Cecilia Malmstrom, European Commissioner for Home Affairs, will be heading the mission tasked with examining border controls imposed on Gibraltar by Spain while a second mission will address the ‘customs dimension’ issue, the European Commission has confirmed. British authorities will be involved in the EC probe of the Gibraltar frontier as will Spanish officials but no date for the visit has been set though it is expected within a few weeks.
British Prime Minister David Cameron a fortnight ago called on European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso to “urgently” send a team of monitors to Gibraltar’s border with Spain to collect evidence of Spanish border checks that he said broke EU law.
PM Cameron has also said Britain was now actively considering legal action and had begun collating evidence on the “sporadic nature of the measures” which would prove they are illegitimate.
The Commission, which has repeatedly said it is monitoring the situation closely, said on Monday it “would expect the two member states concerned to enter into a dialogue to resolve the situation in a spirit of co-operation between the member states of the EU”.
A separate committee to investigate the “customs dimension” and ‘trafficking in goods’ will be headed by Lithuanian Algirdas Šemeta, Commissioner responsible for taxation and the Customs Union. The issue was discussed between President Barroso and Mariano Rajoy on Sunday.
The Commission spokesman told reporters that the situation had arisen between two member states and they should resolve this through dialogue. But the spokesman said the Commission would help by bringing its legal expertise to bear “as guardian of the Treaty” and by organising the mission ‘on site’.
The spokesman said the visit will be discussed at a technical level very soon between the Commission and the Spanish authorities. But it was confirmed that the visiting mission will not discuss the artificial reef which is the subject of a complaint by Spain’s agriculture ministry and will be dealt with separately. Spain’s allegations against the finance centre will not form part of the visiting mission’s remit.
However given the “numerous” complaints the EC has received over Gibraltar border queues it has decided to publish them in its official Journal to keep citizens informed.
In the formal acknowledgement of the complaints the Journal states that The EC has received, “and continues to receive, a series of complaints about the checks made by the Spanish authorities at the border with Gibraltar.”
The Commission has registered, and will continue to register, these complaints under reference number CHAP(2013) 2466. The statement says that given the “significant” number of complaints it has received on this subject, the Commission, with a view to responding swiftly and informing those concerned while making the most economical use of its administrative resources, is publishing this acknowledgment of receipt in the Official Journal of the European Union, and on the Internet at: http://ec.europa.eu/eu_law/complaints/receipt/index_en.htm
“The complainants will be informed, through the same channels, of the results of the Commission’s examination of these complaints and of any follow-up action that it may decide to take,” it said.