A.1 Geography and Climate
Gibraltar is a barren rock covering an area of 21/2 square miles situated at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. Known to the peoples of classical times as one of the two mythical pillars of Hercules, ‘the Rock’ as it is affectionately known to its inhabitants, rises to 1396 feet above sea-level at its highest point, towering above the western approaches to the Mediterranean sea and occupying a strategic position at the eastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar which connects the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean.
Africa in the form of the Spanish enclave of Ceuta lies directly opposite just 9 miles away and the Moroccan City of Tangier is 32 miles away at the western end of the Straits.
The temperature can reach as high as 40–C in the summer months of July and August with lows of 10–C in January or February.
Normally, though, the winter temperature does not fall below 13–C and in summer it generally keeps to a range of between 28–C and 33–C. Climatic conditions are further affected by the pressure differences that can exist between the Mediterranean and Atlantic resulting in strong winds. Westerly and southerly winds bring hotter, drier weather whereas easterlies produce cooler humid conditions.
A.2 Population and Language
For reasons made apparent subsequently, Gibraltar’s population is of diverse origin. Of the 27,000 total, 20,000 are local and of English, Spanish, Portuguese, Maltese and Genoese origin. The remaining 7,000 consist of expatriates, 4,000 being non-local British citizens and 3,000 of other nationalities.
English is the official language but most Gibraltarians are bilingual in English and Spanish.
Gibraltar has long been a dramatic landmark at the western end of the Mediterranean Sea and in ancient times served as the last post before the unknown but vividly imagined terrors which lay in the uncharted waters of the Atlantic Ocean beyond. However, it did not become a separate entity as far as the world’s cartographers were concerned until the commencement of the Moorish invasion of Spain in the 18th century AD.
Then Tarik-Ibn-Zayd took the Rock in 711 AD. It was named Gibel Tarik, the mountain of Tarik, of which the modern ‘Gibraltar’ is a corruption. In the eight centuries of Arab occupation of Spain it played an important role in the internecine squabbles between the various caliphates and changed hands various times. It was during this time that Gibraltar grew up into a town and was developed as a fortress.
Spain temporarily occupied the Rock from 1309 to 1333 but it was not until the 15th Century Reconquista that the Moors were permanently expelled on 29 August 1462, the feast day of St Bernard of Clairvaux. Consequently the latter was named Gibraltar’s patron saint. The civilian hospital still bears his name.
During the subsequent 242 years of Spanish occupation the Rock was further fortified and developed as a naval base from which Spanish forces sallied forth, first to combat the scourge of Mediterranean and Barbary piracy and then to conquer the New World and strengthen their hold on their European possessions in Northern Europe and Italy.
In 1701, Charles II of Spain died insane and without an heir. The contention for the Spanish throne between Archduke Charles of Austria and Philip, Duke of Anjou, grandson of Louis XIV of France, resulted in the War of the Spanish Succession. Britain and the Netherlands sided with Austria against France, and on July 21st 1704 an Anglo-Dutch fleet sailed into the Bay of Gibraltar and some 2300 English and Dutch marines disembarked on the isthmus cutting off all communication with mainland Spain and calling on the garrison to surrender to its lawful King Charles III. After putting up a vigorous resistance for three days, the gates were opened and the small Spanish garrison marched out with their arms.
Nine years later in 1713, the Treaty of Utrecht confirmed French Philip on the throne of Spain as Philip V but article X stated that:
"The Catholic King does hereby for himself, his heirs and successors yield to the Crown of Great Britain the full and entire propriety of the Town and Castle of Gibraltar, together with the port, fortifications and posts thereunto belonging and he gives up the said propriety, to be held and enjoyed absolutely with all manner of right for ever, without exception or impediment whatsoever...and in case it shall hereafter seem meet to the Crown of Great Britain to grant, sell or by any means to alienate therefrom the propriety of the said town of Gibraltar, it is hereby agreed and concluded that the preference of having the same shall always be given to the Crown of Spain before any other."
