The Gibraltar Government has included the long queues of last Thursday afternoon at the frontier with Spain in its latest report to the European Union. Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said the report will be presented “in order to draw attention to the manner in which the Spanish government is implementing the recommendations made by the commission”.
“The effects of these seem to be designed to cause as much disruption as possible,” added Dr Garcia. The picture shows the extent of the queue at the border on Thursday afternoon.
Last week also the Gibraltar government released a report saying tourist expenditure on the Rock has dropped by over £111 million since 2011. In effect expenditure plummeted from £279.79m in 2011 to £168.04m in 2014, according to the 2014 Tourist Survey Report tabled in Parliament during the budget session.
The drop reflects the impact of frontier delays on cross-border traffic, together with other factors including a weak Euro against the Sterling pound and lower petrol prices.
The queues which started on Thursday early afternoon began when the new passport e-gates at the frontier going into Spain became operational. At one point the waiting time was as long as 40 minutes in the heat of the afternoon, but there were reports of some people having to wait up to an hour and the queues lasting late into the evening.
The reports to the EU by the Gibraltar Government are sent periodically and also carry photographic evidence.
In a statement the Gibraltar Government said that whilst the Spanish authorities may claim that they were merely testing new security equipment at the frontier, the Gibraltar Government will stress that the equipment was being tested just at the time which would cause the maximum disruption.
“The main impact of the delays was on persons who work in Gibraltar and who live in Spain, including many thousands of Spanish workers who commute in and out of Gibraltar every day, as well on people coming to Gibraltar on a tourism visit or on business,” said Dr Garcia adding that the consequence of the new systems being conducted by the Spanish authorities on pedestrians was felt particularly strongly by the elderly, young children and disabled persons in wheelchairs who were made to wait to cross the border from Gibraltar into Spain.
Meanwhile Europa Press reported Spanish Interior Minister Jorge Fernandez Diaz had visited the port of Algeciras on Thursday to see at first hand the new intelligence system in place.
Commenting on the new operation at the border he explained how following the recommendations of the European Union, the Spanish Government had installed the system “to facilitate the transit of people and vehicles to Gibraltar.” He added ”it is operating normally and one hundred percent.”
Fernandez Diaz further explained that the system had first come into play at the border earlier than the commitment made by Spain to the EU. He explained there were 13 booths installed in the area.
Finally as to the report tabled in Gibraltar's parliament referred to tourism expenditure, also cautioned that the expenditure estimate is a ‘finger in the air’ snapshot partly based on sample interviews rather than empirical data, adding that other indicators point to resilience in Gibraltar’s tourism product.
The number of visitors staying in hotels has increased and they are staying longer, as well as spending more. Likewise, cruise excursionists are growing in number and expenditure.