Spain called on the United Kingdom to return to the negotiating table on the future status of Gibraltar. The country’s permanent representative to the United Nations (UN), Augustin Santos, reiterated Spain’s position that only negotiations between Madrid and London can find a solution to the island’s “colonial” status.
But Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltarians would not be mere spectators of their own decolonisation. The statements were made to the UN Committee of 24, which is reviewing the political, economic and social situation in each of the remaining Non-Self-Governing Territories on the organization’s list.
Gibraltar – which has become a symbol of British naval power and is affectionately known as “the Rock” – stands apart from other British Overseas Territories in that it was part of the EU before Brexit. Some 95% of voters on the island chose to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
Following the vote, Spain renewed its calls for joint Spanish-British control of the peninsula. Mr Santos, urging the UK to resume negotiations over the fate of Gibraltar, insisted that Spain would always consider “the interests of the people of the territory”.
The UK and Spain agreed on December 31, 2020 that Gibraltar would serve as the basis for a subsequent agreement between the countries. Mr Santos said: “Nothing in this agreement implies a change in the legal position of Spain with regard to sovereignty and jurisdiction in relation to Gibraltar.”
He added that with the exception of the question of sovereignty, Spain is open to “agreements with the United Kingdom that allow regional cooperation schemes for the direct benefit of the inhabitants on both sides of the fence under the idea of shared prosperity”. Former Prime Minister Theresa May said in April 2017 that “the UK would seek the best possible deal for Gibraltar as the UK leaves the EU, and there would be no negotiation over Gibraltar’s sovereignty. without the consent of his people”.
Gibraltar has long been frustrated with the possibility of its future being decided by the UK and Spain without having a meaningful input itself. Mr Picardo called on the UN committee to remove Gibraltar from its list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, which also includes the Falkland Islands.
He demanded the Rock’s right to self-determination while being careful to stress that this would not include “avoiding cooperation with our neighbors despite our differences on fundamental issues.” Mr Picardo also pointed out that one of his predecessors, Sir Joshua Hassan, asked the committee for the same right 59 years ago.
Mr Picardo said: “And, as long as we remain on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories, we will always ensure that the voice of Gibraltarians is heard in this committee, despite the distance we have to travel for a brief hearing. We are making the long journey to make this little speech because the people of Gibraltar only want the exercise of their right to self-determination to be respected.
“We just want to be decolonized, because many countries in this room have been decolonized. We just want to exercise the same right they exercised. To this end, for 30 years, Madam President, we have repeatedly asked the Committee to visit Gibraltar. But he did not do it. »
In a final plea to the chairman of the commission, Mr Picardo added: “Your commission must engage with Gibraltar. You must do more to get us off the list, and as soon as possible, because Gibraltar is our home, This is our home, and only our decisions will decide its future.”
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