Monday, 22 November 2010

Could the UK Resist Bilateral Sovereignty Talks?

In the last week Peter Caruana and Julio Montesino Ramos (a Spanish diplomat who attends the Trilateral Forum) have spoken in academic events in Algeciras. Peter Caruana has emphasized that Gibraltar has an undertaking that the UK will not attend bilateral talks with Spain under the Brussels Accord without the consent of Gibraltar. His take on this is that it leaves Spain only the Trilateral Forum within which to discuss Gibraltar issues. A huge problem results because this forum, we are told by the participants (so termed by Spain, in lieu of "parties"), is not about sovereignty it is about cooperation, whilst, as we all know, the problem is not one of cooperation, it is about sovereignty.

The UK's position on Gibraltar does not warrant that it should be doubted. Its commitment not to transfer Gibraltar's sovereignty to Spain is frequently repeated publicly and enshrined in the preamble to the 2006 and the earlier Constitutions. It will not betray it. The undertaking not to hold bilateral talks on sovereignty under Brussels seems to be a reflection of this commitment.

The other side of the equation is, that despite Gibraltar's reservations on the issue, both the UK (most recently in the Despatch to the 2006 Constitution) and Spain consider the Treaty of Utrecht to be extant and to be the foundation of British sovereignty of Gibraltar. If this is the position, and it is difficult to see how a treaty that is constantly given life and affirmed by its two signatories can be denied, then ultimately the issue of sovereignty is a bilateral one. What cannot be denied also is the substantial and undeniable recognition that the UK has given to the people of Gibraltar.

It is a recognition that Spain has been forced to accept and take into consideration in pursuing what it considers to be its unalienable claim to sovereignty of Gibraltar. Recent pronouncements by Ministros de Asuntos Exteriores have been conciliatory and attempt, with careful use of language, to take into account the existence of and views of Gibraltar. Hence, this is one of the factors that has eventually resulted in, what Spain describe as, the Trilateral "foro de dialogo".

So where does it leave the situation? Well, essentially, where the new Spanish Ministro de Asuntos Exteriores has said. It leaves everyone, for now, with the Trilateral Forum as the softening up process by which Spain hopes to show Gibraltar that a change in sovereignty is not so adverse to Gibraltar as is thought. A difficult if not impossible task but a path that Spain has to tread. When it has trodden that path, whether successfully or not, the question will remain, in short, what about sovereignty which is a bilateral issue? It is a claim that Spain has in the face of British Sovereignty vested by treaty in the UK.

If Spain wants to talk about sovereignty, would the UK seriously be able to resist, at least, talking to Spain? Perhaps the hint is in what Julio Montesino Ramos is reported as having said: "Issues of sovereignty should be discussed with the United Kingdom at a bilateral level in the so called Brussels process ... but it could have any name. There must be a bilateral negotiating process which is ,logically, seperated and independent from the forum". What happens if and when Spain insists? Could the Trilateral Forum survive such an eventuality? If not, what is Gibraltar doing there at all?


  1. Again, as Peter Caruana made clear in his printed Ministerial Statement on 12 October 2006 "what is bilateral is the references to sovereignty in the texts (Cordoba Communique), not the issue of sovereignty itself". Was he playing with words or do we really have nothing to worry about?

  2. Fred says:

    Robert, not many takers on this one, maybe we've done sovereignty to death; how about we switch to the Chamber's comments about Customs checks at the border? Hardly a way to entice the Gibraltar public to spend more in Gib? Is the Chamber going to grass us to Customs when we bring polvorones and pata jamon?! There'll be riots!

    And, how many businesses are still in arrears with tax? Can the Chamber please supply us with those figures?

    Maybe it's a clever ploy to instigate organisational reform in Customs? Maybe Mr Caruana has told Customs to go easy on Gibraltarians in these troubled economic times?

    The drugs and security line put out by Mr Mcquisten is blatant scare mongering.

  3. Quill said...

    Does one honestly believe that Spain would ever use the Trilateral talks as an official forum to discuss sovereignty? It would be pushing reality a bit too far in the case of a PP government and in the case of a PSOE goverment it would merely be stretching their luck too far with their electorate, in admitting that Gibraltar has an equal voice when negotiating sovereignty.

