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Wednesday, March 3, 1999 Published at 02:34 GMT

UK Politics

FO plan for Gibraltar vote

Rock the vote: Relations with Spain are already strained

By Political Correspondent Carole Walker

The UK Foreign Office is to seek voting rights for the people of Gibraltar in European Parliament elections.

The BBC's Carole Walker: "This can only create further tension between Britain and Spain"
A written answer from UK Foreign Office minister Joyce Quin said all available steps would be taken to secure an extension of the parliament to the territory.

But the decision is likely to further inflame relations between the UK and Spain.

These are already strained in a dispute over fishing rights which has led to long hold-ups at Gibraltar's border with its neighbour.

The announcement follows the case of Denise Matthews, a 24-year-old British citizen living in Gibraltar.

Last month the European Court of Human Rights ruled that her electoral rights had been violated because she could not vote in the forthcoming European elections.

Any change in the rules would require the unanimous approval of all fifteen EU States and Spain, which wants an end to British rule of Gibraltar, would almost certainly veto any such move.

Foreign Office sources say change is unlikely in time for this summer's polls but the UK will seek to amend the European legislation as soon as possible.

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