Spanish MEP’s Comments Provoke Gibraltar

 The Hon Joseph Garcia MP
The Hon Joseph Garcia MP

Spanish PSOE MEP, Ramon Jauregui Atondo, has once again set a fire under the seats of Gibraltar’s government with inflamatory comments regarding the islands tax regime. Whilst addressing the European Parliament last week, the MEP alleged that Gibraltar not only accepts, but facilitates tax evasion and financial crime.

In response, Dr Joseph Garcia, Gibraltars Deputy Chief Minister and Minister for European Affairs, has written to the European Commission to reiterate his country’s position on the matter.

In a press release issued over the weekend, the Minister states this is not the first time this particular Spanish MEP has made anti-Gibraltar comments to the commission.

The letter reminds the commission that Gibraltar has international information exhange agreements with up to 80 countries, including Spain. It also explains that:

  • The OECD gave Gibraltar a “glowing review” on their record for exchange of information and transparency.
  • Gibraltars Financial Intelligence Unit regularly sends information to all members of the Egmont Group of Financial Units, which includes Spain.
  • All EU regulations governing financial matters, the exchange of information and anti-money laundering are in force in the country. Furthermore, the EC has recognised Gibraltar’s full compliance with their obligations in these areas.
  • Gibraltar has in fact created its own legislation for the exchange of information with the USA, the UK and all other EU member states, which includes Spain.
  • Plans are in place for the information exchange to be extended to include a further 70 countries.
  • Tax evasion is a serious crime in Gibraltar

The Hon Dr Joseph Garcia, commented: “It is difficult to see what else this gentleman expects Gibraltar to do, and his question must be seen for what it is – an ignorant and unsubstantiated attempt to discredit and cause harm to Gibraltar. Our record in the transposition of European Union law and in adhering to the highest international standards has been independently verified and is second to none. The Government will not allow his ridiculous claims to go by unchallenged and we have already written to the Commission in order to set the record straight.”

See the full press release here.

UK rebuffs Spanish challenge to Gibraltar sovereignty

The United Kingdom government has dismissed a request from Spain’s Prime Minister, Mariano Rajoy, for a return to bilateral discussions on matters relating to Gibraltar under an agreement dating back to 1984.

Under the previous administration in Spain, Gibraltar and the UK had made significant progress on contentious issues surrounding Gibraltar’s sovereignty after more than a century of fractious relations. Through the trilateral forum, the three governments engaged on maritime border issues, customs policy and, critically, on tax information exchange. It was hoped that through the signing of a bilateral tax information exchange agreement, Spain would in turn recognize Gibraltar’s status as a transparent, highly-regulated international financial centre, lawfully independent from the United Kingdom.

However, in its election manifesto, the People’s Party, which took office this year, said it would seek to undo the work of the previous government and aim to restore the idea of ‘Two Flags (the United Kingdom and Spain), Three Voices’. This approach would remove Gibraltar’s power of veto over discussions pertinent to the territory and force it to mediate issues with Spain through the United Kingdom, under the terms of the 1984 Brussels Agreement.

Speaking at the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 25, Rajoy called for the United Kingdom to agree to a reset, and the resumption of negotiations under the Brussels process.

In a move welcomed by the Gibraltar government, the UK responded however that it would “not engage in any discussions about Gibraltar that the Gibraltarians don’t want to engage in”.

The Gibraltar government underscored that it had “already made clear that talks under the Brussels process are unacceptable to the government and to the people of Gibraltar”, and expressed hope that with the UK’s backing the matter would be put to rest.

“Gibraltar enjoys a veto on the resumption of bilateral discussions about Gibraltar and that is the end of the matter,” the Gibraltar government stated. “The only dialogue acceptable to the people and government of Gibraltar is a trilateral process, to which Gibraltar and the UK remain strongly committed.”

Article source: Investors

St Michael’s Cave, Gibraltar

A must see if you visit Gibraltar
A must see if you visit Gibraltar

Guest post by Jennifer Garcia.

If you’re heading into Gibraltar during your visit to the Costa del Sol, then a visit to St Michael’s Cave is highly recommended!

Gibraltar is 130 km away from your Malaga Airport and it’s very straightforward to get to if you follow the A7 or AP7 to La Linea, where you can park your car and then walk across the border on to Gibraltar. Just don’t forget your passport!

St Michael’s Cave is an incredibly beautiful network of limestone caves positioned right at the top of the Rock of Gibraltar. It is located within the Upper Rock Nature Reserve and there are a few different ways to reach it. Perhaps the easiest way to get into the Nature Reserve is by taking a Rock Tour with one of the taxi drivers stationed near the Spanish border. Your driver will take you to all the top sights, and provide a running commentary en-route.

Alternatively, you can take the cable car up to the Upper Rock Nature Reserve. Buy a return ticket on the cable car or just buy a single ticket up and walk down at your leisure. You also need to buy a ticket to enter the Nature Reserve.

