Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said he hopes for dialogue with Britain soon regarding Gibraltar, but added that until talks take place his government would continue to consider unilateral measures to defend Spanish interests. He said the country will take “all legal measures” to protect its interests in Gibraltar.
Rajoy also urged ‘four flag’ quadripartite talks involving Spain and UK along with Gibraltar and the Junta de Andalucia - a nuance on the ‘Brussels’ bilateral which included Gibraltar and the Campo Mancomunidad in respective national delegations.
Tensions over Gibraltar flared up last week when Spain complained about the artificial reef being built by Gibraltar to protect marine life but which would block its fishing vessels from using illegal nets and rakes.
“I hope that this doesn’t go any further, but it’s clear that Spain has to defend its national interest and that’s what we’re going to do,” Rajoy said to reporters after a meeting with Spain’s King Juan Carlos in Mallorca.
Spain says it is considering measures such as a 50-Euro fee for people entering Gibraltar from Spain and vice versa, tax investigations of Gibraltarians with property in Spain and restrictions on use of its airspace for flights going to Gibraltar airport.
Rajoy said he had a constructive phone conversation on Wednesday with Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron to try to bring a war of words over Gibraltar to an end.
Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo spoke with his British counterpart on Wednesday. Whilst Garcia Margallo later said they agreed to set up working groups on issues such as fishing, the No 6 Convent Place made clear no working groups had been agreed.
Telemadrid reported Sr Margallo as saying that if a toll was imposed in La Linea it would not affect workers “of whatever nationality.” He also said that they were examining the legality of any measures that might be imposed. But he sought to argue, in a statement to ABC newspaper that this would not be a frontier toll but a congestion charge.
Speaking on Onda Cero the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Gonzalo de Benito, said that measures considered affected air traffic, sea and changes in gaming laws”. He said that in response to actions by the Gibraltar authorities Spain was seeking to “strictly impose the law”.
He argued that these controls (at the border) were a small price to pay for making the Gibraltar authorities “return to the dialogue we have always had.”
Spanish opposition PSOE secretary for Europe Juan Moscoso has said his party will seek Garcia-Margallo’s appearance before the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Spanish Parliament and demand a detailed explanation on recent events. The PSOE have also formally written to the Spanish Government offering support for dialogue that reduces the current tension.