William Hague and Fabian Picardo met in London on Wednesday. SUR
The UK has closed ranks with the Rock in the ongoing conflict between the Gibraltarian and Spanish authorities, sparked by 70 concrete blocks being placed on the seabed at the end of July.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo travelled to London this week where he met with ForeignSecretary William Hague to discuss the issues. His meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron was postponed until today, Friday, due to the Syria crisis.
Picardo’s trip is aimed at gaining support from London in the light of “threats from Spanish officials to adopt further measures against Gibraltar”. He referred to the suggestion made by Spain’s Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo to introduce a 50-euro toll fee for crossing the border.
After the meeting Picardo said: “William Hague has long been a good and close friend of Gibraltar. He reaffirmed the UK government’s commitment to Gibraltar and its people.”
Meanwhile the queues continue to build up at the border due to the increased controls by the Spanish security forces to curb cigarette smuggling.
The Gibraltar Police have said that they are investigating reports of physical and verbal attacks on Spanish Guardia Civil officers by disgruntled individuals waiting to cross the border into Spain.
The police said that objects thrown appeared to come from the motorcycle lane as Spanish residents working in Gibraltar were waiting to go home.
On Thursday La Línea town hall was due to open an office where local traders and business owners could voice their complaints against the border queues. The office, located in the Casa de la Juventud, is the town hall’s response to the Spanish government’s decision to step up controls, coinciding with the fishing conflict.
Staff will help traders assess their financial losses derived from the absence of customers from Gibraltar.
Last Saturday the Spanish Government ordered border authorities not to allow vehicles carrying rocks, to be used for the construction of a breakwater, to cross the border.
The decision came after Spanish fishermen in Algeciras and La Línea reported that the construction violated environmental regulations and the cases was taken up by the public prosecution department.
Fishermen from La Línea, prevented from fishing in their usual area by the reef created by the 70 concrete blocks at the centre of the conflict, left port for the first time in a month on Tuesday.
The boats headed for fishing grounds east of the Rock which had been closed due to water pollution that has now cleared.
The fishermen, however, stated that this was a temporary solution until the controversial concrete blocks have been removed and they can return to their original grounds.
On Wednesday the Government of Gibraltar announced its satisfaction at the EU Commission’s decision not to investigate allegations of tax fraud in Gibraltar.
The allegations were made by Prime Minister Rajoy in a conversation with Commission president José Manuel Durao Barroso earlier in August.
Rajoy said there was a need for inspections and controls over Gibraltar’s financial services to ensure there were no violations of EU money laundering and tax regulations.
Meanwhile Spain’s Treasury Minister, Cristóbal Montoro has asked Gibraltar to provide tax information regarding a number of companies.
The government plans to report Gibraltar to the EU if the information is not provided, said ministry sources this week.
Spanish tax officials have celebrated the requests made by the minister. In their opinion the intention is to prove that the Rock is a “non-cooperative” tax haven. In 2010 Gibraltar joined the list of “cooperative” tax havens.
The Spanish Environment Minister, Miguel Arias Cañete, announced on Thursday that he was to change the legislation in order to prohibit “bunkering” (offshore refuelling) in the Gibraltar area.
He proposes to modify the natural heritage and biodiversity law to remove a legal loophole that prevents sanctions.