Easing tensions in Gibraltar

By

Chris Dove, SeafoodSource.com contributing editor, reporting from Malaga, Spain

Published on
July 27, 2009

Strengthening international relations in the fishing grounds linking Spain and Gibraltar was the focus of a discussion last week between Spain foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos, Gibraltar chief minister Peter Caruana and British foreign minister David Miliband.

The tripartite meeting marked the first time a Spanish minister had visited Gibraltar in 300 years. Spain and Great Britain have dispute over the territory, located at the southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, since 1713 when Gibraltar was placed under British control as part of the Treaty of Utrecht.

Meeting participants agreed to cooperate on several key issues, including improving communications between the port of Gibraltar and other Spanish ports to boost the region’s economy and provide new job opportunities.

On 12 July, tensions in the region heightened when the Spanish Guardia Civil entered Gibraltar waters just a few hundred yards from the coastline and stopped local fishing boats and asked them to furnish documentation, the Gibraltar Chronicle reported.

The Gibraltar government responded with a 13 July statement: “All requests by Spanish authorities within British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to board vessels, to produce documentation, to answer questions of any nature or to enforce legislation on any subject, especially fishing and environmental laws, should be refused. Boat owners accosted in this way should immediately radio or telephone the Royal Gibraltar Police…or other Gibraltar government maritime resources.”

Caruana said the ongoing dispute over territorial waters is in the process of being resolved, even if it means involving the European Court of Justice.

The ministers plan to meet again in 2010.

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