Spain made a calm but classic contribution before the United Nations Decolonization Committee (C24) last week defending territorial integrity arguments but also warning the Committee not to de-list Gibraltar without sticking to the current UN criteria.
This novel call for the C24 to “respect established procedures” saw Spain’s UN Ambassador Fernando Arias urge the C24 “not to allow territories that have not been decolonised according to the criteria of the Committee, to be removed from the relevant UN list using arguments alien to the criteria of the Special Committee”.
Spain reiterated the view that a sovereignty dispute pushes aside the normal criteria of self-determination and said that new ways need to be explored by the C24 to complete its task. The Spanish Ambassador blamed UK explicitly for the failure to continue talks which, he stressed, the UN calls for regularly but said London has “refused” to engage in for five years.
Ambassador Arias said Spain is confident that both countries will be able to find “imaginative ways to solve their differences without neglecting the interests of the present inhabitants of the colony.”
He said that Spain believes in pragmatic solutions and added that the C24 should be examining, on a case by case basis, “whether the degree of autonomy obtained by some of the colonised territories demonstrates, or otherwise, the ability of the local authorities to rule over their territories responsibly and independently. Should the answer to that question be affirmative, one could question their political subordination to the administering power”.
But whereas that might lead to decolonisation, he said that the case of Gibraltar was one of UK and the Rock conspiring to “colonialism by consent’. This was being done at the expense of Spain’s legitimate rights, he said.
Spain, said Ambassador Arias, cannot under any circumstances accept the perpetuation of the present situation “in which the administering power and the colony seek to ignore Spain’s legitimate rights under the Treaty of Utrecht and the doctrine of the United Nations”.
Arias reminded the C24 that the General Assembly has spent three decades calling for a solution and urging a bilateral solution. He highlighted repeated calls for a resolution to be negotiated under the Brussels Agreement.
“Spain vindicates the resumption of this bilateral dialogue with the UK in which questions pertaining to the bilateral co-operation around Gibraltar should be addressed in parallel with issues of sovereignty, which are plural as contained in the mentioned Declaration,” he said in a reference to Spain’s separation of the isthmus from the general claim linked to the Treaty of Utrecht 1713.
But the Ambassador said that, despite all the issues, Spain remained committed to regional co-operation to create an atmosphere of mutual confidence and cooperation for the benefit of Gibraltar and the Campo.
He insisted that such regional co-operation must set aside issues of “sovereignty and jurisdiction” which he said are for the UK and Spain only. He added that the Forum for Dialogue which included Gibraltar but which “constituted a framework totally independent from the Brussels process” saw advances “hampered by the insistence of that local government (Gibraltar)to address aspects that are the sole responsibility of the United Kingdom.”
Talks, he insisted, must run in parallel and the dialogue on sovereignty must be between Spain and UK alone. That “is the UN mandate”.