    I am in no doubt that both the British and Spanish Foreign Ministries (at manardin level) constantly talk and discuss about Gibraltar's sovereignty and when it comes to the Trilateral Talks their respective Foreign Ministers simply test the waters with Peter Caruana at an un-offical level, to see which way the pedulum can be swayed and how far.

  4. Fred:

    I agree but two things, first the political world has gone very quiet in Gibraltar and second I really wanted to say this!

    On the Chamber of Commerce, I have written a short letter to the Editor of the Chronic. I hope it gets published.

  5. Fred says:

    Robert, I look forward to the letter. As an aside, have you thought about putting your letters online?

    Why has it gone quiet politically? It's not Eid al-Adha, Diwali, Christmas or Chanukah - what's going on?!

  6. Maybe things have gone quiet in Gibraltar because everyone has finally cottoned on to the fact that in the main politics here only attracts chancers, second raters and hypocrites who think that the rest of us are imbeciles. I exclude from this damning statement Caruana, Bossano, Feetham, Alvarez, Gomez, Vasquez, Guerrero and Montiel ...

  7. Fred says:

    Anon 19:43, I was not aware that Messrs Alvarez and Vasquez, and Ms Guerrero, were in politics...

  8. Do all the people of gibraltar have these fundamental rights:

    a) to live in peace?

    b)to live in order?

    c) to have good government?

    What's peace, order and good government?

    And what's the deal on each: historically and nowadays:

    aa) with Spain?

    bb) with Britain?

    cc) locally?

    Is our loyalty, dependency and strong link to Britain not rooted in a) to c) and aa) to cc)?

    Is our total rejection of the Kingdom of Spain not rooted in a) to c) and aa) to cc)?

    Is the local polarisation/divisions not rooted in a) to c) and aa) to cc)?

  9. Ghost says:

    Robert, I gotta agree with Fred, I thought we'd exhausted this one? I thought we all agreed that the trilateral is what it is, a forum in which all three parties can communicate.

    Is it a means to an end for Spain to fulfill its position on sovereignty? No more than it is a means to an end for Gibraltar to confirm and protect its position on sovereignty. Its a stale mate and from that point of view it s a win for Gib in that we get a forum of communication with a right of veto. One would have hoped that it might have been a move into the 21st century for Spain, this is what I believe may well have been the initial intent from Madrid. You see, quite apart from the 300 year old political position we have the hangover of expectation by many in Spain and for years we have almost become a political ping pong in which PP & PSOE use Gibraltar to arouse attention as is the case now with the PP, almost squeezing and baiting the PSOE to come out and say "Gibraltar Espanol".....a sorry state of affairs.

    The reality and back to my point, is that the intent with the Cordoba agreement well intentioned and limited as it was and is, serves as a process in itself, a process in which time will always side with the righteous and where the antiquated and historical positions can and will be weakened.

    The crucial point in my view and you rightly point it out is the temptation for the U.K to enter into bilateral talks with Spain. Will they? Well that question today remains as a firm NO; however, it will be our ability to continue to be strong socioeconomically that will drive the U.K's position, as I believe that with strength we have a chance. If we are weak as we were back in the 90's, then we truly run the risk and will be under threat with little to say about it.

    The basic fundamentals therefore being safe communication with Spain and Britain; but by far more important, our ability to stand strong and on our own two feet without any financial assistance.


  10. Ghost

    I agreed nothing ... time will tell. A process is a course of action. A course of action has a finality. In the case of Gibraltar the finality that is predetermined by treaty. We are where we can be let us leave it there. Messing around with Spain undermines us unless we want to tackle the fundamental issue. The majority do not want to. There is no need to talk about anything else. It only helps the other parties achieve their predetermined goal.

  11. Ghost says:

    Robert, it was a worth a try....I thought I might try pulling a fast one on you whilst you watched Gillian McKeith drown in "I'm a celebrity get me out of here"...classic stuff, but yet here we are in llanito world con las pajas mentales.

    A process Robert is described on Wiki as the following: "Process or processing typically describes the act of taking something through an established and usually routine set of procedures to convert it from one to an other" What on earth one might consider is routine about Gibraltar I do not know. This process that you continuously refer to has been flatly rejected by us and upheld by the U.K, time will not tell, it is quite literally being told at this stage in the game.

