Gibraltar will commemorate, not celebrate the 300 year old Treaty of Utrecht this year, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, told members of the Fabian Society in London earlier this week. The treaty refers to the cession in perpetuity by Spain to the British Crown of Gibraltar in 1713 under Article X of the agreement which put an end to the War of Spanish Succession (1701/1714)
Over the years, in the context of European agreements, Mr Picardo said Spain had signed a number of treaties which should have put the issue of Gibraltar well beyond not just its reach but well beyond its ambition.
“And yet even today and I feel this is the significance of the 300 years – even today 300 years later, we are still one of the focal points of Spanish diplomacy. These guys must begin to find something better to do,” he stressed.
Following an upbeat and positive address on ‘Gibraltar in Europe today’, Utrecht was just one of the many issues raised in a question and answer session from the small group of well informed members of a Society which has played a central role for more than a century in the development of political ideas and public policy on the left of centre in Britain and Europe.
Other topics included climate change, Gibraltar’s relationship with Morocco and MAGREB countries, economic challenges, its strategic military importance, contemplating her own membership of the EU, illegal immigrants and sport.
Among those present was Chairman of the All Party Gibraltar Group in Parliament, Jim Dobbin, Labour Candidate to the European Parliament for the South West and Gibraltar, Hadleigh Vaughn Roberts, Lawyer and Labour political activist Sarah Sackman, and representatives from the various branches of the Society.
Introducing Mr Picardo, Giles Wright from the Society said it was the first time a Chief Minister had addressed the Fabian Society and he was also the first Leader of a Labour Party in the premises, and indeed the first speaker to be called Fabian himself.
Chief Minister Picardo spoke of the importance of commemorating the Treaty of Utrecht “if only to understand that it was possible for superpowers, who knew only blood and weapons, to find a method of making themselves being understood by each other, and yet today the Government of Spain will not sit down around the table with the democratically elected government of the people of Gibraltar, to try and deal with the transportation of fruit across the frontier, or how Spanish pensioners, who worked on the Rock pre-69, should be paid. It is really quote galling that it was possible to see co-operation in a Dutch town, 300 years ago, and it is not possible to see it today”.
Therefore, he pointed out, it was important to recall there was an agreement which ended wars which today we commemorate, but “to celebrate a treaty that Spain insists denies the Gibraltarians the right to deny their political future because she has a right to pre-emption, should Britain ever decide she does not want to keep Gibraltar, and which prohibits certain races or categories of individuals living in Gibraltar, which Spain says denies Gibraltar any territorial waters, is not something we are going to fall into the trap of doing.”
But the Chief Minister was of the opinion that Spain “would be delighted to be provoked by us celebrating the treaty” in some way. And he assured: “We are not going to do that. We are hopefully going to put the treaty into its proper context when we commemorate the day of its signature, and explain widely in the academic world what it is that the Treaty did or did not do, and why it is, to a very great extent been taken even today by Spain, in a vain attempt to justify the unjustifiable“.