Spain separates fishing dispute with Gibraltar from any sovereignty discussions
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo said over the weekend that the solution to the fishing dispute was separate to any discussion on the sovereignty of Gibraltar or its waters.
In a statement that echoed the position expressed last week following his meeting with his British counterpart, William Hague, García-Margallo said the dispute was a problem of cooperation “at an inferior level to sovereignty”.
Garcia-Margallo was speaking while Gibraltar officials and Spanish fishermen were holding technical talks working toward a solution to the row.
“The British maintain that the waters are theirs, we maintain that they are our waters, and this discussion is going nowhere,” he said.
“Whoever waters they are and I say they are Spanish, it is evident that vessels from both flags must use them”.
Representatives from Gibraltar Government’s Fishing Commission met last Saturday with La Linea-Algeciras cofradias (fishermen associations), the first of the joint technical working group set up by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo to find a solution to the current fishing conflict.
Ahead of the meeting the Spanish fishermen spokesman Pedro Maza stated that the dispute with the Gibraltar Government is not about fishing but a political one and complained that the majority of members in the Rock’s commission are non-governmental organisations and environmentalists “who defend interests that are very different to those of the fishermen”.
He said his position will be one that advocates a sustainable approach to fishing and not detrimental to the environment.
“I am all in favour of dialogue and finding a solution but when the other side defends the rights of the ‘jurel’ and we defend the persons who want to fish that ‘jurel’, reaching an agreement is not easy,” he said.
He said that the fishing methods used by the Campo fishermen are “regulated by the European Union” while declaring that this is the main argument used by the Gibraltar Government to restrict their activities.
The ongoing dispute was sparked off when the new GSLP/Liberal Government abolished the Fishing Agreement of 1999 negotiated by the previous GSD administration, which had granted the RG Police flexibility and discretion in the application and policing of the Gibraltar Nature Protection Act of 1991.