Government of Gibraltar

Government Secretariat, 6 Convent Place, Gibraltar
Telephone 70071 Fax 74524

The following is the full text of the speech delivered by the Chief Minister, The Hon P R Caruana to the European Atlantic Group, House of Commons, England on Monday 24th November 1997.

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Mr Chairman, I am grateful for the privilege of addressing this august forum and for the opportunity to air some of the problems and aspirations of the people of Gibraltar.


Britain took Gibraltar by conquest in 1704. By the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, which ended the War of the Spanish Succession, Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain absolutely and in perpetuity, subject to a clause that if Britain ever wish to give up sovereignty of Gibraltar she would offer it to Spain first.

Since 1704 a distinct and proud people have established themselves in Gibraltar. A people with their origins in Britain, Spain, Genoa, Sicily, Malta, and from all over the Mediterranean and India. These are today's "people of Gibraltar". A unique people, rich in cultural origin and diversity. A people that have acquired rights in our homeland over 293 years.


Gibraltar has a population of 30,000. It has an active working population of around 15,000, including upto 1,000 Spanish frontier workers that Gibraltar hosts. Our gross domestic product is about 250 million Pounds. The economy comprises principally a tourism sector (we receive about 4 million tourist visits a year, and are enjoying a growing cruising industry), a port services sector (comprising ship repair, ship bunkering and shipping services generally) and a financial services centre. The Ministry of Defence remains a significant contributor to the economy at about 7% of GDP (down from 65% in 1986!). The Government's full budgetary requirements are met from local revenues, as are capital investments (although we receive some funds from EU Structural and Social Funds). We do not receive budgetary or other aid from the UK.

GIBRALTAR'S CURRENT STATUS AND CONSTITUTIONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH UK Gibraltar's present status and relationship with the United Kingdom is established in the Gibraltar Constitution, granted to Gibraltar by Order in Council in 1969. It creates an elected legislature from which is drawn the Government of which I am currently the Chief Minister. Gibraltar enjoys a large measure of self-rule through its elected Government , in practice extending to all issues and affairs except Defence, Foreign Affairs and Internal Security. Law and Order is constitutionally the responsibility of the Governor, although in practice there is substantial consultation since the Gibraltar Government provides all the funding for it. Gibraltar's legislature enacts all statute law applicable in Gibraltar. The formal relationship is therefore one of Dependent Territory, with a large measure of self government and financially self sufficient.


Gibraltar is an integral part of the European Union. Under Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome the Treaty applies to any European Territory (Gibraltar) for whose external affairs a member state (UK) is responsible. This often raises the question whether we are in the EC as part of the UK or because of our constitutional relationship with the UK, although we are clearly not a separate member state. There are anomalies which clearly suggest that the UK does not consider Gibraltar to be an integral part of the UK for EC purposes. For example, we are not included by UK in her national arrangements for voting for EC Parliamentary elections and UK has agreed to Gibraltar's exclusion from a number of EC Directives and measures (usually on the insistence of Spain).

It would be inconceivable that this could occur to an integral part of the UK. All EU Regulations have direct application in Gibraltar. EU Directives extend to Gibraltar and are separately (from the UK) transposed into Gibraltar's laws by legislation passed in our House of Assembly. Therefore although there are only 15 Member States, there are in fact 16 legislatures that have to transpose EU law and Gibraltar retains its status as a separate jurisdiction for legal and administrative purposes, pursuant to our 1969 Constitution. Notwithstanding this separation, the UK is the Member State responsible for Gibraltar in an EU context since we are members by virtue of UK's membership.

Not unlike other EU territories Gibraltar enjoys certain derogations from the application of certain, very limited EU measures. The Coal & Steel Treaty does not apply, since Gibraltar produces no coal. The Common Agricultural Policy does not apply, since we have no agriculture. And thirdly, Gibraltar is not included in the Customs Union. With these exceptions the territory of Gibraltar is an integral part of the European Union.


You will all be aware that Spain continues to claim the sovereignty of Gibraltar and that in pursuance of that claim she maintains a very firm position in relation to all matters relating to Gibraltar. Spain maintains that Gibraltar is an issue only between the UK and Spain, that the people of Gibraltar have no rights in relation to the territory of Gibraltar and that the United Kingdom should hand sovereignty over to Spain regardless of the wishes of the people of Gibraltar who, according to Spain have no say in determining our own future and that of our homeland.

