May 23. 2024. 7:30

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Spain, UK meet in Brussels in last ditch effort to finalise deal on Gibraltar

Spain’s diplomacy chief is due to meet with his UK counterpart and European Commission Vice-President Maroš Šefčovič in Brussels on Thursday (16 May) to try to hammer out the final details of a long-awaited agreement on the future status of Gibraltar, Madrid’s diplomatic sources said on Wednesday.

This is the second meeting between José Manuel Albares, David Cameron, and Šefčovič following their last meeting on 12 April, where no tangible progress was made towards reaching a lasting agreement, eight years after the referendum on Brexit.

The aim of this new meeting, said the same sources quoted by the Spanish news agency EFE, is to “make progress on the main lines of an agreement that will bring prosperity, confidence, legal certainty, and stability to the citizens of the whole Campo de Gibraltar (in the Cádiz region/Andalusia).”

Eight years after the “exit” referendum in the UK, on 23 June 2016, and fours years after the UK officially left the EU in 2020, the three parties involved are still negotiating the legal status of Gibraltar.

For the Spanish authorities, Gibraltar is a British colony on Spanish territory that should be returned. For London, Gibraltar is a British overseas territory of significant historical and strategic importance, ceded in 1713, with a population that firmly believes they are British.

However, according to the UN, Gibraltar is a “non-self-governing territory pending decolonisation,” which should take place through bilateral negotiations between Spain and the UK, negotiations that the UN has been recommending continuously since 1965.

The main bone of contention is focused on the use of Gibraltar’s airport and customs control on the border.

Spain unveils a few details of the agreement

The future agreement between Spain and the UK contemplates the possible elimination of the fence that separates Gibraltar from the Spanish municipality of La Línea de la Concepción, in Cádiz, because what is being sought is “freedom of movement,” diplomatic sources stressed.

Around 270,000 Spaniards live in the Campo de Gibraltar, with a large proportion of them – an estimated 15,000 – crossing into British territory every day to work. Gibraltar has around 33,000 inhabitants.

In that sense, Albares earlier this week gave some clues to the content of the agreement that could perhaps be announced in Brussels on Thursday.

In an interview aired on Monday (13 May) by public television station Canal Sur, the minister assured that the pact with London and Brussels includes the elimination “of the fence, with (guarantees of) free movement of people and goods (in the Campo de Gibraltar), which will resolve misunderstandings and problems of coexistence,” he said.

The pact with the UK also contemplates joint use of the Gibraltar airport by Spain and the UK. However, “out of loyalty” to the negotiators, Albares said he could not reveal more details, “so as not to spoil the negotiation.”

He did say that “flights from Madrid and Barcelona will be able to use Gibraltar airport, as was the case from 2006 to 2011”.

As for Spain’s long-standing claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar, the agreement will not contemplate this although the pact will not give way on it either, and “the Spanish position of claiming sovereignty will not change, I want to make that very clear,” Albares told Canal Sur.

Read more with Euractiv

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