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Monday, September 1, 2008


Over the years I have long argued that the day may come that sees Gibraltar in some form become Spanish and both Ceuta and Melilla become part of the state of Morocco.

The two enclaves on the north coast of Morocco have been Spanish for centuries. Melilla was occupied by Spain in 1496 whilst Ceuta was captured in 1580. Gibraltar in contrast was taken for England in 1704 and ceded in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

The status of the Spanish enclaves and Gibraltar are very different. Ceuta and Melilla are integral parts of Spain – as Spanish as the mainland provinces of Málaga and Cádiz to which they have close ties. By contrast Gibraltar has been an often ill-used British colony. It is probable that the Rock is no longer a colony as such, although opinion is divided on that point.

Ceuta and Melilla play a part in the every day life of Spain voting in the nation’s general elections. Gibraltar has been considered little more than a military base, its strategic importance ebbing and flowing with the tide of world affairs, where the views and opinions of the residents have been given scant regard with no official voice at Westminster.

Spanish politicians and the Royal Family visit the enclaves on a regular basis. Only British politicians involved in the day-to-day affairs of Gibraltar visit there and no monarch would contemplate a visit for fear of offending Spain.

However both Ceuta, Melilla and Gibraltar share something in common. All three are coveted by Morocco or Spain. The visits of Spanish royals to the enclaves cause outrage in Morocco but Madrid doesn’t care. As I said no British monarch would visit Gibraltar because the Foreign Office in London would quake in its boots at the mere suggestion. Gibraltar has never been an integral part of Britain hence London’s indifference to defending the Rock’s interests over its own.

It is probably true to say that the people of Morocco do want to see the Spanish enclaves become part of their nation. As it is not a democracy it is hard to tell. In contrast the majority of Spaniards, except those in the Campo de Gibraltar, have no strong views on the Rock other than a vague sense that it should be Spanish.

This is reflected in a recent survey in El Mundo were just 12 per cent of Spaniards said they would not mind if Ceuta and Melilla were handed over to Morocco, so long as Gibraltar became Spanish. Only 5 per cent believe the enclaves should be handed over to Morocco immediately. In contrast 70 per cent take the view that the Spanish Government should protect Ceuta and Melilla “because they are as Spanish as any other cities” in mainland Spain. I should add that I do not believe that the man and woman on the Clapham omnibus hold any such strong views on Gibraltar. Llanitos may look to Britain but if Britons look in this direction at all it is to the holiday resorts of mainland Spain and its islands.

Whilst Gibraltar is not high on the agenda of the Spanish public, even if it registers at all, the fact is the Rock is a political Holy Grail. No party, especially on the right, is going to give up the sovereignty claim, and no party on the left is going to be accused of doing so, especially when there are so many other real issues to make a stand on.

However the problem remains. Gibraltar will always be a thorn in Anglo-Spanish relations especially as Britain has been seen to weaken and seek some form of joint sovereignty. Morocco has been given no such joy by Spain but these two nations face each other across the Strait of Gibraltar and peace, harmony and joint development is very much on the agenda.

I still believe that if Britain allows Gibraltar to become Spanish in some form then the pressure from Morocco will force Spain to move on Melilla and Ceuta. Or, if Morocco exerts strong pressure on Spain, a deal will be needed on Gibraltar to save face in Madrid. The decision might even be made on a tri-nation basis with, I suspect, joint-sovereignty being the key. I fear that when the time comes for such an international deal the views and wishes of the people of Gibraltar, Ceuta and Melilla will be given scant regard. The interests of thousands will not be allowed to stand in the way of the will of millions; they never have even in democracies.


Lenox said...

(From a recent piece on spanish shilling) ‘Gibraltar is a colony and should be Spanish’.
Sounds good to me. Let me walk you though what would happen.

1 Gibraltar becomes part of Spain. English is by necessity added to Spanish, Galego, Euskara, Valenciano, and Català as another official language of the Spanish State.
2 Gibraltar sues for independence from Spain, supported by the Basques, the Galicians, the Catalonians, the Mallorcans, (some of) the Valencians, the people from Cartagena in Murcia and the Olivencians. And, of course, by the British.
3 Gibraltar, currently a bi-lingual society, decides to remove castellano from its school curriculum.
4 Manuel Chaves, the Robert Mugabe of Europe, decides that Andalucía must become an independent state and he crowns himself emperor. The andaluces are forced to learn ninth century Arabic.
5 Those of us who wish to remain living in Spain will eventually be obliged to move to one of the only two areas which will never (ever) reject their true loyalty to the King and the orange and yellow flag. Ceuta and Melilla.

Anonymous said...

"Dear Sancho, Do you have any suggested reading/websites relating to the history behind the campo de Gibraltar; namely the role that it took during wartime and since. Regards, Nigel."

If any readers have any names of books or websites please contact me via this blog.

Anonymous said...

¡GIBRALTAR ESPAÑOL! Este es el grito de guerra de todos los españoles. Soy una ignorante pero te voy a dar mi opinión sobre Marruecos.Yo no tengo conocimientos ni sé si estamos hablando de ocupación, colonización, etc., o qué.
Geográficamente Ceuta y Melilla están en el continente Africano por lo cual se supone que deberían pertener a Marruecos. La mayoría de los ciudadanos son españoles o pro-españoles y si pasan a depender de Marruecos se marcharán de allí, desgraciadamente solo les espera miseria. Están mucho más atrasados que los españoles. Que les den por el culo (perdon).
¿Qué pasó con el Sáhara español? Un desastre.
También los Llanitos saben que es mejor ser amigos de Inglaterra porque está más avanzada y volver con España representa un atraso. La gente no es tonta, los políticos sí.
Así es la vida - todo se basa en el interés.

Anonymous said...

Interesting and realistic article. It is very true that 'llanitos' don't want Spain and Spanish people (not all of them) I mean, they feel themselves superior. Some earn a lot of money and come over to Spain to enjoy life in our great and beautiful spots. The exception is that others of course like friendly relations and come to live here buying houses and plots - but, if you hear them speak they always want to be right or they think the truth is theirs. (sorry that I don't express myself in English as well as in Spanish). My mother is from Gibraltar, my father was Spanish. I am as many people who live in the Campo Area, half Spanish and half from Gibraltar or llanita. You know about cancer's statistics in this part of Spain due to the refinery which I do not doubt BUT, there is always a tendency to accuse Spain about this. When nuclear submarines are in the rock, all mouths in Gibraltar are shut. What I try to tell you is that Spain is always BLAMED. ''Es que es español'', haven't you ever heard this?? We, the human nature ''is from the world''. Wouldn't it be easier not to be always accusing? I know, I know, Spanish people also talk and by my words you can see that really I am Spanish BUT feel myself from Gibraltar too, I have been raised there.