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Picardo, Cameron, Šefčovič and Albares, in Brussels. SUR
EU and UK agree on the 'general political lines' on Gibraltar
Gib talks

EU and UK agree on the 'general political lines' on Gibraltar

Spanish and British foreign ministers and EU and Gib leaders succeeded in setting the framework for regulating the airport, goods and mobility of the Rock at Brussels meeting

Olatz Hernández / SUR in English

Friday, 12 April 2024, 20:00

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The high-level meeting between Spain, the United Kingdom, the EU and Gibraltar in Brussels ended on Friday with "significant progress" that gives a glimpse of a future agreement on Gibraltar. The foreign ministers of the two countries -José Manuel Albares and David Cameron- met with the vice-president of the European Commission, Maroš Šefčovič, and the chief minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, and managed to establish the "general political lines" regarding the airport, goods and mobility on the Rock, as confirmed in a joint statement.

Negotiations are at their "peak", as vice-president Šefčovič indicated several days ago, and the parties agreed not to give further details of the pacts reached in order to preserve the possibility of agreement.

"Today is not just another day. It has been an important day with great progress," the Spanish foreign minister stressed on leaving the meeting, adding that his intention is to reach an agreement "as soon as possible".

He did not reveal when the next meeting will take place and assured that the parties "have not set a specific timetable". But the sense of urgency to reach an agreement is evident just a few months before the European elections, which will mean a hiatus of several months in the negotiations. There is also a desire to take advantage of the Spanish government's and Rishi Sunak's government's good relationship before the British general elections, which must be held before 28 January 2025.

Weeks of work

Four years after the UK's effective exit from the European Union (EU) and after eighteen technical rounds of negotiations, Spain, the UK and the EU executive are trying to finalise a complex treaty, which will include various aspects, from who is in charge of border controls, to tax harmonisation and pensions, among others.

The idea is to continue negotiations in the hope of "concluding the agreement in the next few weeks". This is, according to Albares, "an important and special moment". Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo, also present at the meeting, stressed that "there is a commitment" from the parties to reach an agreement and that they will continue to work in the "very little time left" before the European elections.

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A joint statement released on Friday evening said: "The discussions took place in a constructive atmosphere, with significant progress achieved. General political lines have been agreed, including on airport, goods and mobility. Negotiations will continue over the coming weeks to conclude the EU-UK Agreement.

"The participants agreed that this was a productive day. The meeting reaffirmed their shared commitment to concluding an EU-UK Agreement to secure the future prosperity of the whole region. This Agreement will bring confidence, legal certainty and stability to the lives and livelihoods of the people of the whole region, without prejudice to the parties’ legal positions," concluded the statement.

Border

Gibraltar's border with the EU and the mobility of the tens of thousands of people who cross it every day was one of the main points of discussion. It was also one of the most sensitive. In the absence of knowing the agreed lines, the EU executive's proposal was that the Frontex Agency would be in charge of border controls, in order to avoid the presence of Spanish agents on the Rock.

Negotiations also referred to control of Gibraltar's airport, which both Spain and the UK are demanding. As for the import and export of goods, tax harmonisation is being considered to bring Gibraltar into line with other European regions. Among the pending issues is equating pensions for Gibraltarians and itinerant workers from the Rock, some 400 euros per month lower.

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