The Rock’s defences, improved and developed, enabled it to resist two sieges by Spanish and French forces, first in 1727 and secondly the great siege of 1779 to 1783. In September 1783 Britain’s title to Gibraltar was confirmed by the Treaty of Versailles.
Gibraltar’s strong defences and strategic position played a large part in Britain’s maritime development including providing a temporary resting place for Nelson’s body after the Battle of Trafalgar. It was through Gibraltar that most of Britain’s assistance to Spain was provided during her struggle against Napoleon in the Peninsular War.
Two World Wars also highlighted the value of the Rock which gave shelter and supplies to British and allied navies as well as being an important airbase. It now provides those same facilities to the forces of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation. A further notable event of the second World War was the evacuation of almost the entire civilian population in 1940. 16,700 people were sent mostly to England and Northern Ireland with a few going to Madeira and Jamaica. Repatriation began in 1944 but was not completed until 1951.
In September 1963 the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation (the Committee of 24) considered whether U.N. general policy on decolonisation could be applied to Gibraltar. Spain, which from time to time over the years has sought to recover Gibraltar, began a campaign for its return. A Gibraltarian delegation led by the Chief Minister appeared before the Committee to clarify the fact that a large measure of self-government was already enjoyed and further constitutional changes were under consideration. The aspirations of the people of Gibraltar lay in achieving full internal self-government in free association with Great Britain.
From 17th October 1964 onwards, the Spanish government of General Franco implemented a progressive series of restrictive measures against Gibraltar including the withdrawal of female frontier labour in 1966, impeding vehicular traffic from 1964 and finally prohibiting it altogether in 1966, suppressing the Spanish Customs post and bringing to a complete halt all trade between Spain and Gibraltar.
In 1967 a referendum was held, in which persons over 21 registered as Gibraltarians and ordinarily resident in Gibraltar were entitled to vote, totalling 12,762 persons. 12,182 votes were cast of which 12,138 favoured retention of the link with Britain and 44 voted in favour of Spain. On 23 May Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II signed the Prerogative Order in Council granting Gibraltar its present constitution incorporating self-government in all matters except internal and external security and foreign affairs. On June 9, 1969 Spain finally closed the border depriving over 4000 Spanish frontier workers of their jobs in Gibraltar and completed Gibraltar’s isolation by cutting telephone and telegraph links in October 1969.
Sixteen years of isolation were marked by entry into the European Community, now the European Union (EU), in 1973 together with the U.K. Following the death of General Franco in 1975 and the advent of democracy to Spain the tortuous process of negotiations over Gibraltar resumed. Telephone communications were restored by Spain at the end of 1977.
The Lisbon Declaration of the 10th April 1980 established that Spain would remove all restrictions and negotiations would then be started in a spirit of goodwill, with a view to overcoming all the differences between Spain and Britain about Gibraltar. Various events impeded progress but the Declaration was reaffirmed by the Brussels agreement on 27th November, 1984. At midnight on 4th February, 1985 the Spanish government opened its frontier gates with Gibraltar thus making it possible once more for pedestrian and vehicular traffic to cross into Spain by land.
The re-opening of the frontier heralded an economic boom, which was accompanied by extensive construction of new residential and commercial property and an annual influx of millions of tourists.
The finance centre expanded dramatically and financial supervision was enhanced to take account of the increase in scale and complexity of financial business being handled in Gibraltar and also to reflect current best practice.
By the beginning of the 1990’s economic growth had slowed down and the property market was showing signs of weakness. Ministry of Defence cutbacks were also beginning to bite into the local economy.
The situation has now stabilised. Property prices are beginning to rise and the economy is beginning to move out of recession.
Gibraltar is now well-established as a major European offshore finance centre offering a favourable fiscal environment within a high quality legal and regulatory infrastructure. Many commemtators claim that Gibraltar is on its way to becoming the offshore arm of the City of London within the European Union which makes Gibraltar’s future appear brighter than ever.