Ad hoc’ talks do not mean four sides: that was the swift and firm declaration from the Government of Gibraltar in response to statements made to the Gibraltar Chronicle by Gonzalo de Benito, Spain’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
Gibraltar said it does not share the view expressed by de Benito regarding the structure for ‘ad hoc’ dialogue that is currently under discussion between Gibraltar, the UK and Spain.
The Spanish diplomat revealed that last Thursday Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo had responded to his British counterpart William Hague accepting a British proposal for European Commission participation in talks but making counter proposals which relate to the format of the talks.
Spain is pushing for the inclusion of either the Junta de Andalucia or Campo authorities depending on the nature of the talks. According to de Benito, Garcia-Margallo proposals, would be for “four plus the EC without calling this type of meeting either tripartite or quadripartite”.
But late Thursday both the Gibraltar Government and the Foreign Office commented on Madrid’s latest statement. The Gibraltar Government also issued the Foreign Office remarks in its No 6 press statement suggesting the close liaison in the response.
“The proposals made in the Foreign Secretary’s letter are for ad hoc talks that avoid any labels. This means that parties that are relevant to issues being discussed can be present at any discussions. There is no question of the ad hoc talks always involving four parties plus the EU Commission – i.e. a de-facto quadrilateral,” said the Foreign Office.
Gibraltar in turn highlighted that the Foreign Secretary William Hague made it clear to Garcia-Margallo, (in writing and in agreement with the Government of Gibraltar) that his proposal for ‘ad hoc’ talks was not for four parties (the UK, Spain, Gibraltar and the regional authorities in Andalucia) to meet alongside the EU Commission.
“The Foreign Secretary specifically emphasised that the proposal is for parties that are relevant to issues being discussed to be present at any such discussions. In some instances that might mean two parties meeting, or three. In some instances that may mean four or more parties. There is no fixed number and no question of the parties always being four,” said the Gibraltar government.
Gibraltar accused minister de Benito of being “misleading” when he continuously refers to four parties and “to give the impression that these four would meet all the time with other relevant entities joining in as and when required” and underlined that it is also “important to recall that it is Madrid that has turned its back on dialogue with Gibraltar until now.”
The Gibraltar Government said that Trilateral Forum was already in existence when the present Spanish government was elected and all they had to do was put items on the agenda and agree to a meeting.
“The concern raised by Spain that sovereignty discussions could take place under this Forum is a complete red herring because the Gibraltar Government has specifically repeatedly said it has no intention of discussing sovereignty with Spain, in the same way as the Spanish Government has no intention of discussing it with Gibraltar. Therefore on that basis Spain could simply have renewed the Forum with the UK and Gibraltar rather than terminated it” said the Gibraltar release.
It added that the policy decision taken by Madrid “not just to abandon the Forum, but to also turn the clock back and undo the agreements that were arrived at under it, raises even more serious issues”.
“The statements by Minister de Benito yet again make clear that the length of the frontier queues has a political genesis. This helps to demonstrate beyond doubt that the measures at the frontier are politically motivated and therefore unlawful,” it said.
A spokesman for the Government of Gibraltar added: “Madrid made a serious error of judgement in abandoning the Trilateral Forum. The present situation stems directly from this decision that they took as a Government at the end of 2011 when the Partido Popular was elected into office.
It predates the so called ‘fishing dispute’ and the creation of a reef to protect the marine environment. The absence of dialogue and formal communication between Spain and Gibraltar has meant that there is no framework in which issues can be discussed and a better understanding of each other’s position on those issues can be arrived at”.