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Rocky negotiations bring diplomatic progress

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Rocky negotiations bring diplomatic progress


Fly your union jacks with pride was the call to local people from Gibraltarian nationalists, in a gesture of defiance to the visit of the Spanish foreign minister, Miguel Angel Moratinos.

But in the 25 years since the border with Spain was fully re-opened, London and Madrid have been keen to avoid letting their differences over Gibraltar damage relations. The question of sovereignty was very much off the agenda for Tuesday’s visit. By insisting that Spain would never renounce its claim to the rock, Moratinos hoped to defuse criticism of the trip at home. In referendums the people of Gibraltar have resoundly said they want to remain part of a British colony. In 2002 99% voted against a proposal for shared sovereignty with Spain. Fewer than two hundred were in favour of the move out of more than eighteen thousand who cast their vote. The result prompted British reassurances that no decision on the rock’s future would be made without Gibraltarians’ consent. Chief minister Peter Caruana called the poll seven years ago. He has continued to put forward arguments to promote Gibraltar’s autonomy and keep Spanish claims at bay, in particular highlighting the strength of Gibraltar’s economy. Neither has he shied away from mentioning the frictions between Spain and Morocco over territorial claims, reminding people that Madrid has refused to cede the enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to Rabat. In recent weeks Gibraltar has accused Spain of trying to question British sovereignty through an EU maritime directive on the environment. But despite the rows the past few years have been significant diplomatic progress. In 2006 Moratinos was present at a meeting which reinforced co-operation over security and against tax fraud, and re-opened air routes between Spain and Gibraltar.

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