    I fully agree that a course of action has a finality and we are taking a course of action, one in which we are able to participate in, regardless of the fact that it does not put away the question of sovereignty; it is nonetheless an action and in this, as you say time will tell. Your suggestive course of action 9I assume) is do nothing and say nothing until Spain relinquishes its position on our sovereignty - now that would be a process.


  12. Ghost

    No, my suggestion is leave well alone.

    If what needs to be discussed is sovereignty, we discuss it if and when we are ready, until then we are doing all right, thank you very much. Any peripheral discussions can only undermine our negotiating position, if and when the time ever comes and we are ready to discuss sovereignty.

  13. Ghost says:

    Robert I see your point and cannot say that I don't understand your strategy.

    I fear though and it is for this reason that I mention Madrid's initial intent, that Spanish mindset and political approach to Gib at this stage would prevent anything related communication with Gibrltar and that does not have sovereignty talks on the agenda an impossible prospect.

    Therefore, the sell in my view and for the sake of creating a forum is to maintain a position that they have fought for 300 years and which is hardly likely to change overnight...its the process of changing mindset.

    The underlying and fundamental fact is that we can and will always respectfully decline negotiations on sovereignty.

    We have clearly beaten this banter to a pulp, so I will resist further. Thanks for entertaining me through the torment of reality T.V..:)


  14. Fred says:

    Ghost, I am afraid that I am with Robert, as I have agreed to nothing, and my position remains unchanged:for Spain Cordoba is a tactical move in arriving at its strategic objective of gaining soveriegnty over Gibraltar. This in itself is part of a braoder strategy to ensure hegemony in the Western Med and Eastern Atlantic.

    Please avoid trying to pull any more fast ones in future as it's unsporting and silly, in for most of us is a high stakes game involving our identity and security.

    What I find really shocking is that all the Europeanists seem to be so quiet, and have not even questioned that a Cordoba Agreement was necessary to arrive at most Europeans have access to by right. We should be ok now that a great liberal and Europeanist is Deputy PM in in the UK - we should all feel deeply reassured...

  15. Ghost says:

    Fred, my agreement with your posting was on the fact that we had already squeezed this debate to its fullest.

    The fast one was simply an attempt to lighten the tone, I am sorry that you could not see this. Your innuendo of my not taking our sovereignty seriously is unwarranted and has absolutely no bearing on a jest here and there, surely we are allowed some leeway to enjoy our banter; after all comic relief (on occasion) leads to more fruitful communication and develops better relationships.

    Your preferred strategy of communication without a sovereignty card will unfortunately get us nowhere.


  16. Fred says:


    I understood what you said, but with sovereignty I dare not jest.

    My preferred strategy is for honest communication between neighbours, but I know that Spain is incapable of this, so I see Spain as a tension/irritant to be managed, and not something that can be solved. Yes, as far as I am concerned it is Spain that has to solve itself, and has had to do so since 1936.

    Given the pseudo-Francoist rhetoric that exudes from the PP I cannot be as sanguine as Mr Caruana and think that the PP will somehow be more responsible in government. For starters they will target La Ley de Memoria Historica, and the next obvious targets will be Gibraltar and posturing against Morocco.

    I am also one of those who thinks that our relations with foreign states should extend beyond, and not be dictated by, Spain. (That's why it was so refreshing to see Mr Ron Proser visit Gibraltar some time back now).

    For too long we have been forced by many (especially Palomo, neo-Palomo & covert-Palomo types) into thinking that somehow Spain has to be accomodated in order for us to prosper further; that Spain is our only vector for development.

    I understand the role that Spain plays, but I see Gibraltar behaving more as a mercantile city (of the Crown) and hope that we set our horizons more broadly than Spain, concious of geography, but overcoming it through technology and tapping into global networks.

    We better move fast because the geopolitics in the the Atlantic will shift quickly in the next 5-years as new powers grow and the old powers seek to protect their interests, block Asian interests, and ensure that relations grow between Europe and Latin America, perhaps to some extent at the expense of the US's interests.

    The problem with legal types is that they are unable to see the bigger picture; a mindset that thinks legalistically rather than geopolitically, to the detriment of our politics and our interests.

  17. Ghost says:

    Fred, it is exactly the bigger picture that I talk about. That being our confidence to enter into a forum knowing full well that Spain has an agenda, but where we are also able to seek common ground for the benefit of both Gibraltar and the campo de Gibraltar.

