18 March 2002. / SUR

18 March 2002: Gibraltarians march against shared sovereignty

Around two thirds of citizens on the Rock took to the streets to show their rejection of the proposal between Spain and the UK

SHAY CONAGHAN

Two thirds of Gibraltarian citizens, equivalent to 20,000 people, marched in the streets of Gibraltar on 18 March 2002 against a supposed agreement that Spain and the United Kingdom had reached to share sovereignty over the Rock.

According to the then Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, the proposal between the two countries would have been made before consulting Gibraltarians, whose opinions would have gone unheard.

Caruana's remarks were made in a press conference held before demonstrations took place, where tens of thousands voiced their opinions on the idea. Many expressed anger at the negotiations and at the possibility of a joint sovereignty agreement, which many political and social groups on the Rock rejected at the time.

Moreover, the protests were held at the end of a four-hour general strike, which saw most local shops and businesses close as further form of protest.

"The whole of Gibraltar is in the streets. There has been a massive response," said Chief Minister Caruana, who had stressed the importance of the wide support for the demonstration.

Caruana had also stated earlier that week the possibility of Gibraltar having its own referendum on the matter, which would be held at the "opportune moment" to allow Gibraltarians to have their own say about their future.

Total rejection

In July 2002, Caruana announced the referendum plans, which he wanted to use as a way to pre-empt any agreement between Spain and the UK and reinforce Gibraltarians' rejection of the idea. "Our referendum will constitute the freely and democratically expressed wishes of the people of Gibraltar," he said.

The referendum was eventually held on 7 November, 2002. Gibraltar rejected the possibility of shared sovereignty by a landslide, with 98.97% (17,900 people) voting against, with only 187 people voting in favour.