Saturday, May 31st 2003 - 21:00 UTC

“Keep awake this time round” opposition tells FCO.

GSLP/Libs has condemned any attempt to discuss the sovereignty of Gibraltar between London and Madrid. This follows the news that Spanish President Jose Maria Aznar had written to British Prime Minister Tony Blair asking for a resumption of the negotiations.

The Opposition has also called for a prompt initiation of the decolonisation process as the longer this is delayed "the more opportunity we give to Spain to pursue the alternative route of the Brussels framework."

An Opposition spokesman said: "The Spanish press has revealed that in a letter sent to Downing Street on 19 May, Sr Aznar wrote to Mr Blair suggesting that the time had come to sort out the Gibraltar issue against the background of the institutional changes that were taking place in the European Union. The suggestion is that Europe Minister Denis Macshane and his Spanish counterpart Ramon de Miguel set the agenda when they meet next Friday 6 June."

"The Opposition considers that the reference to the institutional changes within the EU ties in with reports which indicated that Spain was attempting to use the new EU constitution as a vehicle to advance its claim to Gibraltar. There have already been suggestions in the British press that Madrid is seeking to exclude Gibraltar from the definition of the external frontiers of the European Union.

This is the position that the Spanish Government also took in 1991 over the signature of the external frontiers convention, which was resisted by the then Conservative Government in the United Kingdom."

"The present UK Government has the obligation to ensure that Gibraltar is not marginalized as a result of the new European Treaty. It will be recalled that at the time of the Amsterdam Treaty, Gibraltar was told that the Spanish negotiators waited until the early hours of the morning in order to change the agreed draft by introducing material which was damaging to Gibraltar. It is to be hoped that the Foreign Office officials will be able to keep awake this time round."

"Moreover, quite apart from the EU angle, the Opposition consider that any attempt to continue the sovereignty negotiations would betray a complete disregard for the wishes of the people of Gibraltar as expressed so convincingly in the referendum last November.

The referendum was a massive no to Spain and a massive rejection of Spain. The policy of the Opposition is that, following this exercise, the sovereignty of Gibraltar should no longer be matter for discussion between London and Madrid.

This would bring Gibraltar in line with the Falkland Islands, where the sovereignty of the Falklands is not a matter for discussion with Argentina."

Source: Gibraltar Chronicle

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