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Spain wants ‘new relationship’ with Gibraltar, Sanchez tells CNN

The Rock of the British overseas territory of Gibraltar, historically claimed by Spain, is seen from the Spanish side of the border near La Linea de la Concepcion, southern Spain, November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

Spain wants “a new relationship” with Gibraltar after Brexit, Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez told CNN yesterday.

He was speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos after reports that Spain had called on the European Union to recognise its demand for the “decolonisation” of Gibraltar in all coming EU legislation for a no-deal Brexit.

Spanish officials want a footnote to be included in all the EU’s no-deal legislative proposals explicitly recognising Spain’s sovereignty aspirations over the Rock.

Mr Sanchez sidestepped a question on the footnote, which has not yet been accepted by the EU 27, insisting his government wanted good relations with Gibraltar.

“We always have this dispute with the UK Government but we have a very constructive approach and I think we need to give opportunities not only for the people that live in Gibraltar but also in the surrounders [sic]," he said.

"We already reached agreement with the British Government in order to manage this transition period, so I'm confident that we will find a constructive solution with the UK."

Pushed on the point, he added: "We need to think about the people that live in Gibraltar and in the surrounders [sic].”

"I think that we need to give them an opportunity, we need to re-establish a new relationship between Gibraltar and Spain, and of course with the UK."

"I'm not creating any new dispute with the UK Government. What I want is to solve this historical problem and I think that we're very close to doing that."

Mr Sanchez did not, however, explain his view of what shape that new relationship might take.

The issue of the footnote was also raised yesterday by Marco Aguiriano, Spain’s state secretary for European affairs, who said Madrid was seeking to reflect in post-Brexit EU legislation Spain’s position on Gibraltar as stated before the UN.

“This is not a provocation of any sort,” he said, according to Spanish press reports.

“It’s simply about the obvious need to shape and reiterate Spain’s historical and political position on the legal status.”

The existence of the footnote was publicly revealed by The Telegraph earlier this week.According to the UK newspaper, the text of the footnote states: “There is a dispute between the Government of Spain and the government of the United Kingdom concerning sovereignty over Gibraltar.”

“The territory is registered on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories of the United Nations, subject to decolonisation.”

Officials here were aware of the Spanish move but told the Chronicle the footnote had “zero” practical effect.

In a separate development yesterday, Luis García Montero, the director of Spain’s Instituto Cervantes, said the cultural organisation’s strategic plan for this year included a proposal to reopen its branch in Gibraltar.

The Spanish government-funded institute’s Gibraltar branch was set up under the 2006 Cordoba Agreements and hosted Spanish language classes and cultural events.

But it was later closed by Jose Manuel García-Margallo, the Partido Popular’s Foreign Minister best known for his hardline stance on Gibraltar.

“Depending on the bilateral agreements between Spain and the United Kingdom, we want to reopen as soon as possible the centre in Gibraltar, which gave us very good results,” Mr García Montero said.

Josep Borrell, Spain’s Socialist Foreign Minister, echoed that statement.

“We would like to open an institute in Gibraltar if circumstances permit it,” he said.

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