SDGG Meets Electoral Commission after 10-year struggle for the
Media Release - Three representatives of the SDGG including a founder member met the Policy Director of the UK’s Electoral Commission, Stephen Judson, on Friday 28th March 2003, no less than 10 years after commencing its case against the Foreign Office’s refusal to advise the UK to enfranchise Gibraltar in the European Parliament by taking up the case in 1993 for the Eurovote at the European Court of Human Rights in the case now known as “Matthews versus The United Kingdom, number 24833/1994”.
The SDGG put forward its conviction to the Electoral Commission that the interpretation which it supports of the decision of the ECHR is that Gibraltar should have its own MEP. The SDGG bases its argument on the precedent of Greenland/Denmark whereby in 1979, when Denmark joined the EU, taking Greenland in with it, with its population of 55,000, and an electorate little bigger than our own, Greenland was allocated one of the only 16 available Danish MEP’s. (Greenland left the EU six years later in a bid to protect its fishing grounds).
The group considers that natural justice dictates that decisions of a Parliament based on Universal Suffrage such as the EP require the opinion of every entitled voter to be represented, and that all legislation, but particularly that affecting entitled voters who are excluded, is liable to have its legitimacy called into question. The SDGG is considering the legitimacy of all such legislation, and whether perhaps all legislation to have passed through the European Parliament since the 1st of January 1973 which has affected Gibraltar can now be retrospectively challenged.
In the present circumstances, that the Foreign Office has decided to advise the UK to implement the decision of the Court and thereby remove the UK from the short list of misguided countries which choose to remain in breach of decisions of the ECHR, by allowing Gibraltar to share an MEP with a UK constituency, the SDGG put forward the argument that accessibility of the Gibraltar electorate to its MEP is a fundamental issue. The choice of a constituency remote from the UK airport/s permanently connecting to Gibraltar would militate against easy access, and turn a visit to an elector’s MEP from a two-day trip to a visit of 4 or 5 days with additional costs which might deprive electors of the opportunity of furthering their wishes and interests in the EU. Since the recommendation would be for a long-term decision any perceived present circumstances of sympathy for Gibraltar, which the SDGG acknowledges lies in particular constituencies at present, but which support can in time migrate from one constituency to another, is not necessarily in Gibraltar’s longer term interests.
The SDGG also raised with the Electoral Commission the matter of Gibraltar-based candidates standing for election in the chosen constituency, and pointed out that any person who wished to stand but felt discriminated against for any logistical, financial, or political reason inherent in the chosen method of representation (such as Constituency awareness of the aims of a Gibraltar independent candidate or party balanced against the reverse situation) could raise that issue with the European Court, thus making the point that this is also a matter which ought to be addressed by the Commission.
The SDGG is in general relieved that the process started by it in 1993 culminating in the ruling of the ECHR on February the 18th 1999 and which has yet to be implemented by the passing of legislation in the Westminster Parliament has finally borne fruit for Gibraltar, and hopes that the F&CO which to its shame repeatedly defended the non-enfranchisement of Gibraltar both in the House of Commons and in the ECHR should now gracefully accept the most generous possible implementation of our enfranchisement after 30 years of wrongfully and, as has now been proved, illegally withholding this right.