Spain believes negotiation with Britain is the only realistic avenue for a resolution of the claim it makes over Gibraltar and its waters and that only by a decision of the United Nations can decolonization of the Rock be settled.
The view is expressed in a detailed answer to questions from Basque MP Jon Iñarritu released this last week.
In a four page statement which looks at historic issues since 1704, the Spanish Government sets out that the basic elements of the position at the UN are that Gibraltar is a colony, that ‘self-determination’ has not been recognized by the UN for Gibraltarians, but that instead the “colonial situation of Gibraltar destroys the national unity and territorial integrity of Spain.”
The rehearsal of this largely classic doctrine from Spain comes as talks on Gibraltar are in stalemate and the UN Committee of 24 is about to open its sessions with plans for the annual decolonization seminar.
Spain makes clear in its response that recourse to the courts would be a measure of last resort that in all events requires agreement between the UK and Spain.
“The question of Gibraltar should be resolved by bilateral negotiations between UK and Spain which have been recommended by the UN since 1965. Only the UN can decide when the decolonization process of Gibraltar has been completed and until that moment Gibraltar will continue to be in the UN list of dependent territories,” says the document adding that any such negotiations should take into account the “interests” of the “colony’s population.”
The Madrid government gives particular emphasis to the change of the UN unanimous decision reached last autumn after the Fourth Committee meeting in October 2013.
It highlights that “with the prior agreement of the UK” that where the decision refers to the “aspirations” of the people of Gibraltar it now also states that these must be “consistent with international law”. The PP government reading of this is that the wording “allows us to interpret that the aspirations may or may not be legitimate”. It sees this as a clear advance on the texts that had been approved since 2004 and that this took the position back to the 2004 position
Spain’s position on court action is also detailed. Essentially this is seen as an option of last resort “by both sides” who, it reiterates, have committed at the UN to seek a negotiated solution.
Going to court, be it the International Court of Justice or the International tribunal of the Right of the Sea, would, says the Spanish government require both sides to agree the terms.
Spain defends its ‘controls’ at the frontier saying that these arise from the fact that Gibraltar is outside Schengen and not in the Customs Union. It highlights tobacco smuggling issues adding that it will not give up these responsibilities and that “further strengthening of measures cannot be ruled out in the future.”
The statement also reiterates the statement by Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia Margallo that whilst Spain does not rule out any legal challenge over Gibraltar it considers that such a route is very serious and requires close analysis. Equally it points out that García Margallo made clear that prior to any such move the matter would first be taken to the Spanish parliament for discussion and agreement.