Spain’s Foreign Minister visits Gibraltar

Today’s visit to Gibraltar by Spanish Foreign Minister criticised by the opposition Popular Part

The Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Miguel Angel Moratinos, will arrive in Gibraltar today at around 2pm this afternoon after having attended a meeting with various institutional representatives to discuss problems that affect the neighbouring area to Gibraltar.

The visit by Moratinos is milestone in relations between Gibraltar and the Spanish government since the treaty of Utrecht was signed in 1713 in which the territory and its surrounding waters were officially handed over to the control of the British government.

The visit by Moratinos is the result of a period of openness between the British and Spanish governments which began in 2004 with the objective of looking for practical measures which would benefit the local population following several periods of stagnation in relations between the two – between 1969-1984 the border was closed between Gibraltar and the rest of the Spanish mainland and between 1984 -2002 there were unsuccessful negotiations over the sovereignty of the territory, the last colony in Europe.

The planned visit by the Spanish Foreign Minister has been criticised by the PP which has accused the government of going against the interests of Spain because it says that Moratinos visit will reinforce the sovereign status of this disputed territory.

The visit by Moratinos to Gibraltar will last approximately 5 hours and will include a meeting with his British counterpart, David Miliband, and the first minister of Gibraltar Peter Caruana which will take place in the Rock Hotel, followed by a press conference to talk about any agreements reached with regards to maritime and environmental cooperation and the fight against organized crime.

Moratinos will be accompanied by the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ángel Losada, the Director of non EU European Foreign Policy, Luis Felipe de la Peña, and a representative from the regional Andalucian Government, Luis Pizarro.

Following the meetings Moratinos and his team will return to Jerez where they will meet with Miliband again to discuss bilateral and international issues without any reference to Gibraltar.

The PP, which has asked Moratinos to cancel his visit to Gibraltar, has organized a protest by its mayors in the area as an expression of its rejection of the visit which it considers to be a ‘terrible error’ and of the dangerous precedent this visit will represent.
The PP has also asked Moratinos to reopen discussions over the sovereignty of Gibraltar which were interrupted in 2002 when the British and Spanish governments almost reached an agreement over sharing control of Gibraltar.

The only other visit by a representative of the Spanish government to Gibraltar was when the ex Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Bernardino León visited the territory in 2006 to open the first aerial connection between the Rock and Madrid.

Spain closed its consulate in Gibraltar in 1954 in reply to a visit to the area by Queen Elizabeth II to commemorate the 250th anniversary of the British occupation.