Unlike the Republic of Ireland in relation to Northern Ireland, Spain has not yet recognised that her 18th century expectations cannot be satisfied without the consent of the people of the territory. Furthermore, Spain maintains that because of her first refusal right under the Treaty of Utrecht, the people of Gibraltar, have no right to self determination.

Britain for her part, has solemnly and repeatedly assured the people of Gibraltar that there will never be a transfer of sovereignty of Gibraltar contrary to the wishes of the Gibraltarians. The traditional British position is that the Gibraltarians do indeed enjoy the right to self determination but that this is "curtailed" by the Treaty of Utrecht.

We Gibraltarians do not doubt that like all colonial people (Gibraltar is on the UN's list of colonies) we have an inalienable right to self determination. That is the right to determine our own future free of external imposition. We do not think that the Treaty of Utrecht, which is now 284 years old can possibly be relevant to determine, still less extinguish, the rights of a people on the eve of the 21st century. The right to self determination of all colonial people is enshrined in the Charter and Covenants of the United Nations.

UN doctrine and international law establish quite incontrovertibly that where a bilateral treaty conflicts with the UN Charter, the latter supersedes the bilateral treaty. Furthermore all the other provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht, including the other provisions relating to Gibraltar, have long since fallen into disregard. Spain herself spent the best part of 100 years attempting to reconquer Gibraltar by military force in blatant breach and disregard of the Treaty of Utrecht, by which she had ceded Gibraltar in perpetuity. It is not now open to her to seek to rely on that same Treaty to deny the right of self determination to 30,000 democratic citizens of the EU in 1997!

The people of Gibraltar do not accept that the Treaty of Utrecht is an obstacle to our inalienable right to self determination. But if, as Spain alleges, the Treaty of Utrecht is valid to deny us the right to self determination by virtue of the right of first refusal provision, then surely it must also be valid in respect of the cession to Britain in perpetuity. Yet Spain lays claim to the sovereignty of Gibraltar in breach of that perpetual cession. She cannot have her cake and eat it. She cannot say that the right of first refusal clause in line 36 is valid, but she claims sovereignty even though she ceded it in perpetuity in line 35.

Spain's prosecution of her sovereignty claim over Gibraltar is not a theoretical exercise. Despite the fact that Gibraltar and Spain are EU territory, Spain takes many measures against Gibraltar which are, we believe, in flagrant disregard of our EU rights and her EU obligations. She refuses to allow maritime and air links between Gibraltar and Spain and has refused to allow Gibraltar airport to benefit from the Single Market in Air Services. To this day, because of a deal done by Britain with Spain to buy off the Spanish veto on the EU Air Liberalisation Directive in 1987 unless Gibraltar was excluded from it, Gibraltar airport remains the only airport in the whole EU to which Air Liberalisation does not apply.

Even making due allowance for Spain's right to operate passport checks (because Gibraltar like UK, is not part of the Schengen Agreement) and Customs checks (because Gibraltar is not part of the Customs Union) Spain operates the frontier with Gibraltar in a most Uneuropean manner. There are no red and green channels at Customs. Every car is examined. There is only one single file passport control for vehicles, manned by a solitary official, regardless of the volume of traffic. This has resulted in severe queues and delays at the frontier.

Spain refuses to recognise Gibraltar's telephone International Direct Dial geographic area code - 350 -. Spain is the only country from which you cannot dial Gibraltar via satellite. She refuses to recognise identity cards issued in Gibraltar and has, in the recent past, sought to question the validity of British passports issued in Gibraltar by the Governor in the name of Her Majesty the Queen. There are still occasional incidents at Spainish airports of holders of such passports being impeded; Spain constantly seeks the exclusion of Gibraltar from EU Directives and refuses to recognise Gibraltar's courts or legal system.

Spain systematically seeks to deny Gibraltar membership of International Sporting Associations and Federations and participation in international sporting, cultural and political events.

Spain subjects Gibraltar to an incessant barrage of media abuse and allegations of money laundering and nefarious activities calculated to stifle the development of our finance centre and thus our economy which, she believes, will make us succumb to her sovereignty claim. All she actually succeeds in achieving in uniting Gibraltarians and strengthening our resolve in the face of such external threats to our wishes. But all this is happening to British subjects, within the EU and between two EU territories.


The Spanish position in relation to Gibraltar has also raised its ugly head in the context of Spain's application to join NATO's integrated command structure.

