Representatives from the British and Spanish governments that are holding conversations on Gibraltar's future, are considering a formula that could allow both countries to share sovereignty indefinitely.
According to Spanish press reports, the advancing talks, which will receive a strong backing from Foreign Secretaries Jack Straw and Joseph Pique when they meet at the end of the month or beginning of February, are ironing the way to find a lasting solution to the centenary dispute.
Last November both Secretaries, after a first official round of talks in Barcelona, publicly expressed London and Madrid's willingness to solve the Gibraltar situation including "cooperation and sovereignty" issues, for which a six months deadline was also established.
Furthermore, Prime Minister Tony Blair as well as British Secretary for European Affairs, in Parliament, made strong statements supporting the round of talks which began last year informally in Brussels in the framework of the European Union. So far the elected authorities of Gibraltar, which insist in their British citizenship and remaining as such, have refused to participate in the talks in spite of having insistently been invited by both sides.
However the Spanish press has revealed that Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, has held "private and informal" meetings, described as "cordial" both last November and this month, in the Costa de Oro, with the Secretary General of the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Carlos Bastarreche.
Mr. Caruana's official line is that the round of talks are a bilateral affair between Spain and the United Kingdom.
According to Spanish press reports, the Spanish delegation has not strongly opposed the option of a shared sovereignty indefinitely, while London seems prepared, for the first time, to accept the concept.
The "Brussels process" as the current British-Spanish talks is identified, contemplates a major cooperation between Spain and Gibraltar regarding communications and land and air access to the Rock, and concerning sovereignty, Gibraltar residents will have the right to participate in European Union elections, given their British citizen status and by extension European citizenship. Citizenship that involves rights and obligations.