Page last updated at 14:31 GMT, Wednesday, 22 July 2009 15:31 UK

Gibraltar visit ignites press debate

Gibraltar Chief Minister Peter Caruana, Spain"s foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos and his British counterpart David Miliband meet in Gibraltar
The sovereignty of Gibraltar has been a major bone of contention in Anglo-Spanish relations

The diplomatic implications of the visit by Miguel Angel Moratinos, the first Spanish government minister to visit Gibraltar for 300 years, have been fiercely debated in the Spanish press.

Map of Gibraltar

Two Spanish editorials criticised the visit, with one declaring it a "shameful moment in Spanish history". Another paper described as an overreaction the "alarmist" statement by Spain's opposition PP party that the visit represented an insult to the dignity of Spain.

Two Gibraltarian papers expressed opposing reactions to the visit while remaining united in their continued support for UK sovereignty. One commentator hoped that negotiations would mean the start of a new era in relations while another said talks should not take place while the issue of Spain's "take-over" of British territorial waters surrounding Gibraltar remained unresolved.



The photo of Moratinos with [Gibraltar Chief Minister] Peter Caruana and [British Foreign Secretary] David Miliband on the Rock yesterday illustrates the renunciation of a dispute lasting more than three centuries and will go down as a shameful moment in Spain's history. The three smiling leaders shook hands at the summit of the Rock as if Spain were approving its status and had nothing to say about the dishonour of harbouring Europe's last colony.


Since the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 [in which Spain ceded Gibraltar to Great Britain], no representative of Spain had ever taken this risky step, which sends the unequivocal message that the status quo is accepted without the slightest compensation or the prospect of obtaining any. After this visit, it is hard to think how to interpret the complaints about the presence on the Rock of figures from the British Royal Family.


Talk of a surrender of sovereignty is an exaggeration, as the Popular Party [opposition PP] has done: with or without a visit by a member of the government, Gibraltar will remain on the UN's list of territories awaiting decolonisation, which is the main international legal trump card Spain has. Moreover, the PP's alarmist position does not appear to take into account the fact that the government of [PP former Prime Minister] Jose Maria Aznar made similar diplomatic efforts, on the grounds that his alignment with Tony Blair favoured Spanish interests.



That Gibraltar is confident in engaging in dialogue and hosting yesterday's tripartite summit is no signal that we have changed our feelings about remaining British or that some 'solution' to the ancient dispute is at hand. But it does suggest that we recognise that [Gibraltar] Chief Minister [Peter Caruana] needs space in which to pursue his policy and efforts to take us forward. Increasingly we shift away from the days of being dominated, even motivated, by the conflict with Spain.


It is a bit of a farce for the Spanish minister who engineered the take-over of our British territorial waters to come to Gibraltar for talks which are meant to be on friendly cooperation ... Unless and until those waters return to their status quo ante there should be no further talks of the tripartite forum - and the meeting held in Gibraltar yesterday is one too many.

BBC Monitoring selects and translates news from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages. It is based in Caversham, UK, and has several bureaux abroad.

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