Gibraltar's sovereignty must be defended from Madrid's 'bullying'

The attitude of the Spanish government towards the British overseas territory is 'uncharacteristic of a European ally in the 21st century', argues Josep-Maria Terricabras.

By Josep-Maria Terricabras

21 Apr 2015

Two months ago I sent a written question to the European commission asking whether the Spanish government had provided a response to the government of Gibraltar's offer for cooperation on cross-border issues. The administration in Gibraltar remains ready to cooperate and has made this clear to the Spanish authorities.

I am firmly of the view that a good relationship between neighbouring states should always be positive, but in this case, the relationship has been particularly difficult because of the attitude of successive Spanish governments.

This has not been my first question on this issue. Previously I asked the commission about the obstacles to free movement between Spain and Gibraltar put in place whenever the relationship between London and Madrid takes a turn for the worse. 

These obstacles put in place by the Madrid government, including arbitrary security controls designed to inflate the cross-border queues, adversely affect European citizens who are paying the price for tensions between the two governments.


Sometimes the disputes concentrate on legal jurisdiction in territorial waters, but last year matters took a turn skywards.

In December, Spain's public works minister Ana Pastor Julián said in an interview, "Including Gibraltar airport in the single European sky would be recognition of its sovereignty and would set a serious precedent because we would lose a battle that is centuries-old." 

This is the crux of the matter. The fundamental problem in this conflict is that Spain never accepted the sovereignty of Gibraltar which resulted from the treaty of Utrecht more than three centuries ago. And it is because of this that every minor problem today becomes a cause of friction.

The American think tank the Heritage foundation recently alerted the US congress of the need to defend Gibraltar's sovereignty from Spain's 'bullying'.

It argues that Spain regularly ignores the right to self-determination of Gibraltar and considers this behaviour uncharacteristic of a European ally in the 21st century. It also suggested that the Spanish government uses Gibraltar as a distraction from Spain's economic problems and from the political scandals involving prime minister Mariano Rajoy and some members of his political party.

I find these arguments persuasive. In any case it is neither right nor acceptable that the government of an EU member state blocks the free movement of European citizens. The purpose of any government should be to facilitate people, whether natives or foreigners, and not needlessly complicate matters and incite discord as the Spanish government does so well.

All political problems must be solved at a political level and not by imposing new obstacles on people. Ordinary people should not pay for disagreements among those who have the democratic duty of serving them.


Read the most recent articles written by Josep-Maria Terricabras - Fundamental rights: No one left behind


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