With the triumph on Sunday in Greece of the Syriza anti austerity party, Spain's version, Podemos under the leadership of Pablo Iglesias, and ahead in the opinion polls for the next national election, celebrated and addressed the issue of Gibraltar saying relations between the Rock and neighboring La Línea should not fall victim to political opportunism.
The La Linea branch of Podemos will champion good cross-border relations based on mutual trust, the group said this weekend. In its first policy statement on Gibraltar, Podemos La Linea said the relationship between La Linea and Gibraltar should not fall victim to ‘political opportunism’.
This is the first time that Podemos La Linea has spoken out about Gibraltar and the group stressed it was doing so at a local level, adding that the party’s overall foreign policy toward the Rock must be established nationally.
But the statement, made in email exchanges in response to queries from the Gibraltar Chronicle nonetheless draw attention both in the UK Overseas Territory and in Spain, more so after the election results in Greece at the weekend.
The La Linea branch has been validated into the national structure of Podemos and intends to field candidates in the forthcoming municipal election next May. If the party wins seats in the town council, it could exert influence on policies and decision with cross-border implications.
“Podemos La Linea advocates for the establishment of cordial neighborly relations with Gibraltar based on mutual trust,” the group said in its statement to the Chronicle. “Podemos La Linea believes that good neighborly relations with Gibraltar must be above political opportunism.”
“We are willing to assess and, if appropriate, back concrete local proposals that will benefit the city.” Focusing on the border, Podemos La Linea acknowledged the need for Spain to comply with Schengen obligations and clamp down on tobacco smuggling.
But it also said that a fluid border was in La Linea’s best interests and that police and customs controls “…should be conducted in a manner that avoids the significant harm caused by the long queues on entry and exit.”
“We believe it is imperative that both the Spanish Government and the Gibraltar Government comply with the recommendations made by the experts from the European Commission and adopt the necessary measures to ensure traffic is as fluid as possible,” the party said.
Next May will be the first time that Podemos La Linea stands in municipal elections in that town. It will campaign under the banner La Línea Sí Puede and urge a break from traditional mainstream political parties.
The wider appeal of Podemos was already tested in La Linea during European elections last year. In that election, Podemos secured 1,116 votes, or 7.9% of the total in La Linea, putting it ahead of older established parties including UPyD and the Partido Andalucista, with 6.9% and 3.5% respectively.
That result placed Podemos fourth in the ranking in La Linea behind PSOE with 34.6% of the vote, the PP with 24.4% and Izquierda Unida with 10.4% of the vote. However at national level polls indicate a slight advantage of Podemos over the traditional parties.