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+++ Ashley Fox MEP to visit Gibraltar +++
Public meeting at the Charles Hunt Room, John Mackintosh Hall Monday 29th October at 18.00. +++
THE ROCKING OF THE ‘ROCK’: WHAT IS SPAIN’S MOTIVATION?
By Ashley Fox, MEP
Every summer there is inevitably a story that comes to dominate the media narrative that is wholly unpredictable. This year it has undoubtedly been the events happening in and around Gibraltar. As if from nowhere the Spanish authorities abandoned common sense and picked a fight that they knew they couldn’t win, and yet at the same time, one in which they couldn’t lose either.
There have been territorial incursions, ramming incidents and lengthy border queues, all of great inconvenience, but ultimately futile.
The Spanish would argue that all of this was in retaliation to the formation of an artificial reef in disputed waters off the Spanish Coast, and that the border queues were brought about as a need to tackle smugglers bringing tobacco into Spain. Sadly neither provides the real reason, which is simply politics.
The truth is that the Spanish Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, has been fighting claims of illegal payments from a slush fund run by the Popular Party's ex- treasurer, Luis Barcenas.
These claims led to widespread anti-government protests and touched a nerve amongst the Spanish people facing a double-dip recession and high unemployment.
As this political drama was unfolding, the Government of Gibraltar planted the controversial reef which lead directly to the Spanish Foreign Secretary turning his attention to this British bastion in the Mediterranean.
Whether this was in an effort to support the embattled Rajoy, by deflecting public attention onto a foreign ‘foe’, or to position himself in the event of the PM’s fall, only time will tell.
Whatever the motivation the story was quickly seized on by the Spanish Government as a means to distract the Spanish media from the appalling economic picture and Governmental scandal.
There is no doubt in my mind that the incursions into Gibraltarian waters and the artificial border queues are both illegal and politically motivated. The problem is what to do next. To my mind the answer involves the British Government taking the Spanish authorities to the European Court of Justice for breach of the European Treaties.
The problem is that I don’t believe that the Spanish want a solution to the crisis. I am also far from convinced that they actually want Gibraltar. I think that the Government of the day, whatever its political composition, would much rather have a ‘Gibraltarian Crisis’ to use as a political parachute than the territory itself.
Gibraltar is British for as long as it wishes to remain British, and the sad truth is that for as long as this is so it will remain a political football. No amount of diplomacy, gunboats or court rulings is going to change this.