The European Commission is likely to be joining Gibraltar, UK, Spain and the regional authorities from Andalucía at separately held, so called, ‘ad hoc’ talks aimed at resolving fishing and environmental disputes that have dominated the summer, according to the Gibraltar Chronicle Gonzalo de Benito Spain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs.
This follows Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo writing to Foreign Secretary William Hague last week accepting the British proposal for the Commission to participate in such talks.
Deliberately vague in terms of definition, the encounter is likely to go ahead “soon” if counter proposals from Minister Garcia Margallo are also accepted.
The move was confirmed to the Gibraltar Chronicle by Gonzalo de Benito, Secretary of State at the Spanish Foreign Ministry, who revealed that the idea is that the European Commission should participate in some form in ad hoc talks.
The second in command at the Madrid ministry, de Benito, made a concerted effort both to defend the measures Spain has taken at the border and declare a desire for prompt dialogue to lead to normality in the relationship.
Echoing García-Margallo’s statement to Congress in Madrid that ‘there are not now the conditions to talk about sovereignty’, de Benito told the Chronicle that “we have to sit together, we have to talk, we have to share the problems and I am sure that in that way there will be a solution.”
“I think that if (we take forward) the proposal Minister García Margallo has put forward, which responds to Foreign Secretary Hague’s, and which can be done in a matter of days, we will sit down have a meeting in a positive spirit with all four sides and the Commission. That will start to resolve the problems”.
“What is negative is a situation of non-communication and of not having the possibility of holding meetings and discussing concrete problems,” he said.
“The ad hoc meeting, if it goes ahead following Garcia Margallo proposals, would be ‘four plus the Commission’ without calling this type of meeting either tripartite or quadripartite.”
What de Benito describes as “simply a matter of agreeing the format” may yet require more difficult and deep discussion than his remark suggests, but he was emphatic in the suggestion that Spain is in a talking mood.
Asked what the Foreign Minister’s broader quadripartite talks might mean for the status of each proposed participant he was more cautious.
“I think we must go about resolving this stage by stage. It would be a very good start to be able to meet on a four voices basis with the Commission as well for these matters of fishing on the one hand and separately the environment.
“I am sure that a dynamic will emerge which will allow us to have broad meetings on cooperation as four. The Commission, if it is helpful to us and can provide us with advice, can be there but eventually, if not, we can meet as four, without the Commission. But as I said this refers exclusively to matters of cooperation.”
In related news Miguel Ángel Moratinos, the former Spanish Foreign Minister who, when in post, agreed the Tripartite Forum, has defended his record and dealings on the Gibraltar question.
In an opinion piece, published in El Mundo, Moratinos also urged the return to dialogue as the way forward in the current crisis. He makes clear his outright rejection of the “Francoist policy of’ close the frontier’” as an abject failure. He also says that his position has been regularly misreported.
In particular, Moratinos stresses that “at no moment was a veto granted to the Gibraltarians over the negotiations. The idea, he says, was for Spain to win the hearts and minds of the “llanitos”. His advice is that Spain should push hard on co-operation with Gibraltar whilst pursuing sovereignty talks with UK.
He also argues that incidents like the creation of the reef could have been avoided if dialogue had been continued.