The Fight for
 Self -

 Joe Bossano
 at the United
 Nations 1994

Original Text

A. Brief description of Gibraltar and its people.

1. Gibraltar is situated at the southern-most tip of the Iberian peninsula. It is just over six square kilometres in area and has a population of around 30,000 persons. The indigenous Gibraltarian population itself numbers some 20,000 persons.

2. Gibraltar has been a British colony ever since it was taken by Britain in 1704. In 1713, Britain and Spain signed the Treaty of Utrecht which ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity.

3. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, a civilian population grew from a mix of nationalities and religions.
Settlers were mainly of British, Italian, Portuguese, Maltese and Spanish origin. Catholics, Protestants and Jews are among the religions that originally joined to form a small plural community of traders and workers alike who provided supplies and labour to the British military stationed in Gibraltar.

4. It was in the earlier part of this century that the local population first sought and exercised political participation in the affairs of the country. It was during the post-war era that the Gibraltarians strongly reasserted their identity as a people in their struggle for a self government and self determination.

The outbreak of the Second World War resulted in the evacuation of the civilian population to London, Northern Ireland, Jamaica and Madeira to allow for the fortification of the military base.

The ending of the War saw the emergence of the Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights, initially, to ensure the repatriation of the population back to their homeland. Repatriation began in 1944 and was completed several years later due to accommodation problems. This was followed by the demand for greater selfgovernment. The City Council was reconstituted in 1945 for the first time with an elected majority.

The Governor's monopoly of legislative authority ended in 1950 with the formation of a Legislative Council. Under the 1969 Constitution, both the Legislative and City Councils were merged to form the House of Assembly. Gibraltar obtained a large measure of self-government under its new Constitution. All domestic affairs became the responsibility of the elected Gibraltar Government. The United Kingdom retained responsibility for defence, internal security and external affairs.

5. The evacuation, repatriation and resettlement of the people of Gibraltar marked an important turning point in the struggle for increasing self government. The isolation experienced throughout the 1960s, 1970s and part of the 1980s with the imposition of land, sea and air restrictions by Spain forged the Gibraltarians' sense of identity as a people. There has been no clearer nor unequivocal manifestation of this than the massive 16,000 strong turnout of the population to celebrate Gibraltar's first ever National Day. The call for self-determination is now unstoppable. (see Annex 1)

B. The economy in brief.

6. Gibraltar's GDP was around GBP 300m in 1992, or GBP 10,200 per capita. The main sectors of the economy are banking and financial services, tourism, ship repairing, shipping, port services and trade generally. The military sector which up to the earlier part of the 1980s accounted for around 45% of GDP and 35% of employment has declined sharply and now accounts for just under 10%. (see Annex 2). This contribution is expected to fall further to below 5% within the next few years.

Since 1988, Gibraltar has received no capital development aid form the UK. The withdrawal of British military forces has required major economic structural adjustment. The Gibraltar Government has made a substantial investment in upgrading the infrastructure and communications to provide the necessary base for economic expansion and diversification. Being a member of the European Union since 1973, Gibraltar has geared its strategy towards gaining competive access into the liberalised markets of the Union.

C. The Anglo/Spanish dispute over Gibraltar.

7. Although Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in perpetuity in 1713, it has historically pursued its claim to recover the territory. Gibraltar has suffered many sieges throughout its history. In the 1960s, Spain launched a diplomatic offensive before the United Nations in an attempt to secure international backing for its claim. In 1969, as part of its campaign, Spain closed its land frontier with Gibraltar and severed all other communications by sea and air. Telephone and postal links were also affected. This last siege lasted 16 years.

8. In 1984, Spain and the United Kingdom signed the Brussels Agreement which aimed to resolve the outstanding differences between the two countries over Gibraltar, including the issues of sovereignty. The word "issues" appeared in the plural to emphasise two distinct sovereignty claims; the first being the return of the "City and Fortress" ceded under Utrecht and the second being the return of a small ithsmus separating Gibraltar from mainland Spain no more than a square kilometre in area and designated as the British half of neutral ground after Utrecht.

