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Spain pushes for Frontex reference in EU mandate for Gib treaty talks

Spain will ask the European Council to include a specific reference to Frontex in the European Commission’s negotiating mandate for a UK/EU treaty on Gibraltar’s post-Brexit relations with the bloc, a senior Spanish diplomat official on Tuesday.

Juan González-Barba Pera, Spain’s State Secretary for the European Union, said his government would push for the reference to be included in the mandate, the draft of which is still the subject of technical discussions between the Commission and EU member states.

Asked by reporters specifically on this point as he arrived for a meeting of the General Affairs Council of the EU in Brussels on Tuesday, Mr González-Barba said: “There was already a commitment made at the meeting that the current minister [for foreign affairs, Jose Manuel] Albares had with the former British Foreign Minister [Dominic Raab] that Spain would request the assistance of Frontex to help give effect to its corresponding obligations as responsible member state.”

“We’ll have to see how, at Spain’s request, there can be a mention [in the mandate] of our request that Frontex helps us to meet the obligations that will stem from this agreement.”

Inclusion of a reference to Frontex in the EU negotiating guidelines would be welcomed by the UK and Gibraltar, which had both raised serious concerns about this issue.

“I think this is a step in the right direction, before the mandate goes firm, that Spain should have been so forthright in setting out its own defence of the New Year’s Eve agreement…” said Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, even while noting that “there is a lot more” that is “wrong” with the mandate.

When it was published in July, the Commission’s draft mandate made no reference to Frontex carrying out Schengen immigration duties in Gibraltar should an agreement be reached allowing the Rock to become part of the common EU travel area.

The absence of any reference to Frontex in the mandate was one of the key points of contention for the UK and Gibraltar governments.

The draft document instead said Spanish officers would carry out those controls, something which was unacceptable to both the UK and Gibraltar.

The UK and Gibraltar governments said at the time that the Commission’s draft strayed “unhelpfully” from the New Year’s Eve agreement and could not form the basis for talks.

In that framework agreement, the UK, Spain and Gibraltar had agreed that Frontex would be asked for a period of four years to assist with Schengen immigration checks inside Gibraltar.

The EU’s negotiating mandate has yet to be approved formally by the European Council, but all indications are that the draft document published by the Commission in July could change in some key aspects.

Mr González-Barba said reaching an agreement on Gibraltar’s future was “very important” for Spain, adding he would be making this point during the discussions with his EU counterparts.

“The [European] Council is close to approving the negotiating mandate for the Commission and this is a point that I will also raise during the meeting,” Mr González-Barba said.

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