Drivers wait in line to enter Gibraltar. :: REUTERS
Spain is to intensify checks at the border with Gibraltar over claims there has been a sharp increase in tobacco smuggling over the past few months. In a statement sent to the European Commission, Spain accused the UK of failing to tackle the smuggling problem.
The news follows a visit by EU inspectors last September who asked Spain and the UK to work together more closely to fight tobacco smuggling and improve border queue waiting times.
Both sides were given six months to implement the EU’s recommendations – a deadline that expired last week. In the statement sent to the EU, a Spanish government spokesman, said: “Spain has established, over the past few months, that the UK has to adopt the necessary measures to tackle smuggling.
“Co-operation with local Gibraltarian authorities, far from improving, unfortunately appears to be worsening.
“This lack of co-operation in the face of an increase (in tobacco smuggling) requires Spain to intensify controls both in the waters and at the fence.”
The statement referred to a recent report in a Spanish newspaper that a member of the Royal Gibraltar Police injured a Guardia Civil officer at sea last month.
The claim was denied by police chiefs in Gibraltar and by a spokesman for the Spanish Civil Guard, who said the officer slipped as he jumped from a patrol boat to a suspect craft, before falling and injuring his back.
The statement came after UK Europe Minister, David Lidington, criticised the continued delays at the border and urged Spain to act on the EC recommendations.
According to the Spanish ministry, tobacco seizures at the border have increased 213 per cent between 2010 and 2012 - reaching 97,146 cartons in 2013.
It claims the trend has continued into 2014, with 13,781 cartons seized in the first two months of this year.
Spain also told the commission that it’s planning a five million euro major upgrade at its border facilities.
The statement added that Spain will continue with its border checks, which are an EU obligation, as Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen Area or the customs union.
The Schengen Area is comprised of 26 European countries that have abolished passport control in between their borders, while encouraging the free movement of goods, information, money and people.
The news comes just days after the Daily Express reported how more British troops are being sent to Gibraltar following increased incursions by Spanish boats in British territorial waters.
According to the UK newspaper, the deployment of additional sailors will allow the Royal Navy to operate patrol boats 24-hours a day.
The paper also claimed that electronic eavesdropping specialists are being deployed after Spain’s decision to allow Russian warships to refuel in Ceuta, its North African territory.
As reported last Friday in SUR in English, the Gibraltar government has sent 500 complaints about the border queues to the EU – following months of lengthy queues at the frontier.
By Tuesday lunchtime this week, a six-lane queue was already visible on the Gibraltar side of the frontier, with cars estimated to be taking 1 hour and 15 minutes to enter Spain.
Anyone affected by the border queues is advised to email their complaints to firstname.lastname@example.org
To see the border queue live visit www.frontierqueue.gi