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Gibraltar News.

Sunday, January 11th 2004 - 20:00 UTC
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Blair will not participate of Tercentenary; Gibraltar constitutional review only with “Spanish consent”; GibTele sues European Commission; Surprise visit of Madrid British Ambassador to the Rock; Trail link between Europe and Africa.

Blair will not participate of Tercentenary

British Prime Minister Tony Blair has confirmed to Gibraltar businessman Momy Levy he has no immediate plans to visit Gibraltar during its 300th anniversary of British rule. The Gibraltar Chronicle reports that Mr Levy wrote to the Prime Minister during the Christmas period reminding him about Gibraltar's tercentenary year and that he had never visited Gibraltar in the past. Mr Levy expressed the view that this year would be an ideal opportunity for Mr Blair to visit Gibraltar for the first time, and assured him he would be made to feel very welcome. A short reply from the Prime Minister's secretary confirms that ?due to his busy schedule and heavy diary commitments Mr Blair has no immediate plans to visit Gibraltar'. The letter is accompanied by a compliment card wishing Mr Levy and his family a happy new year

Gibraltar constitutional review only with "Spanish consent"

Spanish Socialist Party Senator for Cádiz Jose Carracao, indicated that Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana does not possess sufficient powers to amend the Gibraltar Constitution, unless there is consent from the Spanish Government, reports the Gibraltar Chronicle. In a press statement the PSOE senator said the United Kingdom must inform Spain of all the modifications that the Gibraltar Government is seeking to make to the constitution, and that no amendments can be made unless they are approved by the Madrid Government. "Mr. Caruana's plans cannot just be his, but they must be discussed between the UK, Gibraltar and Spain," he said. "At the moment there is a total breakdown of talks between Britain and Spain as to the future of the colony," he added, explaining that this was because the negotiating parties had given no thought to co-existence between residents of Gibraltar and the surrounding region. "At the moment the Gibraltarians have such little faith in the negotiating process that they will reject any deal, no matter how generous it is to them." Senator Carracao said the British and Spanish Governments should now work towards establishing a state of well-being and stability in the Campo de Gibraltar region as a ?showcase' to Gibraltarians before the matter of sovereignty can be considered again. Furthermore, modifications should be introduced to the land frontier to enhance the fluidity of traffic across the border, and to reduce disruption. Once the Campo area is developed and stabilised, said Senator Carracao, negotiations over the territory can begin with a new perspective and within a new framework

GibTele sues European Commission

Gibtelecom has initiated legal proceedings against the European Commission to step up its efforts to obtain recognition for the local "350" telephone code and roaming rights currently blocked by the Spanish Government. According to the company Spain's politically motivated objection is in breach of competition rules that the Commission has failed to uphold. A company spokesman said: "By application lodged with the Court of First Instance of the European Communities on 24 December 2003, Gibtelecom has brought legal proceedings against the EU Commission. The action relates to the EU Commission not proceeding on a complaint brought by Gibtel in 1996 concerning the impossibility for its customers to be able to use their mobile phones in Spain ("roaming")." "The original complaint was for breach of the EC Treaty's competition rules. In 1997, it was converted into a complaint by Gibtelecom against the Spanish Government when the latter confirmed to the EU Commission that it had given instructions to Telefonica not to conclude a roaming agreement with Gibtelecom. Those instructions had been given on the grounds that the Spanish Government considers that recognition of Gibraltar's ITU telephone code "350" is tantamount to recognising Gibraltar as an independent State. Gibtelecom is challenging this position and has issued proceedings against the EU Commission on a number of grounds. There is a related but separate complaint concerning the unavailability of telephone numbers which has been lodged with the EU Commission since 1996."

Surprise visit of Madrid British Ambassador to the Rock

Britain's Ambassador to Spain Stephen Wright held talks with Chief Minister Peter Caruana during a surprise, unannounced visit to Gibraltar. However officials on both sides remained tight lipped as to the content of the talks and no information was forthcoming either from Convent Place or from the Governor's office. A Convent Place spokesman said: "The Gibraltar Government warmly welcomes the visit to Gibraltar by Stephen Wright, H.M. Ambassador to Madrid. The Chief Minister met Mr Wright for dinner last night (Wednesday) and held a meeting with him at No. 6 Convent Place this morning. A wide range of Gibraltar related issues were discussed. The Government welcomes Mr Wright's wish to personally acquaint himself with the facts and realities about Gibraltar". Leader of the Opposition Joe Bossano also held a "frank and cordial" meeting with the British Ambassador to Madrid Stephen Wright according goes a GSLP/Lib spokesman. "Among the issues discussed were Gibraltar's special conditions within the European Union in terms of the non-application of the Common Customs Regime and VAT. Our view is that given that the UK has confirmed that there is no question of Gibraltar having to give up our existing conditions, the debate is academic unless Gibraltar feels that it stands to gain from a change in the future. While this is the position there is no need to revisit the issue." "There was a wide-ranging discussion on the structure of the Gibraltar economy and Gibraltar's ability to continue to develop and achieve high economic growth rates notwithstanding the pinpricks of Spain's negative attitude within the European Union. It was agreed to maintain regular contact the meeting proved to be very constructive."

Trail link between Europe and Africa

A firm financial commitment has been made by the governments of Spain and Morocco to complete a rail network connecting the two countries under the Strait of Gibraltar. Spanish Minister of Development Francisco Alvarez Cascos was quoted in Arabic as stating that this tunnel will be "in the 21st century what the Suez Canal was in the 19th century and what the Panama Canal was in the 20th century". The possibility of a rail tunnel connecting the continents of Europe and Africa would see a continuous rail link between the north of Scotland and South Africa. Mr. Cascos signed an agreement with Moroccan Minister of Equipment and Transport Karim Ghellab for a programme of engineering tests and studies, and it is estimated that boring under the strait could begin in five years time. According to the Spanish Transport Minister 27 million euros will be invested in this preliminary stage of geological survey by each of the two countries over the next three years. The 24-mile tunnel will probably extend between Punta Palima (40km west of Gibraltar) and Punta Malabata near Tangiers and would require boring between 100 and 300 metres below the sea bed. The final decision on the route will be made once all geological studies have been completed. A joint committee was set up by Morocco and Spain at the beginning of December setting out the 2004-2006 action plan and the budget of 27 million euros. The final cost of the tunnel will be between three and 10 billion euros. Morocco and Spain will seek financial assistance from the European Union for research and infrastructure.

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