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EU team begins collecting data on Spain/Gibraltar border crossing row

Thursday, September 26th 2013 - 05:28 UTC
Full article 9 comments
On Wednesday morning, drivers were queuing at the border for up to two hours, according to Gibraltar authorities. On Wednesday morning, drivers were queuing at the border for up to two hours, according to Gibraltar authorities.

A team of European Union inspectors are visiting Gibraltar to investigate a border row that has caused diplomatic tensions between the UK and Spain. London and British Overseas Territory Gibraltar complained to the EU that Spain's over-zealous checks on border traffic were holding up workers and tourists. Spain accuses Gibraltar of not doing enough to combat cigarette smuggling.

The six inspectors have been interviewing people and observing immigration and customs procedures.

A group of Spanish workers who have to cross the border to get to work followed the inspectors, waving signs protesting about the border queues.

A spokesman for the group - the ASCTEG - said it would have been “sensible” not to announce the inspection and let the inspectors “see what the queue is really like” instead.

On Wednesday morning, drivers were queuing at the border for up to two hours, according to Gibraltar authorities.

Gibraltar's chief minister Fabian Picardo said he hoped the inspectors' visit would offer a solution to the situation at the border. He added he planned to provide the team with any requested documents and allow them access to all areas needed for their work, and insisted Gibraltar had “nothing to hide”.

Spain's interior minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz said he was convinced the team would find out the scale of tobacco smuggling taking place in Gibraltar.

He said Spain would assist the team however they could, but warned that tighter border controls would continue until the Gibraltar authorities helped to end tobacco smuggling.

The row broke out in July when Spanish authorities increased checks at the Gibraltar border, saying they were necessary to tackle tobacco smuggling.

Gibraltar, though, said the strict checks came after it dropped 74 concrete blocks into the sea next to its territory, intended to create an artificial reef and encourage sea life to flourish.

Spain said the blocks would disrupt waters used by its fishing boats, but denied that the development had prompted its increased border checks.

Britain says the border checks break EU free movement rules, and last month UK Prime Minister David Cameron told the EU Commission he had “serious concerns” that Spain's actions were “politically motivated”.

The visiting team of inspectors comes from the customs union, justice services and anti-fraud office of the European Commission, which is the EU executive arm.

They held a three-hour meeting with Gibraltar officials before inspecting the border crossing. They are expected to do the same on the Spanish side.
 

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • LEPRecon

    Oh so its now cigarette smuggling. Last week it was because it was a tax haven. The week before that it was because of environmental issues. The week before that it was because of a 'supposed' incursion into Spanish waters. The week before that it was because they had laid down concrete blocks.

    The Spanish are changing their story so frequently that their desperation is showing through. The know that if the EU rules against their so-called 'border' checks, that they have lost more than just face.

    Sep 26th, 2013 - 06:13 am 0
  • Islander1

    Spain - do please produce a list of the numbers of tobacco smuggling intercepts you have made at the border and the amount of tobacco found at each time in the last 6 month - OR - shut up.

    Sep 26th, 2013 - 09:24 am 0
  • Conqueror

    “Gibraltar, though, said the strict checks came after it dropped 74 concrete blocks into the sea next to its territory, intended to create an artificial reef and encourage sea life to flourish.” Bit of inaccuracy there. The blocks were dropped INSIDE Gibraltar's territory. Territory that Spanish poachers regularly and illegally invade. The Bay of Gibraltar is approximately 5 miles wide. In accordance with UNCLOS, half that belongs to Gibraltar. There have been suggestions that the British government is giving consideration to extending Gibraltar's territorial waters to the maximum possible in each direction. That would be two and half miles in the Bay, but 12 miles to the east and south!

    Sep 26th, 2013 - 10:18 am 0
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