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Monday, August 11, 2008


I understand that the Spanish Foreign Ministry has produced the latest edition of its hand book on Gibraltar. Whilst much is forward-looking, such as the Forum of Dialogue to improve relations between Gibraltar and the wider Campo de Gibraltar region on the Spanish side of the border, one policy is set in stone.

“The Spanish Government maintains its claim for the return of the sovereignty over Gibraltar as irrevocable.”

Nor will this change. Gibraltar is in a mix with the Spanish enclaves in North Africa of Ceuta and Melilla. These were taken by Spain in 1580 and 1496 respectively. Morocco claims them both in the same way that Spain maintains its sovereignty over Gibraltar that was taken by the English in 1704 and ceded in perpetuity in the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713.

Geographically Gibraltar is part of the Iberian Peninsula and the enclaves are parts of Morocco. The politics are of course different. Ceuta and Melilla are integral provinces of Spain. Gibraltar was/is a British colony (that is debatable it seems even at the British Foreign Office) and many Gibraltarians view themselves as a nation.

Now if Morocco renounced its claim to Ceuta and Melilla then Spain might follow suit with Gibraltar – but that is not going to happen. Nor is either country going to renounce their claim to the enclaves or Gibraltar independently.

However if Spain could regain sovereignty over Gibraltar then, having saved face, it might be prepared to give away Ceuta and Melilla. Indeed the pressure on it to do so would be overwhelming.

All this is some years off and will involve wider political relations between Britain, Spain and Morocco and the EU. Come though I am convinced it will and we must just make sure that the political wishes of the people of Gibraltar are upheld and not cast aside in a wider political fix.

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