The Voice of
Press Release

20th. September 2004

'Your logic frightens me
How coldly you disdain legerdemains !
'Open Sesame' and two decades' rust on hinges
Peels at the touch of a conjuror's wand ?

Wole Soyinka (Mandela's Earth and Other Poems).

Now that the euphoria of 'Encircling the Nation' and National Day is over, the 4th. October looms nearer.

After the acrimonious exchanges over the tercentenary celebrations, 'surprisingly' brought to 'welcomed' end by Morantinos' piece in El Pais, what can be expected from a resumption of talks ? Let no-one have any illusions of a Spanish 'enlightenment'. The F&CO aided and abetted its formulation, with Geoof Hoon and The Convent privately 'selling' it on the eve of its publication and publicly, ever since.

The optimists, not forgetting those always ready to 'clutch at any straws', will hope that the so-much- vaunted new Spanish 'talante' is genuine, that HMG will stand by the referendum result and that cross- border co-operation is a reality.

The pessimists, or realists, as the case may be, are certain that, after an initial period of fine words, everything will revert to the 'security' of the 'status quo'.

'But once in a lifetime
The longed-for tidal wave
Of justice can rise up
And hope and history rhyme' to quote Seamus Heaney.

Morantinos has made it patently clear that he wants to take-off from where Pique left-off, i.e. joint- sovereignty. Should HMG's 'shelving' of the proposals still prevail, then the respective positions are incompatible.

So, will the talks be simply an opportunity to agree a strategy to woo the Gibraltarians, with cross- border co-operation the inducement ? With HMG's propensity to enter into dialogue with a 'kicks por si pega' attitude, as opposed to the Spaniards' clear-cut convictions, there is always the danger Gibraltar will, once again, end up on the 'political' back-foot, or worse, laden with another infamous deal.

Care must be taken that the push for collaboration with the hinterland is not a subtle guise to distance The Rock's elected representatives from the 'matter of state'. At best, this will diminish to position of the Chief Minister to that of a Campo mayor and, at worst, prejudice Gibraltar's stance at the UN.

The VOGG has always advocated for 'normal' neighbourly relations, based on mutual respect and reciprocity, but never at a political price. It is the Chief Minister's prerogative to use his best endeavours to that effect and meet whoever he deems opportune or appropriate. Likewise, he has an obligation to inform his fellow-citizens of the specifics of such meetings.

Notwithstanding, there is no need for any rumblings about his tąte-Ö-tąte with the official from Asuntos Exteriores. With hindsight, it has to be taken in the context of the Palacio de Santa Cruz's comment that it was merely a 'private function'. Nobody can negate the fact that had the Spaniards gained anything from it, a spate of jingoism would have followed, just as it did after Jack Straw's policy statement of 12th. July 2002.

Of all the rhetoric that has emanated from every quarter, since Morantinos' article (even a rare contribution from the Deputy-Governor), two things are particularly offensive to The VOGG.

Firstly; Moratinos' condescending statement that 'Gibraltarians should not be made to pay for the UK's insensitivity'. Well, everyone still waits in a queue, cannot use a local mobile phone across the border, gets diverted to Malaga via Tangiers, no UEFA and no IOC, amongst other 'pleasantries'.

Secondly; The report from sources at the F&CO that 'cultural, social and community' issues will be discussed at the talks. HMG has no moral or constitutional legitimacy to deal with these. Neither has it a trustworthy understanding of the realities on the ground in Gibraltar to do so. As far as Spain is concerned, it is none of her business. Only House of Assembly elected members may discuss these matters at an 'official' level with relevant representative bodies 'assisting' on a 'practical' basis, in their fields of competence. Perhaps this is just another ingenious F&CO ploy to entrap the Chief Minister into participating in a negotiating process that is totally unacceptable to the vast majority of the Gibraltarians.

With two weeks to go before the scheduled meeting, The VOGG calls on the Governor to inform the People of Gibraltar what agenda, if any, will HMG place on the table, or more precisely, how many of Moratinos' expectations it is prepared to meet. If 'His Excellency' still has any 'bridges to build', let him lay solid foundations and not the 'mirages' to-date. Unless, of course, he has completed the only one ever envisaged, across which, the UK and Spanish governments will meet on 4th. October. 'History has many cunning passages, contrived corridors', (TS Eliot).

The VOGG will, as usual, hold a vigil at The Convent, on that day as from 10 a.m. Should any agreement be concluded without the Gibraltarians' consent, The Group will return the next day with whatever action it feels is appropriate.

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