Susana Díaz (centre) with José Manuel García-Margallo, and the government delegate for Andalucía, Carmen Crespo.
Díaz has urged the government to make it easier for workers from La Línea crossing the border
The president of the Junta de Andalucía, Susana Díaz, has agreed to the Spanish foreign minister’s proposal concerning participation in talks open between the British and Spanish governments to find a solution to the Gibraltar conflict through regional cooperation.
Minister García-Margallo explained that Andalucía will participate in the talks on the same level as Gibraltar itself when the issues discussed are those which fall into the jurisdiction of the regional authority. These include fishing, environment, education and health.
In other words, the Spanish government will consider the Junta de Andalucía and the Gibraltar authorities as equals.
Nevertheless the Rock, through its government now run by Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, has always defended trilateral talks involving the UK, Spain and Gibraltar.
This was the formula accepted by former socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero in 2005, when the Cordoba agreement involving the three-party negotiations was approved.
This pact included second level talks in which the Junta de Andalucía would participate when the issues affected the region. Fishing, health (there was even an agreement to build a new hospital in La Línea that would take in patients from Gibraltar) and the joint use of the airport were on the agenda.
Only one such meeting took place, attended by Gaspar Zarrías representing the Junta de Andalucía.
When Rajoy came to power he broke up the trilateral forum, stating that the UK was the only legitimate interlocutor with whom Spain would discuss Gibraltar.
He has stuck firmly to this position since the conflict started when Picardo’s government put the controversial concrete blocks in the bay.
“It’s a case of there being two flags at these meetings, one British and the other Spanish,” said minister García-Margallo. “Or if more flags are included, the positions must be equal, and the Junta de Andalucía must have a position, a status and a representation similar to that of the colony’s authorities,” he explained.
Socialist Díaz, not only gave her support to García-Margallo as far as the position of Spain is concerned, but also said she was willing to collaborate.
However the president did ask for something in return: for the Spanish controls at the border to be relaxed to let the people from La Línea cross into Gibraltar to work. The current situation, she said, is damaging the district’s economy.
The minister made no promises. “He just listened and said he would study it carefully,” admitted Díaz’s head of cabinet, Manuel Jiménez Barrios.
The meeting took place at the head office of the Junta de Andalucía in Seville, the San Telmo palace.