London and Madrid in secret talks on Gibraltar

The question of Gibraltar has been a thorn in the side of Anglo-Spanish relations for the last 300 years. Now there is a new will to solve the question by 2004.

The Guardian newspaper claims that a secret plan for the future of Gibraltar will be discussed between the British and Spanish governments in Barcelona on November 20th. The Gibraltarian government will also be asked to take part in the talks. Both sides have set the end of December, 2002 as the deadline by which the future of the territory must be solved.

Gibraltar was seized from Spain by Great Britain in 1704 during the war between Queen Anne’s Great Britain and the France and Spain rules by Louis XIV, the Sun King. Due to its strategic importance, Gibraltar became an important naval base for Great Britain in the Mediterranean, because it controls traffic entering or leaving this sea on its way to the Suez Canal or the Atlantic Ocean.

Over the years, Gibraltar has also become a tax haven. Its statute is as a colony of the United Kingdom but it has its own government and self-determination apart from external policy. The United Kingdom’s Minister for Europe, Peter Hain, claimed in September in an interview to the Gibraltar Chronicle, that the UK wanted to normalise its relations with Spain, which were affected by the contention over Gibraltar, also known as The Rock.

The UK Foreign Ministry is thought to favour a gradual handing-over process after consultation by referendum and it is said to believe that the process can be completed in two years. However, many Gibraltarians would prefer total independence to integration in Spain. The Gibraltarian government and opposition parties declared to Tony Blair on October 4th that they will never renounce the right to self-determination.

Between independence and self-determination, a compromise solution which is acceptable to all sides must be reached, if yet another nationality problem is to be avoided in Spain.


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