Gibraltar has been a totally committed participant in NATO from the very outset; always ready and willingly offering facilities to allied military ships and aircraft, including nuclear armed and powered vessels without fuss. Only last week the Royal Navy used Gibraltar to prepare HMS Invincible for possible urgent deployment to the Gulf and the United States Navy has also made use of Gibraltar in her Gulf build up last week. Gibraltar is an effective and dependable asset for NATO. It has therefore been a matter of acute disappointment to Gibraltarians that NATO appears to have succumbed to Spanish politically motivated pressure to scrap COMGIBMED, the NATO command in Gibraltar.

It seems scant reward for and mean recognition of 40 years of service. Gibraltar welcomes the fullest possible integration of Spain into NATO. However, some of you may know that Spain denies access to Gibraltar Airport to civilian air traffic from Spain and elsewhere. I have already explained how she has refused to permit Gibraltar Airport to participate in Europe's Single Market in Air Services, or Open Skies Regime. Nor does Spain allow direct maritime links with Gibraltar.
It would not be reasonable to expect Gibraltar to accept Spanish military access to Gibraltar when she refuses such access to civilian traffic. Nor indeed, would it be reasonable to expect Gibraltarian public opinion to accept the presence of Spanish military personnel, ships or aircraft in Gibraltar while Spain persists with her claim to the sovereignty of the territory of Gibraltar displaying an utter disregard for the wishes of the people. Do Argentine ships and aircraft visit Port Stanley in the Falklands? Do Greek ships and aircraft visit Turkey, and vice- versa.

What is required is that Spain should lift her restrictions on other NATO countries accessing Gibraltar and to stop disrupting NATO exercises and movements that involve Gibraltar. It is reasonable to demand that of Spain. What is not reasonable is to ask the people of Gibraltar to embrace on our territory the consequences of Spanish membership as if Spain's sovereignty claim which she pursues with considerable political aggression, did not exist.


I mentioned earlier that Gibraltar did not participate in European elections, even though we are, as I have said, an integral part of the EC under the terms of the Treaty of Rome. This is because under the European Parliamentary Elections Act 1978 the UK made no provision for Gibraltar to take part in elections to the European Parliament. Accordingly, the 30,000 British Gibraltarians and other EU Nationals resident in Gibraltar, are the only EU Nationals who have no right to vote at Euro-Elections. This is in stark contrast to citizens of Spanish territories in North Africa and some French territories even further away who do vote. The people of Gibraltar have long felt aggrieved by this serious democratic deficit.

The position is now even more anomalous following extension of the co-decision procedure, which gives the European Parliament in which Gibraltar is not represented a far more extensive role in the process of legislation which Gibraltar is subsequently required to transpose into our own laws and to implement.

The British Government have now published the text of the European Parliamentary Elections Bill which makes new provisions for elections to the European Parliament in Great Britain to be conducted using a regional list electoral system as opposed to a single member constituency system. This new voting system facilitates the inclusion of Gibraltar, yet again no provision is made for Gibraltar which will therefore remain disenfranchised under the terms of the Bill.

The people of Gibraltar cannot comprehend how a British territory that is part of the EU by virtue of the UK's membership is disenfranchised by the UK itself from this most fundamental of democratic exercises.


And so, it is against this backdrop that the people of Gibraltar seek their decolonisation through the exercise of our right to self determination. The people of Gibraltar do not want or seek independence from Britain. What we seek is a modern status in Europe in close relationship with Great Britain. We do not seek to break our constitutional links with Britain, but rather to modernise them. We do not seek to displace British sovereignty of Gibraltar, rather to preserve and strengthen it. Accordingly, what we seek is to modernise our Constitution so that it reflects a relationship with Britain which is not colonial in nature. This would in no way enhance or alter our status within the EU. Gibraltar would remain British. Britain would remain responsible for our foreign affairs and defence. This constitutional modernisation would take the form of maximising local self government, modernising the role of the Governor, eliminating his colonial powers, modernising Gibraltar's internal institutions. There would be no alienation of sovereignty by Britain. Thus, although we in Gibraltar challenge that the Treaty of Utrecht remains valid or curtails, still less denies, our right to self determination, the issue is, in a sense academic, because the nature and manner of the decolonisation that we seek would, in any case, be permissible under its terms.

There are precedents for territories, even in Europe, which have close political and constitutional links with the UK, are British sovereign, are not part of the UK and are NOT colonies, eg Jersey, Guernsey, Isle of Man. There is therefore no reason why Gibraltar should not be decolonised by preserving a modernised, non colonial constitutional relationship with the UK.

