Wednesday, 21 June 2023, 20:18
The Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, expressed his confidence on Tuesday that "the negotiations on Gibraltar's future relationship with the European Union (EU) can be concluded as soon as possible", stressing that "the spirit of the United Kingdom has so far been constructive".
Speaking to the media after the Aqaba Process meeting at the Palacio de la Merced in Cordoba, the minister pointed out that last December he put "a global agreement that covered all the necessary aspects for there to be a zone of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar" on the table.
"Since then we have been waiting for the United Kingdom to say whether it is in favour of this agreement or not," said the foreign affairs minister, who commented that "there is no meeting planned at the moment".
The agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom on Gibraltar's future relationship with the bloc will have to wait until after the general elections on 23 July in Spain, according to diplomatic sources who told Europa Press a few days ago that the document was practically ready to be signed in the coming weeks.
London and Brussels have held a total of 13 rounds of negotiations, the last of which took place at the end of April, with a view to drawing up an agreement to regulate the Rock's relations with the EU now that the UK is no longer in the union, based on what was agreed between Spain and the UK on New Year's Eve 2020.
The aim of the negotiations, according to both Spain and the UK, is to contribute to the creation of an area of shared prosperity in the Campo de Gibraltar for which the abolition of the border is envisaged. However, given that Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen area, border controls would be necessary at both the Rock's airport and port.
This has been one of the thorniest issues in the negotiations, given that London - and also Gibraltar - have flatly rejected the presence of Spanish officers on Gibraltarian soil, as they consider that this would call into question British sovereignty over the territory, which Spain claims as its own. Both governments have made it clear at all times that neither is renouncing their respective positions on sovereignty over the Rock.
The proposal on the table, as confirmed by Albares after meeting with his British counterpart James Cleverly last December in Madrid, is for EU Border Agency (Frontex) officers to be deployed alongside the Spanish police for an initial period of four years.
The head of diplomacy has been arguing in recent months that "the ball is in London's court", given that the proposal put forward is "global and balanced" and the best option for achieving the goal of shared prosperity that will put an end to the gap that currently exists on both sides of the border. He also made it clear that the talks cannot go on forever.
This haste to reach an agreement, also taking into account the fact that the Spanish general elections were scheduled for December - now brought forward - and that Gibraltar also has a date with the ballot box before the end of the year, was reflected in the telephone conversation held at the beginning of May between Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez and British PM Rishi Sunak.
At the time, the message from both sides was that the negotiations had to be concluded "as soon as possible", which raised hopes that they had entered the final stage of a process that began more than two years ago. However, diplomatic sources consulted now indicate that the agreement will have to wait until after the Spanish elections.
Sources also point out that no new rounds of talks between the British government and the European Commission are to be expected until then, although neither London nor Brussels has confirmed this to Europa Press. Gibraltar's chief minister, Fabian Picardo, has spoken along the same lines.
In a radio interview following the announcement of the early elections in Spain, Picardo acknowledged the impact that this has on the process, given that despite being a treaty negotiated between London and Brussels, there are "certain aspects" that must be consulted with the Spanish government for it to give its approval, something on which the aforementioned diplomatic sources agree.
Thus, he said, the European Commission will not agree any treaty with the United Kingdom on Gibraltar that does not have "the backing of the Spanish government on the day it is finalised".
Picardo also pointed out that if an agreement has not yet been reached it is because what is on the table is not "a good treaty for Gibraltar".
"I will always maintain that having no treaty is better than having a bad treaty," he stressed.
Moreover, the Gibraltar and UK governments have already been working on the next scenario in the event that an agreement is not finally reached, something for which Spain is also ready, as Albares said at the time in an interview with Europa Press. "We are prepared for any scenario," he said.
The UK has made it clear that it "remains committed to concluding the treaty as soon as possible", working "hand in hand with the Government of Gibraltar", whose chief minister is sitting at the table with the British delegation in the negotiations.
A spokeswoman for the embassy in Madrid said she was confident that the future treaty could "fulfil the objectives" set out in the so-called New Year's Eve Agreement and "ensure the future prosperity of Gibraltar and the region", without confirming whether further rounds of talks are planned in the coming weeks.
Neither has the European Commission gone into detail on the current situation of the negotiation process, nor has it wished to confirm whether it will indeed wait for Spain to hold the elections before resuming negotiations or whether it is to be expected that they will continue to make progress in the days remaining until then, although the EU sources consulted do acknowledge that the agreement should have the backing of the Spanish government.
Te puede interesar
Necesitas ser suscriptor para poder votar.