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Monday, 19 November, 2001, 16:41 GMT
Anger as Gibraltar talks get set
Gibraltar
The Rock is a thorn in UK-Spanish relations
By Flora Botsford in Gibraltar

The UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, is meeting his Spanish counterpart, Josep Pique, in Barcelona on Tuesday for talks on the political future of Gibraltar.


We reckon it is a sell-out - Blair is too friendly with the Spanish prime minister, and he is trying to get rid of this Gibraltar problem

Gibraltar resident

The two governments are reported to be considering a number of options for solving their 300-year-old territorial dispute, including shared sovereignty.

But protests are being planned, both on The Rock and in Barcelona, by Gibraltar residents who say their historic rights are not being taken into account.

Nobody in Gibraltar is quite sure what the talks will lead to, but there is a palpable feeling of anger and betrayal here that the UK Government is preparing to do a deal with Spain.

Betrayal

At the pensioner's club in the town, card games and dominoes are in progress.

Discussion of politics is normally forbidden in the club, but the Barcelona talks are clearly on the minds of the players.

Spanish-Gibraltarian border
Long border queues cause havoc for thousands
"I am very upset with Tony Blair - to be frank, I do not trust him," says pensioner Pepe Mauro.

"We reckon it is a sell-out. Blair is too friendly with the Spanish prime minister, and he is trying to get rid of this Gibraltar problem, which is Spain's problem, not ours," agrees Anthony Figueras.

"They are letting us down, from what I can see and read. They do not care. We keep on getting kicked backwards and forwards by the Spaniards, and it is still the same," he adds.

Nuisance

One look at the border underlines why this is a problem which needs solving.

Big queues of traffic on both sides of the frontier are a daily inconvenience for thousands of Spaniards, who travel into Gibraltar to work, and for thousands of Gibraltarians, who travel to Spain, mainly to shop.


It is not the British and the Spanish governments that can decide the future of the people of Gibraltar, but the people of Gibraltar themselves

Gibraltar's Chief Minister

If Britain and Spain reach a settlement on Gibraltar, such things as passport controls could become a thing of the past.

Spain's long-standing claim to the territory will be at the centre of the negotiating table in Barcelona.

For this reason, Gibraltar's Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, says he can not take part in the talks, except as an equal third party.

"It is not the British and the Spanish governments that can decide the future of the people of Gibraltar, but the people of Gibraltar themselves," Mr Caruana says.

"Gibraltar is not a 'possession', which is either Britain's to give away or Spain's to claim, contrary to the wishes of its inhabitants, and that sort of 18th century, colonial attitude to life is not one which in the name of pragmatism the people of Gibraltar are willing to go along with," he adds.

Pessi