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PSOE senator visits Rock to 'talk and, above all, listen' ahead of treaty talks

Photo by Johnny Bugeja

A senior Socialist politician who chairs an influential committee in the Spanish senate visited Gibraltar on Tuesday to “talk and, above all, listen” in order to better understand the reality of Gibraltar’s relations with its nearest European neighbour.

Antonio Gutierrez Limones, who also heads the Spanish delegation at the Council of Europe, paid a courtesy call on Chief Minister Fabian Picardo ahead of meetings in with La Linea mayor Juan Franco and representatives of the Cross-Frontier Group.

The visit came against the backdrop of the forthcoming negotiations for a UK-EU treaty on Gibraltar’s relations with the bloc, an issue discussed during the meeting with the Chief Minister at which Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia and Attorney General Michael Llamas were also present.

Even before he arrived in Gibraltar, Mr Gutierrez’s visit to the Rock had raised some controversy in Spain amid reports that officials in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs in Madrid had objected to the meeting.

But speaking to reporters in No.6 Convent Place, the PSOE senator insisted his was a fact-finding mission and that anything related to the treaty talks was “a matter for the executive”.

“Often it’s important to come here, to talk and above all to listen in order to understand the reality in the Campo de Gibraltar and Gibraltar and the context within which we are moving, and thus be able to transmit that whenever the issue arises in the senate or the Council of Europe,” he said.

Mr Gutierrez was reluctant to be drawn in depth on any issue related to the visit.

But pressed by reporters on whether his presence on the Rock reflected the importance of Gibraltar’s voice being heard in the forthcoming negotiations, he replied: “I think my presence here just about says it all.”

Mr Picardo said the meeting had allowed Gibraltar to address “head on” many of the key issues that were routinely raised due to “Spanish prejudice against Gibraltar” and which “plagued” many people’s views not just about the Rock but of the neighbouring Campo too.

He said it was important that parliamentarians understood the reality on the ground.

“We live in parliamentary democracies and it’s parliaments that determine what governments can and cannot do,” he said.

“We have great interest in ensuring that people at every level of administrations in the European Union, in Spain, in countries that will decide the treaty between the European Union and the United Kingdom at a European level, should have as much information as possible about Gibraltar.”

“I am very pleased to have received Antonio and to discuss issues that are relevant to the reality of the day to day lives of Gibraltarians and people in the region around us.”

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