Many in Gibraltar would support full integration with Britain. Indeed if this were to be available I believe that it would be the preferred choice of many Gibraltarians. Regrettably, to date, it has been HMG's position that it is not willing to integrate Gibraltar into the UK. Indeed integration would resolve many of the practical contradictions between our Constitutional autonomy and our EU status in relation to UK.


Decolonisation in the manner proposed, or any other, will not, of course, put an end to the Spanish claim to sovereignty and to her lamentable conduct and actions in support of it. But that is not a reason for not seeking decolonisation nor for Britain not to grant it.

But Gibraltar does not seek to turn its back on Spain. She will always be our neighbour. She is part of the EU with us. She should be a natural friend and ally. And we want and seek that friendship. We want good european, neighbourly relations with Spain. And if, notwithstanding our decolonisation through the process that I have described, proposals for a new future status for Gibraltar emerge that are acceptable to the people of Gibraltar, then so be it. But the overriding applicable principle must be acceptability to the people of Gibraltar. Spain has to accept that. It is the unavoidable consequence of her having taken, as I believe she has done, her place at the democratic top table of Europe. She cannot preach democracy, and deny it in its most basic manifestation to the colonised people of Gibraltar. Spain cannot, with credibility preach democracy to the world and deny its natural consequences to 30,000 British Europeans on her doorstep. The people of Gibraltar cannot understand how it is that Spain so democratically espouses adherence to the highest quality of democratic principles in the resolution of all her problems and the furtherance of all her interests - yet she seems willing to accept, indeed seeks, the return of a territory in the heart of Western Europe regardless of the wishes of its inhabitants.
Whatever one may think of the manner of the British capture of Gibraltar, applying late 20th century values, the people of Gibraltar cannot be held responsible for that now and be made to pay for it with their rights and their dignity. The problem may be 18th century in its making. That is history. What is extraordinary is that Spain should think that an 18th century solution is either possible or, indeed, desirable for her in 1997. Gibraltar has not been Spanish for 293 years. That is longer than the United States or Australia have existed as countries. If we turned back the map of Europe or the world 293 years to reverse territorial losses during the last 293 years, which country would be able to preserve her present borders?

The Government of Gibraltar is happy, indeed actively seeks, to engage Spain in a process of dialogue. Dialogue aimed at taking the historical tension and mistrust out of the relationship, dialogue aimed at securing mutual co-operation and good neighbourliness and exploring the possibilities for a new and better relationship. However, such dialogue has got to be safe and dignified. Safe in the sense that we must be sure that nothing can be agreed without our consent. Dignified in the sense that we must have our own separate voice and the right to be present throughout the whole of talks. Gibraltar will not be willing to take part in talks which are bilateral between the UK and Spain and in which the Chief Minister of Gibraltar strings along as a member of the Foreign Secretary's entourage, or in the sort of role that the mayor of a nearby Spanish town might play in the Spanish delegation.

To go along with that sort of dialogue is to acknowledge and accommodate the Spanish argument, repugnant to all Gibraltarians, that Gibraltar is a bilateral issue between UK and Spain and is a territory in which the people of Gibraltar have no rights. Gibraltar is our homeland. It is not the UK's to give away nor Spain's to obtain. It belongs to its people, the Gibraltarians. We will passionately defend it and our rights in it and to it. And we expect and are entitled to the full support of HMG.

Last week the Spanish Foreign Minister, Sr Abel Matutes said that if Gibraltar did not fall into line with Spanish aspirations, Spain would progressively tighten the screws on Gibraltar. Such threats against the 30,000 British citizens of a British dependent territory within the EU do not look good on the mouth of a democratic Minister, of a democratic Government of a democratic member of the EU. Gibraltar will never surrender to Spanish bullying tactics. The UK has a duty to do everything necessary to defend Gibraltar from such Spanish actions and to promote and uphold Gibraltar's legitimate rights and interests within the EU which are constantly under assault from Spain.

We want good relations with Spain, but we do not believe that in the European Union of the 21st century we should be expected to pay with our sovereignty for good relations with our neighbour. It is too high a price for what in a democratic Europe should be free of charge. Gibraltar will not pay that price and nobody that values democratic principles should expect us to pay it, nor bully us to tender it, nor even be willing to accept it if we were made to feel obliged to tender it - which will never happen.

ENDS (3508 words)

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