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PSOE and PP clash over Gibraltar in pre-election debate

The issue cross-border relations between Gibraltar and Spain sparked a heated exchange during a pre-election debate yesterday between the controversial Partido Popular MP and mayor of Algeciras, Jose Ignacio Landaluce, and the PSOE MP Salvador de la Encina.

The debate starkly illustrated the difference in approach between the two parties on Gibraltar in the run-up to Sunday’s general election in Spain.

The PP politician accused the PSOE of ceding ground to Gibraltar in the trilateral process, while the socialist MP said his party would seek dialogue with the Rock for the benefit of communities on both sides of the border.

The two men clashed during a segment on foreign relations in a debate on Cadena Ser that also covered key issues for the Campo de Gibraltar including employment, infrastructure and security.

The debate focused the national election through the prism of the Campo de Gibraltar and the two men. Sr de la Encina heads the PSOE’s Cádiz list for Congress, while Sr Landaluce heads the PP’s regional list for the Senate.

Sr de la Encina said the PP’s strategy on Gibraltar amounted to “talking a lot but not doing much”, adding that this had bolstered Chief Minister Fabian Picardo in the run-up to Gibraltar’s recent general election

And he made clear that the PSOE, while favouring dialogue, would not back down on the issue of sovereignty.

"We are going to fight to regain the sovereignty of Gibraltar," he said.

"But in the meantime - and we have been at it 315 years - we demand that there be dialogue to have good neighbourly relations and focus on the serious problems on either side, but in particular on our workers who cross daily in their thousands and who [the PP] have used as hostages, keeping them waiting for hours at that border, with sole objective hurting Gibraltar."

But the PP politician was quick to hit back in a manner that rankled sharply with his socialist opponent.

"The only thing concerns many socialist leaders, particularly in this area, is how many more free lunches they are going to be invited to by Picardo," Sr Landaluce replied.

That prompted a stern response from Sr de la Encina, who countered: "I won't allow you to insult socialists in that manner."

Undeterred, Sr Landaluce pushed on, leading to a short but tense exchange between the two men.

"This government is the one that has done the most to defend Spain's interests," the PP mayor said.

"The socialist party has not criticised any of Mr Picardo's abusive actions against the interests of the Campo de Gibraltar."

Sr Landaluce cited smuggling, "unfair competition" and fishing as areas in which he claimed the PP had championed Spanish interests while the PSOE stood by.

"What are you talking about?" Sr de la Encina replied, clearly bemused.

Sr Landaluce added: "We are always in favour of dialogue, but without the concessions offered by the government of Zapatero and his foreign minister."

"No one has done more for Gibraltar than Zapatero and his minister Moratinos."

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