9. Under the Brussels Agreement - which is referred to in the annual UN resolutions on Gibraltar submitted by the Fourth Committee - the United Kingdom and Spain hold talks over Gibraltar. The Gibraltar Government is invited to participate, but only as part of the United Kingdom delegation. The Brussels Agreement is seriously deficient in that it is a framework for discussion of the differences which the United Kingdom and Spain may have over Gibraltar. It does not provide for discussion of the differences which Gibraltar, in its own right, may have with Spain, indeed with the United Kingdom, or with both. The Gibraltarians are also expected to form part of the delegation of the colonising power from which it seeks in its own decolonisation. This bilateral agreement is therefore a denial of the right of the people of the territory to negotiate its future with its own voice.

It also is an affront to the international principles which the United Nations has set in pursuance of the rights of all peoples to self-determination and to the exercise of their fundamental human rights.

10. As a consequence of the Brussels Agreement, Spain reopened its border with Gibraltar in 1985. Spain also introduced a law to restore sea ferry services between Gibraltar and Spain; to date no such service has been authorised.

Following Spain's accession to the European Union in 1986, there was a logical expectation that common membership of the European Union among the United Kingdom, Spain and Gibraltar would consolidate the prospects for a resolution of the dispute over Gibraltar. Instead, in line with its publicly declared policy following entry into the European Union, Spain has used its bargaining position within the European Union to veto, block or constrain the application of European Community rights and benefits to Gibraltar to the detriment of Gibraltar's attempts to develop an alternative economy in the wake of the United Kingdom's military withdrawal.

One case in point is the suspension of Gibraltar airport since 1987 from the application of European Union air liberalisation measures. That suspension was supported by the United Kingdom, the administering power, in the face of a threatened Spanish veto which would have blocked the measures from applying at all anywhere in the Union, including the UK.

The suspension will be lifted only if Gibraltar agrees to share route authorisation for flights operating to, or from, Gibraltar airport by implementing a parallel bilateral airport agreement between the two powers drawn up under the umbrella terms of the Brussels Agreement. As a result, the Spanish Government continues to block the introduction of air services between Gibraltar and Spain.

At present, there are only direct flights between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom and Gibraltar and Morocco.

D. Gibraltar: The case for self-determination.

11. Both the United Kingdom and Spain have argued against full recognition of the right of the people of Gibraltar to self- determination.

12. The argument used by the administering power has been exclusively the international obligation that the United Kingdom has under Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713 to give first choice of any change in sovereignty to the Kingdom of Spain. International law and international opinion, as it has developed in the post-war era, clearly reject the validity of this argument i.e.

The International Court of Justice observed in 1971 that the development of international law in regard to non self-governing territories as enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations made the principle of self determination applicable to all of them.

The Court also held in 1971 that the action of peoples engaged in a determined struggle constituted law, by way of general practice, within the meaning of Article 38(1) of the Statute of the Court and that this struggle continued for the purpose of asserting the right of self-determination.

The Court again held in 1975 that the principle of self- determination applied to all non self-governing territories.

The paramountcy of the principle of self-determination over bilateral agreements is unequivocably spelt out in Resolution 2734 (XXV), paragraph 3, whereby the General Assembly solemnly affirms that in the event of a conflict between the obligations of the members of the United Nations under the Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the Charter shall prevail.

The principle of self-determination therefore overrides any bilateral agreement or Treaty - in the case of Gibraltar, a Treaty as outdated as that signed in Utrecht in 1713.

13. The argument used by the Kingdom of Spain is based on the caveat in the UN resolutions on decolonisation that the application of the right of self-determination to colonial territories should not be conducive to breaking up the territorial integrity of an existing member state of the United Nations. Spain argues that it is according to this doctrine of the General Assembly that the decolonisation of Gibraltar is not a case of self- determination but of the restoration of the territorial integrity of Spain. This interpretation is flawed in history, in reason and in practice i.e.

The doctrine of the UN is that self-deterimation should not be justification for minorities to secede from within existing sovereign and independent states. The restoration of the territorial integrity of Spain as it was in 1703 is not the doctrine of the United Nations.

