Spain says the Gibraltar dispute is back on the ‘Brussels process” bilateral track
Spain’s new Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Federico Trillo-Figueroa, has claimed that his Foreign Minister, Jose Garcia Margallo, has managed to revive bilateral dialogue with UK over Gibraltar within the Brussels context.
The remarks come in an interview this weekend with the ruling PP conservative party sympathetic newspaper the ABC. Trillo-Figueroa said Gibraltar is one of ‘two crucial battles’ for the Embassy in London.
A PP man, and one of the few non-diplomats to be retained as an ambassador, he claims that Garcia Margallo’s black and white approach to the issue has led to a normalisation of the position.
“The normalisation of the bilateral talks on Gibraltar between the two governments (UK and Spain) in the so called Brussels process was one of the issues tackled in the lunch William Hague hosted for Garcia Margallo at the end of May. It was a difficult moment because of the fishing conflict in the Bay of Algeciras (sic) but they spoke very frankly. The crucial issue of that meeting was the reestablishment of bilateralism of the talks. Today the normalisation is total. At the opening of the Olympic Games minister Hague, accompanied by his wife, made a point of greeting Queen Sofia and did so in a very cordial way,” he says.
Trillo-Figueroa insists that both sides put their positions very clearly in the Hague-Garcia Margallo meeting and that the Spanish minister does not express himself in shades of grey. Asked what Spain’s ultimate aim is on the Rock “given that as everyone knows the British are never going to let it go”, the ambassador replied.
“What is irreversible is History, not the future, and both countries ought to find formulas that are coherent with History and which provide a solution in the medium term future. I do think it has a solution. In the coming year we will celebrate the tercentenary of the Treaty of Utrecht. International relations have changed a great deal, but it is evident that there is a treaty which links both sides and a doctrine of the United Nations on decolonisation which frames the Gibraltar question. These should be understood, not as elements cast aside, but as a spur for reflection on the condition of Spain and UK as partners in Europe and, above all, key points of the Atlantic concept of security in the free world.”
Asked if there is sufficient “constitutional flexibility” to accommodate the Gibraltar question Trillo-Figueroa states that he would not say that.
“There is a historical consideration that links both countries: an international right, and a special right that arises from the EU and NATO. All this means that the historical arguments can neither be the only ones nor can they be abandoned. Our Constitution has opened a broad and flexible frame within which there can be solutions”.
Foreign Secretary Hague made clear that Britain remained firm on sovereignty and reiterated the UK’s stance on this, namely that nothing can happen without the consent of the people of Gibraltar. Likewise Garcia-Margallo set out the PP’s oft-stated desire for a return to bilateralism in respect of Gibraltar.
At the meeting in May Mr Hague urged a return to the Trilateral Forum, a bid rejected by Spain. Garcia Margallo followed the meeting stating “I said from the outset that there was no trilateral forum,” he said. “The UK, Spain and Gibraltar are not in the same position”. But there was no agreement to re-establish Brussels talks.