Gibraltar celebrates outcome of UK/Spain meeting in London on fishing conflict
The Gibraltar Government reacted to the outcome of the meeting between the British and Spanish foreign ministers on Tuesday in London saying that it is pleased that “it is recognised and accepted by all parties that only Gibraltar has the jurisdictional competence to deal with the issues that arise in respect of the on-going breaches of the Nature Protection Act in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.”
The statement refers to the ongoing dispute with Spanish fishermen operating in Gibraltar waters and not abiding by the Rock’s regulations on nets and other environmental protection measures.
In a statement from No 6 Gibraltar said it continues with the process already established with the fishermen from La Linea and remains open to the fishermen from Algeciras joining the Working Group in order to avoid further dangerous confrontation at sea.
“The Government is ready to start the deliberations of the Working Group to do the technical and scientific exercise required to progress everyone’s understanding of the environmental issues that fishing in breach of the Nature Protection Act can cause. After the statements from both Foreign Ministers, I sincerely hope that anyone who believed they were being urged to pursue confrontation instead of sitting down to discuss issues technically with us, has now seen that it is time to move from provocation to discussion in order to identify lasting solutions in keeping with our law,” Chief Minister, Fabian Picardo, said on Tuesday evening.
In London Britain and Spain urged the Gibraltar Government and Spanish fishermen to find “a local solution” to the on-going fishing dispute, in a clear sign that both countries want to defuse rising tension at sea.
The message was delivered yesterday in separate statements after a two-hour meeting in London between Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, and his Spanish counterpart, Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo.
But the consensus was short on specifics and there was no indication as to whether the persistent incursions by Spanish fishermen and Guardia Civil vessels would cease.
Gibraltar was the last item on the agenda and, in public at least, the focus was on fostering dialogue on the ground. “We reiterated our joint support for a local solution to the current fishing dispute in Gibraltar,” Mr Hague said in a written statement.
“Clearly our views on this differ, but we both recognise the importance of establishing a dialogue between all parties.”
“Relations between the UK and Spain are magnificent and they will not be darkened by any single dispute,” said Garcia-Margallo, adding that “the government of the United Kingdom and the government of Spain encourage the government of Gibraltar and the fishermen of La Linea and Algeciras to find an agreement that is satisfactory and that permits our boats to fish where they have always fished”.
He added: “The ball at this moment is in the court of the Gibraltar authorities and the fishermen of La Linea and Algeciras.”
Meanwhile the Gibraltar government announced the names of the joint working group with the Spanish fishing team, “a combination of Gibraltar based experience and international expertise”.
The team consists of: Chris Tydeman, international wildlife expert; Indrani Lutchman, international fisheries expert; Alfred Vasquez, GFSA; Eric Shaw - GONHS Marine Section; Stephen Warr - Environment Officer, Department of the Environment.
From Madrid the Spanish Defence Minister Pedro Morenés, declared that the Guardia Civil has sufficient resources to protect Spanish fishermen attempting to operate in local waters, and has discarded the intervention of the Spanish navy “in the current situation.”
“This is a complex and complicated matter which is being perfectly handled at present,” he told Europa Press in answer to questions related to the ongoing fishing dispute.
Morenes declared that the Spanish Government had “instruments” at its disposal which range from diplomacy to “locally based discussions” or “the intervention of our state law enforcement and security agencies” right up to the Armed Forces if need be.
“Clearly this is not applicable to the conflict with Gibraltar,” he declared.
Morenes added that the call for the Spanish navy’s intervention had come not from the Guardia Civil as a body, but from an association of Guardia Civil officers.
“People may have read this and thought that the Guardia Civil do not have the resources in the current situation with Gibraltar. They have the resources and are carrying out their duty,” he concluded.