positive cooperation with Spain, and would reach out a hand of friendship to its new Socialist administration.
Throughout his speech, Mr Picardo sought to draw a line between the PP past and the Socialist present in Spain.
It is early days yet, but in what she did not say yesterday, Mrs Pedrós may well have been doing the same.
MAIN PHOTO: Chief Minister Fabian Picardo speaks to Spanish diplomat Francisca Pedrós at the UN.