Gibraltar Governor Sir Francis Richards has acknowledged Spain's courage in entering into a new forum of dialogue involving the British Overseas Territory and has also criticised those in Spain seeking to return to past values and times.
In his traditional Christmas message Sir Francis commented on 2004 as an "extraordinary year".
"This has been an extraordinary year. Everybody in Gibraltar has been a part of the celebrations of our Tercentenary, and I am sure you will all have your own personal favourite memories of it. Of course there were the big public events, and very splendid they were ? The Princess Royal memorably successful visit, the Freedom of the City for the Royal Navy, the visit of the four ex-Governors ? and the great moment of the hands around The Rock, which captured the imagination of the world. Just as important in their way were the imaginative exhibitions and projects undertaken by schools, institutions and individuals, which have helped a new generation of Gibraltarians to discover and celebrate their past."
"But what I shall remember most of all is the wonderful spirit of ordinary Gibraltarians as they came together on the streets in that week in August ? a spirit of good humour, pride and thanksgiving, a generous spirit without a trace of triumphalism or malice. I believe that the way that Gibraltar marked this milestone in our history has done its people great credit. I believe too that it has not just celebrated the ties that bind Gibraltar and the United Kingdom together, but has made them stronger. My wife and I feel greatly privileged to have been here and to have played our part in this great event."
"But the year has had its share of darker moments too. We all joined in the shock and grief of the Spanish people at the appalling loss of life in the terrorist attacks of 11 March. We can never afford to forget that it is only the strength of our close-knit community, together with the vigilance not just of the security forces but of every one of you, that protects us from the same dangers."
"There has, however, been one most welcome development this year. The new Government in Spain has had the humanity and the imagination ? and let us acknowledge it, the courage ? to make a fresh start in its dealings with the United Kingdom and Gibraltar Governments over Gibraltar. They have not changed their position or their objectives in relation to Gibraltar. Nor have we ? Gibraltar and the UK ? changed ours. But we have all agreed to look forward instead of back, and to discuss both our common interests and our differences as European friends and neighbours, and with due recognition of the part that Gibraltar itself must play in that process. Will this new climate last? Well, I certainly hope so. It's disappointing to see many commentators in Spain who should know better arguing for a return to the policies of confrontation. Those policies didn't work in the Great Siege. They haven't worked since. They won't work now. In the long run, I am certain that the new spirit will prevail. It is the only way to go. I hope and trust that we shall see more progress along that road in 2005."
"The Rock is a great place for storms of every kind. We have had our share in 2004, and I am sure that we shall face plenty of political turbulence and challenge in the year ahead. But we shall be ready for it. I do believe that we end 2004 stronger than we started it, and with our ties to the United Kingdom and the relationship between Gibraltar and Madrid in better shape than for some time past. As we get together with our families this Christmas, we have a great deal to give thanks for. I wish you all a peaceful and happy holiday season, and success and prosperity in 2005."