Spain ‘has recognised legal status of Gibraltarians’, CM tells UN
by Cristina Cavilla in New York
The Chief Minister Fabian Picardo put Spain’s recognition of Gibraltarians as a distinct people at the forefront of arguments in support of decolonisation at the United Nations Committee of 24 in New York yesterday.
Using the Tax Treaty for Gibraltar and Spain to back his position, Mr Picardo urged the C24 to do Gibraltar the justice of ”finally” removing it from the list of non self-governing territories.
“This committee has insisted that as long as there is one territory left on your list the eradication of colonialism will not be complete,” he told the C24.
“Even if we are the last one, the day will come when we shall take our rightful place in the family of nations.”
In a carefully crafted address, Mr Picardo explained how through the tax treaty, Spain ha=d recognised Gibraltarian institutions, its distinct tax laws, and therefore the Gibraltar Parliament’s law-making capacity.
But, and more importantly in the context of the C24, he said: “Spain has now also recognised the existence and legal status of the Gibraltarians as distinct from British citizens generally.”
“It is fitting that the modern Spain should finally have recognised the distinct people of Gibraltar in this international instrument,” he added.
Additionally, Mr Picardo informed the committee that agreement had been reached on tobacco pricing and cooperation between law enforcement agencies, most notably the police and customs.
“Those arrangements on tax, tobacco and law enforcement effectively dispose of the untrue and unfair criticisms of successive Spanish Governments,” he said.
“There are no longer any issues left between us on these economic and law enforcement matters – none of which ever related to our inalienable right of self determination anyway,” he said.
This is not the first time that Gibraltar has used the tax treaty in support of arguments for decolonisation.
Last month, the Minister for Economic Development Sir Joe Bossano set out the same stance at the UN’s Decolonisation Seminar in Grenada.
There Sir Joe was able to address the fact that Spain insisted the treaty was with the UK and not with Gibraltar. He had acknowledged that the agreement had been signed by UK and Spanish ministers because none of the 17 non-self-governing territories could sign international treaties.
The UK sought from and obtained the Gibraltar Government’s consent for the treaty to be entered into given that its subject matter - tax - is entirely within its own competence.
At the UN yesterday, Mr Picardo underscored that these arrangements were negotiated by Gibraltar directly with the Spanish Government.
In wide-ranging submissions Mr Picardo underscored Gibraltar’s cast-iron position on sovereignty and the principle of self-determination but also expressed his hope that the success of the Socialist Party in recent elections in Spain will enable a return to “mutually respectful and mutually beneficial” dialogue.
Gibraltar has annually encouraged both the C24 and the Fourth Committee to send a visiting mission to the Rock to learn about the reality on the ground and at first hand, even offering to fund such a visit.
Mr Picardo restated this call during the course of his address yesterday.
Addressing the Chair of the C24, Keisha Aniya McGuire from Grenada, he said: “To do justice, in our case, Madam Chair, I once again urge the Committee to send a visiting mission to Gibraltar.”
“To come and see our home for yourselves.”
The bulk of Mr Picardo’s address focused on the Rock’s relations with Spain over the past six decades but he also honed in on Gibraltar’s relations with the UN.
He told the C24: “I will continue to defend Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and its territorial integrity.”
“The recent Advisory Opinion of the international Court of Justice on the separation of the Chagos Archipelago from Mauritius makes it very clear that the right to self- determination of non-self-governing territories is paramount, and that our territorial integrity cannot be interfered with during the decolonisation process.”
“Spain contends that her territorial integrity is at stake in the decolonisation of Gibraltar, despite the fact that she ceded Gibraltar ‘for ever’ in 1713.”
“As we have said many times, we would welcome an Advisory Opinion from the ICJ on this issue.
When we get a fair and objective hearing, we know we will prevail.”
Addressing Ms McGuire he told her: “Madam Chairman, Gibraltar finds itself where your own country was a generation ago.”
“We are asking to be treated no differently.”
“The future of our country must be freely and democratically decided by the people of Gibraltar in exercise of the right to self-determination.”
“There can be no other way,” he said.
The lengthy session, which spilled over into the afternoon, saw both Gibraltar and Spain set out their traditional and long-held rarely wavering positions on Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
The Chief Minister reminded the committee of the Rock’s history under Spanish blockade, “the last siege of Gibraltar”.
“It sealed our separate and distinct identity. It gave shape to our modern reality,” Mr Picardo said.
“Now anyone who attempts our economic strangulation, our forced subjugation is on notice that they too will fail.”
“Because, while we will never turn down friendship or cooperation, we will always stand up for our right to determine the future of our homeland.”
“We will always defeat any foe, however mighty, who seeks to remove us from our homeland.”
Mr Picardo was joined at the UN by Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia, the Attorney General Michael Llamas and Gibraltarian academic Dr Jamie Trinidad.
Gibraltar’s US representative and staunch supporter of the Rock, David Liston, was prevented from attending the session after severe storms in Dallas left him stranded there and unable to travel.