Spain has told the United Nations Committee of 24 (C24) that despite the “impasse afflicting the Brussels process”, Madrid's goodwill allows regional co-operation with Gibraltar and UK to continue under the Tripartite Forum.
But it declared that advances in the Forum “are being hampered by the insistence of the local government of the colony to address aspects related to sovereignty that are the sole responsibility of the United Kingdom and Spain.”
Juan Pablo de Laiglesias, Spain's UN Ambassador, said that differences over sovereignty and jurisdiction should be resolved through bilateral negotiations “as the mandate of the United Nations, inspired by the work of the Special Committee on Decolonisation, has repeatedly pointed out” and warned about what he described as “colonialism by consent”.
He urged the C24 to stick to UN procedures and “not to allow territories to be removed from the relevant UN list using arguments alien to the criteria of this Committee.” He said he was confident that in this way the progress that decolonisation of Gibraltar requires could be achieved.
De Laiglesias was emphatic on distinguishing between decolonisation for territories that only need to show they can self-govern and those where there is a sovereignty dispute.
Where there is no sovereignty dispute the opinion of the population is, he declared, the determining factor in the path to decolonisation.
But he said a case by case review also showed that in certain territories “it is the inhabitants of the territory who, seeing their economic stability guaranteed, give up their political independence. These are cases of 'colonialism by consent' that seek to perpetuate themselves, regardless of the criteria of this committee.”
“This assumption,” he added, “is especially problematic when attempting to maintain the existing situation at the expense of the legitimate rights of a third party, as has been happening in other cases, such as that of Gibraltar, which is the one that interests my country.”
The Ambassador argued that in Gibraltar's case the UN has recognised that “the colonial situation disrupts the unity and territorial integrity of Spain and the Administering Power itself admits that the independence of its colony is not possible against the wishes of Spain.”
He said that these two factors are reason enough to consider the need to adopt a practical approach. “It is not realistic to think that the Government of Spain could ever accept the perpetuation of the present situation in which the administering power and the colony seek to ignore Spain's legitimate right under the Treaty of Utrecht and the doctrine of the United Nations.”
In fact UK was not present because it does not regard the C24 as the place to deal with issues such as Gibraltar's decolonisation.