Every colonial territory that is a member of the United Nations after achieving self-determination and exercising the right has created a situation which was different to that which existed prior to colonialism. If Spain's interpretation were correct, then no colony could have exercised the right of self- determination other than by restoring the position that existed before the imperial powers seized their parts of the world.

Gibraltar has been British territory for longer than it has been Spanish territory. It was part of Spain between 1309 and 1333 and 1462 and 1703, a total of 265 years. It has been British between 1704 and 1994 a total of 290 years.

Gibraltar would not fragment Spain by exercising its right to self-determination. The United Kingdom fragmented Spain in 1704. That fragmentation resulted in the removal of 6 square kilometres out of Spain's national territory of over 500,000 square kilometres.

14. Gibraltar recognises that the exercise of its right to self- determination may be constrained and may require a process of dialogue with the United Kingdom and with the Kingdom of Spain. But it cannot be denied the right i.e.

UN resolution 1514(XV) (2) states that all peoples have the right to self-determination; by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development;

On the 16 October 1964, the Special Committee concluded that the provisions of the declaration on the granting of independence to colonial countries and peoples was fully applicable to Gibraltar.

The United Kingdom representative before the Special Committee stated on the 16th October 1964:

"My Government's policy will continue to conform with the principle of self-determination. My Government does not accept that there is any conflict between the provisions of the Treaty of Utrecht and the application of the principle of self- determination to the people of Gibraltar".

In its booklet "Objective Justice" (pages 30/31), the UN Special Committee drew attention to the right of self-determination of the remaining eighteen territories for whose welfare the Committee is responsible. Gibraltar is one of the eighteen territories without qualification.

The principles embodied in the UN Charter and the declaration on decolonisation are not contingent on size, population or resources in the exercise of the right to self-determination.

Resolution 2625(XXV) of the 24 October 1970 extended a fourth mode for decolonisation requiring that it should, as with other modes, be the emergence of a political status freely determined by the people of the territory. It also states that the territory of a colony or other non self-governing territory has, under the Charter, a status separate and distinct from the territory of the State administering it and that such status shall exist until the people of the colony have exercised their right of self-determination in accordance with the Charter.

Resolution 2734 (XXV) of the 16 December 1970 made it clear that in the event of a conflict between the obligation of Member States under the Charter and their obligations under any other international agreement, their obligations under the Charter should prevail.

Article 1 of the 1976 International Covenant on Economic. Social and Cultural Rights states: "All peoples have the right of self- determination, by virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development".

That Covenant was extended in 1976 to the non self-governing territories, including Gibraltar, without qualification, and was ratified both by the United Kingdom and Spain.

All the UN Resolutions on decolonisation declare that any form orthreat of forcible action which may deprive peoples of their right to self-determination and of their right to determine freely their political status and pursue their economic, social and cultural development constitute a violation of the Charter of the United Nations.

In their annual statements on decolonisation to the UN Fourth Committee on the 19 October 1992 and the 14 October 1993, the Member States of the European Union (which includes the United Kingdom and Spain) stated that the European Community and its Member States confirm their support for the principle of self- determination and for actions consistent with the Charter aimed at eliminating colonialism, irrespective of the geographic location and population size of the remaining non self-governing territories.

15. The present deadlock cannot be broken by simply reaffirming annually that Gibraltar should be decolonised on the basis of the administering power talking to the neighbouring State about its sovereignty claim.

This is because, on the one hand, Spain interprets this as meaning support from the international community for its view that the wishes of the people of Gibraltar and their right to self-determination is irrelevant and that it is merely a question of returning six square kilometres of land seized in 1704, during the Wars of Spanish Succession. On the other hand, the UK believes that the resolution, whilst requiring it to discuss with Spain Gibraltar's decolonisation does not impose an obligation to breach the solemn undertaking in the Gibraltar Constitution not to allow the territory to pass under the sovereignty of another State against the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar.

16. The only way the administering power and the neighbouring country are going to be persuaded that a satisfactory resolution of the dispute can be entertained is by making it clear that the desire of the international community for discussions to take place is not, and cannot be, an affirmation that exceptionally in the case of Gibraltar, decolonisation can take place without the exercise of the principle of self-determination which has been the cornerstone of the philosophy for the eradication of colonialism since its inception.

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