    It will be our maturity and confidence that will ultimately show in these negotiations and Spain’s immaturity and insecurity if they choose to walk away from these talks because they are no closer to gaining sovereignty. In any debate with conflict or disagreement and at any level there will also be ground on which you can agree and on which you are not able to - the forum is simply this, but also offers the prospect of communication and agreements on matters that do not relate to sovereignty. If we can engage on these matters and at the very least move together positively, it would be of huge advantage to all communities in the area and therefore a gain.

    Yes I appreciate your sentiments with regards to the true rights and wrongs in this historical issue and the moral aspect of our position with Spain, i.e. she has no position and therefore why should we seek to fight for our inalienable right when logically there is nothing to defend....the bigger picture is quite different and unfortunately 300 years of aggressions are not going to change overnight, neither will it go away if we do not seek to keep our doors open to communication, whilst always making our position on sovereignty clear!

    With regard to your palomo statement, I disagree that anyone thinks that we require Spain to proper further, I think the last decade has shown how we very clearly do not need Spain to progress and grow as a community and an economy! And it is this that I believe (in time) will be the key to our longer term security, that being our economic independence.

    I have said before that our relationship with the U.K. is important and is required for our security, but far more important is our economic strength for it is this that gives us influence and respect with U.K, without it we are weak and dependent on her at her peril. A great example of this is Ireland, dependant on the financial assistance of her neighbours and very likely to end up losing her ability to dictate her future.


  18. Ghost

    I was going to let you go unanswered on this occasion but there is one assertion that you make that just cannot go unchallenged. Today's Gibraltar cannot prosper economically or indeed even survive without an open frontier. In this sense Spain is needed. The reality is that the border has to remain because of membership of the EU. but Spain plays a part in this also.

  19. Llanittzen: German speaking Llanitos will find this fascinating:Karte Gibraltars
    Luftaufnahme von Gibraltar
    Blick auf die Bucht und Straße von Gibraltar
    Ostseite von GibraltarGibraltar liegt an der Nordseite der Meerenge Straße von Gibraltar, an der Europa und Afrika am dichtesten beieinander liegen. Das Territorium umfasst eine Landfläche von 6,5 km2, wobei die Grenze zwischen Gibraltar und Spanien nur 1,2 Kilometer lang ist. Auf der spanischen Seite der Grenze liegt die Stadt La Línea de la Concepción. Die von Gibraltar beanspruchte Meeresfläche reicht bis zu drei Seemeilen vor die Küste.

  20. Anonymous said ... Llanittzen: English speaking Llanitos will find this fascinating:map Gibraltar Strait of Gibraltar and aerial view of the Bay of Gibraltar Strait of Gibraltar, east of Gibraltar Gibraltar lies at the north side of the strait of Europe and Africa most densely together. The territory covers a land of 6,5 km2, where the border between Gibraltar and Spain only 1,2 kilometers long. On the Spanish side of the border town La Línea de la Concepcion. By Gibraltar claimed Meeresfläche ranges up to three nautical miles off the coast. November 25, 2010 9:34 PM

  21. Ghost says:
    Robert I am all the wiser now that you have enlightened me to the fact that with a closed frontier we would not survive. Thank you.

  22. Well Ghost you deserved that for saying "the last decade has shown how we very clearly do not need Spain to progress and grow ... an economy."

  23. Fred says:

    G, you write like a politician.

    RV, I take your point about Spain being needed, but perhaps we should work to need it less. In the 50's Reuven Shiloah developed a strategy for Israel called "strategy of the periphery" the aim of which was to strike alliances with countries in order to counter-balance the Arab threat, and to diversify and sustain its economy. We can debate the success of the stratgy at some other time, but the point is that they accepted the Arabs as a tension to be managed and sought to diversify its foreign contacts, notably in Africa, where Israel still has significant economic and military interests.

    Anon 21:34, are you saying that the Germans acknowldge that we have 3-miles of territorial waters? Shame they can't lend us a couple of U-Boats :) (Only joking!) Das Boot...great film :)

  24. Ghost says:
    Joder Robert, tu que esta en serio...?

  25. Robert can you find a Ghost Buster,please

  26. Mr Vasquez, when Mr Peter Caruana QC CM is given the sovereignty proposals and before HE gives permission to the British Government to discuss them, can you make sure they're fully debated in your blogg because Gibraltar doesn't have any Parliamentary debates!