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Gibraltar is our business, by Javier Otaola

Actualizado: 27 sept 2022

5/9/22, 9:43 Gibraltar is our business | El Correo

My visit to the Rock of Gibraltar every summer has coincided this year with an accident that threatens the Bay of Algeciras. The ship OS 35, flagged in Tuvalu, was leaving Gibraltar for Vlissingen (Netherlands) loaded with steel bars during the night of the 29th, when it collided with the methane tanker Adam LNG, which at that time was anchored in the western anchorage of the port.

The importance, not only national, but worldwide, of the maritime activity of the Strait of Gibraltar and the proximity of a macro-port like Algeciras means that everything that happens in the shadow of the Rock, in that narrow territory of about seven square kilometers and in its port area, affects us socially, economically and ecologically. Gibraltar is an autonomous city under British sovereignty due to the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713; and it is, furthermore, a multicultural and diverse micro-society of britons displaced from the metropolis and 'llanitos' descendants of Spanish, Moroccan, Maltese, Indian and Jewish.

The clash between the two ships has ended for the moment with the semi-sunken bulk carrier and the need to combat oil and fuel leaks. This accident shows how Gibraltar involves us and concerns us beyond the old sovereignty dispute between Spain and Great Britain regarding the decolonization of the Rock and the interpretation of the Treaty of Utrecht.

La Roca has been the object of various diplomatic confrontations between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom, and was used as a decoy for patriotic agitation by General Franco's dictatorship, closing the border crossing between 1969 and 1982, with serious damage to family, economic and social relations in the Campo de Gibraltar during all those years. Air traffic was also prohibited until 2006.

In accordance with the Treaty of Utrecht, Philip V granted the territory of the Rock to Queen Anne I of Great Britain in the following terms (article X): «The city and castles of Gibraltar, together with its port, defenses and fortresses» in 1713 will be the property of the British Crown in perpetuity, although the Treaty itself considers that the territory of Gibraltar continues to be Spanish jurisdiction due to its origin, so that British ownership has a limit, namely: control over the Rock must return to Spain if the United Kingdom renounces or otherwise disposes of the property that was recognized in the Treaty of Utrecht.

I have always thought that Gibraltar - our Mount Calpe - is a territory that adds an exotic value to the neighboring Costa del Sol and to the coast of Cádiz, worth visiting for its original combination of old British pomp and splendor: its changing of the guard, its Red jackets, its memorialistic paraphernalia, its respectful religious pluralism where Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Jews, Muslims and Hindus rub shoulders, its 'bobbies', its civic-political symbols and rituals, its 'pubs' and its pints of beer... And, on the other hand, for its Cadiz light that colors everything, its bilingualism, its sunsets in Punta Europa in view of two seas, the Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, before the Pillars of Hercules, the profile of Africa that can be seen with the naked eye, its marina, its casinos, its gastronomic cocktail, the peculiar English accent of the Rock and the varied human geography that inhabits and visits it.

The Treaty of Utrecht establishes that any «alienation» or «transfer» by the British Crown of ownership of the Rock -including the possible self-determination of Gibraltar- would imply the automatic recovery by the Kingdom of Spain of full jurisdiction over the territory. During the ministry of Jack Straw (2002) a formula of shared sovereignty with Spain was proposed by London, rejected in a referendum by the Gibraltarians.

On September 10, 1967, the first referendum on the fate of the colony was held in which the citizens of Gibraltar constituted themselves as subjects with their own political will. They were asked if they wanted to go under Spanish sovereignty or remain under British colonial administration with their own colonial institutions. That date became the National Day of Gibraltar and gave rise to a new political narrative that aims to leave behind the British-Spanish framework and open the way to the claim of a new political subject and new national identity, Gibraltarian, which would no longer be British or Spanish, but own.

After more than 300 years of existence, Gibraltar is a historical, economic and sociopolitical reality, with its own mestizo culture, traditions and identity and, however its decolonization takes place, it seems logical to think that, in addition to the interests of Great Britain and Spain, in some way the will of the 'llanitos' will have to be taken into account.

Javier Otaola,

de la Real Sociedad Bascongada de Amigos del País.


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