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EC calls on Spain and Gibraltar for a “constructive dialogue” and cooperation on border controls

Friday, November 15th 2013 - 17:01 UTC
Full article 97 comments
Spain has been forcing long queues and delays in the border with Gibraltar as part of an ongoing dispute over control of the bay's waters Spain has been forcing long queues and delays in the border with Gibraltar as part of an ongoing dispute over control of the bay's waters
UK Minister for Europe Lidington said he expects the Spanish government to act on the Commission's recommendations UK Minister for Europe Lidington said he expects the Spanish government to act on the Commission's recommendations

The European Commission called on Friday for daily cooperation between Gibraltar and Spain regarding the ongoing dispute over border controls and “encourages all relevant authorities to strengthen their constructive dialogue with their counterparts for this purpose”.

 The EC “is of the opinion that the results in fighting smuggling and cross-border crime as well as maintaining a smooth flow of traffic can best be achieved through daily cooperation between the authorities working on each side of the border”, said the release made public.

The Commission also anticipates it will continue to monitor the situation at the crossing point of La Linea and has asked to receive information from both authorities within six months on how the recommendations have been taken into consideration, and does not discard a further visit to the crossing, motive of the controversy.

The full text of the EC statement follows:

Today the European Commission sent letters to the authorities of Spain and the United Kingdom addressing the issues raised by the border and customs controls between Spain and Gibraltar.

During the past years, the Commission has received a series of complaints about the checks made by the Spanish authorities at the border with Gibraltar. To better understand the specificities of the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción, the Commission organized a technical visit on 25 September 2013.

On the basis of its observations during this technical visit and of the information provided by both authorities, the Commission has not found evidence to conclude that the checks on persons and goods as operated by the Spanish authorities at the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción have infringed the relevant provisions of Union law.

The management of this crossing point is nevertheless challenging, in view of the heavy traffic volumes in a relatively confined space and the increase in tobacco smuggling into Spain. The Commission believes that the authorities on both sides could take further measures to better address these challenges, and is addressing three recommendations to both Member States.

In its letter to Spain, the Commission recommends: 1) to optimize the physical space available on the Spanish side of the crossing point in view of ensuring a greater fluidity of traffic (and in particular to review the traffic organization on entry into Spain and on exit from Spain in order to increase the number of vehicular lanes for travelers or to make better use of the existing lines); 2) to optimize risk-based profiling: carrying out more targeted checks, based on a refined risk analysis, in order to reduce the large amount of random border controls and 3) to develop the exchange of information with the United Kingdom on tobacco smuggling.

In its letter to the United Kingdom, the Commission recommends: 1) to develop risk-based profiling (in particular Gibraltar should ensure non-systematic and risk analysis-based checks on travelers and their belongings upon exit from Gibraltar at the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción); 2) optimizing legislation and safeguards in view of contributing to an efficient fight against tobacco smuggling and 3) develop the exchange of intelligence on tobacco smuggling with Spain.

Lastly, as for any border crossing point, the Commission is of the opinion that the results in fighting smuggling and cross-border crime as well as maintaining a smooth flow of traffic can best be achieved through daily cooperation between the authorities working on each side of the border. The Commission thus encourages all relevant authorities to strengthen their constructive dialogue with their counterparts for this purpose.

The Commission will continue to monitor the situation at the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción and has asked to receive information from both authorities within six months on how the recommendations have been taken into consideration.

The Commission reserves the right to reconsider its position should the situation change or evolve and also to pay another visit to the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción if appropriate in the future.“

British Minister for Europe David Lidington welcomed the European Commission’s announcement of clear recommendations for Spain to improve the functioning of the Gibraltar-Spain border and follow up within six months.

“Unacceptable border delays of up to four hours continue to impact on peoples’ lives in and around Gibraltar. It is right that the Commission is making strong recommendations to the Spanish government to improve the situation, and I welcome their commitment to follow up within six months. We and the Government of Gibraltar have said for years that there are simple measures Spain could and should take, such as increasing the number of lanes and resources at the border, to improve border functioning. I fully expect the Spanish government to act on Commission’s recommendations”, said Minister Lidington.

“The fact that the Commission has hinted at a possible future visit further demonstrates their ongoing concern. It is unsurprising that the Commission found insufficient evidence that Spain is breaking EU law, as the Spanish checks were significantly reduced during the Commission’s visit. We remain confident that the Spanish government has acted – and continues to act – unlawfully, through introducing disproportionate and politically motivated checks at the Gibraltar-Spain border. And we will continue to provide evidence of that to the Commission”.

Categories: Politics, International.

Top Comments

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  • A_Voice

    Well what a surprise.....not.
    Were the Brits expecting support from the EC?
    Time to pull the same stunt on Spanish Nationals entering the UK and all Spanish Lorries at Calais. Then the same for them leaving...
    See if the EC finds any fault with that!

    Nov 15th, 2013 - 05:45 pm 0
  • Boovis

    So, please explain again: how do Spanish checks on vehicles entering Gibraltar stop the smuggling of goods going out? The EU didn't spot this little problem with the logic?

    Nov 15th, 2013 - 06:32 pm 0
  • Vestige

    1- And Spain can respond likewise.

    Anyway, Gibraltar, they wanted a border - they got a border.

    Those concrete blocks really were a bad move. Escalated now, neither side will, nae, can back down, strongest EU response was a somewhat ambiguous letter, expect delays to continue indefinitely.

    Nov 15th, 2013 - 06:56 pm 0
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