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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 15:00 GMT
Hard times ahead for the Rock
The Rock of Gibraltar
Gibraltar looms large in the history of Spanish-British relations
The Spanish press could hardly contain its excitement at the news that Madrid and London have agreed to reach a deal on Gibraltar by next summer, but the Rock remains both defiant and uneasy.


The Gibraltarians have achieved an unsustainable position as a haven which favours opacity and tax evasion

El Pais
The Madrid daily La Razon describes the agreement as an "extraordinary and laudable step forward", but remains wary of British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw's promise of a Gibraltar vote to ratify any agreement.

The prospect of a referendum "puts a substantial dampener on the good news," it says.

El Pais says the British and Spanish premiers now have a "unique opportunity" to settle the centuries-old dispute.

The paper continues by saying that, with both Tony Blair and Jose Maria Aznar boasting comfortable parliamentary majorities, now would seem the ideal time to resolve an "outdated colonial dispute that raises constant problems".

In any case, the paper argues, Gibraltar's current situation is destined to change.


The Gibraltar authorities' intransigence remains the main obstacle to any agreement.

El Mundo
"The Gibraltarians have achieved an unsustainable position as a haven which favours opacity and tax evasion by individuals and companies from Spain, Britain and other nations."

Following the 11 September attacks on the USA, "these tax havens are destined to disappear".

El Mundo says it is the "intransigence" of the Gibraltar authorities which remains the main obstacle to any agreement.

They "persist in boycotting the negotiations", it says. Opposition to the Gibraltar talks will "only serve to delay the resolution of an old conflict which the majority regard as anachronistic," it maintains.

Barcelona's La Vanguardia says a formula based on shared sovereignty "might clear the way to a definitive, comprehensive settlement", it says. "But it will not be easy."

"It is important that London... should cease to defend a strategic interest in Gibraltar". However, it points out that, "London's greater interest lies in strengthening its links with Madrid as a European Union and Nato partner".

'No choice'


The choice between a status quo, where our rights at EU level are not respected, and a bilateral deal, where the sovereignty of Gibraltar is compromised, is no choice at all

Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party spokesman

In Gibraltar, the authorities were quick to stress the importance of the Rock's inhabitants having a say in any future deal.

"The government," says the Gibraltar newspaper Panorama, "welcomes the clear statement by Mr Jack Straw... that no agreements are possible without the consent of the people of Gibraltar."

"The right to self-determination... is an objective that can't be renounced," the Gibraltar authorities further stated, according to Panorama.

Panorama also quoted a Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party spokesman as saying that the Rock was caught in a no-win situation.


The plan is for Gibraltar to be the sacrificial lamb

Panorama
"The choice between a status quo, where our rights at EU level are not respected, and a bilateral deal, where the sovereignty of Gibraltar is compromised, is no choice at all," spokesman Danny Feetham said.

Meanwhile the paper's gloomy forecasts issued ahead of the talks still hang in the air, leaving Gibraltar's population with a deep sense of unease regarding their future.

"The plan is for Gibraltar to be the sacrificial lamb that will allow the development of an Anglo-Spanish alliance as a counterweight to the Franco-German axis in Europe," the paper warned.

See also:

20 Nov 01 | From Our Own Correspondent
Gibraltar eyes uncertain future
05 Jun 99 | Europe
Gibraltar: Rock of ages
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