The caves are 300 metres above sea level so before you enter, take a moment to enjoy the amazing view across the Bay of Gibraltar. It’s breathtaking. Around 1.000.000 visitors per year enter St Michael’s Cave, either having a look around or enjoying a concert there. It is one of Gibraltar’s most popular tourist attractions.

The lighting has been arranged to very good effect inside the cave in order to highlight the dramatic stalactites and stalagmites which have formed naturally over the years. Water has seeped through the limestone over the centuries forming an acid which dissolves the rock. This has created the caves and passages which link them. The stalactites and stalagmites are effectively a buildup of the dissolved rock deposits.

One very large stalagmite became so overbalanced on one side that it fell over many centuries ago. Today it is still positioned where it fell and so visitors can get a really great look at its cross-section and understand how it built up over time.

It has been proved that the caves date back to prehistoric man although they have played an important role many times since. In Moorish times, when Tariq ibn Ziyad led his Umayyad Conquest of Hispania in 711 AD, the caves were used as a military base. Spanish forces hid in them in the 18th century and, in more recent times, the cave was adapted as a field hospital for use during the Second World War.

St Michael’s Cave is a fascinating tourist attraction. Pay a visit during the day and learn all about its history and creation as well as the legends which surround it. Or buy tickets to one of the many events held there to see it in a completely different light. Regular events include musical recitals, Miss Gibraltar beauty pageant, orchestral concerts, operas and rock concerts.

For more information, check out the Gibraltar website

Jennifer Garcia was born in Gibraltar and has lived there all of her life. She is currently writing about Gibraltar airport, compiling a useful guide for those travelling through the airport.

Spanish workers association accuses Gibraltar of discrimination

Discrimination on the rock?
Discrimination on the rock?

A Spanish workers association has accused the Gibraltar government of acting in a ‘discriminatory’ manner towards Spaniards.

Citypeg has accused the Employment Minister, Joe Bossano, of trying to replace Spanish nationals with Gibraltarians in the public sector and the construction industry.

Francisco Ponce, President of Citypeg, claims that the government is achieving this by only offering 11-month contracts which will not be renewed once expired.

A total of 500 Spanish workers have lost their jobs since last January in Gibraltar, many from the construction sector.

“It is disturbing, with over ten years of service to these companies, only the Spanish have their contracts terminated while local workers have been transferred to other construction companies.” Ponce said.

Article source: The Olive Press

Spanish fishermen in Gibraltar close to netting deal

The meeting comes after months of heated disputes
The meeting comes after months of heated disputes

Spanish fishermen could be putting down nets in Gibraltar’s waters as soon as next week, following a high-level meeting with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

Picardo was equally positive about the two-hour meeting, which ends a long period of sabre-rattling between the two countries.

Describing the talks as ‘constructive’ he insisted ‘considerable progress’ had been made.

But he warned the government was still going to await the recommendations of a panel of experts set up to deal with the fishing dispute.

If the report due over the next week is positive, then fisherman could be allowed back the next day.

However, Picardo added that more data may still be required before a final decision is made later in the year.

“Only when all data and information is available will the Government make a final decision,” he said.

Regardless of the outcome, fishing legislation is likely to tightened in the waters around the Rock.

A licensing system is expected to be introduced for all types of fishing.

Article source: The Olive Press

Gibraltar rejects ranking as worst environmental offender

The Rock is a major bunkering location for fuel
A major bunkering location for fuel

Gibraltar has dismissed ‘misleading’ claims that it has the highest per capita carbon emissions in the world.

The Rock topped a survey by the US Energy Information Administration, which measured petroleum consumption by each country relative to its population.

But Gibraltar’s health minister Dr John Cortes claimed the figures were ‘a misrepresentation of the reality’.

He said the survey failed to consider the Rock’s role as a major bunkering location for fuel used by the shipping industry.

“The majority of (bunker) fuel sales in Gibraltar are not consumed nationally but form part of the international shipping industry,” he said.

“When this figure is divided by the small population (approximately 28,000), we naturally appear to be the worst in the world.”

He added: “The world carbon emissions league table is misleading, reducing its value as a tool for climate change mitigation.”

Article Source: The Olive Press

Most Spaniards unconcerned with Gibraltar disputes

Not important to many Spaniards
Not important to many Spaniards

SIX out of ten Spaniards do not think the dispute over Gibraltar is important enough to be part of the country’s foreign policy, according to a survey.

The findings come at a time of heightened tension between the UK and Spain over the issue of the Rock’s sovereignty and ongoing legal wrangling over fishing rights.

Half of right-wing voters rated the dispute with Gibraltar as ‘quite’ or ‘very’ important in Spain’s foreign policy, although this figure dropped below 30 per cent for voters on the left.

The poll, by the Real Instituto Elcano, also suggests a split in public opinion over the handling of the fishing dispute, with 44 per cent preferring to see an end to the hostilities.

However, 60 per cent of voters on the right want diplomatic pressure to be increased, while 51 per cent of liberal voters want tensions to be reduced.

Article source: The Olive Press

Gibraltar and Spain warned over fishing dispute

Spain and Gibraltar must "work together"
Spain and Gibraltar must “work together”

Following increasing tensions between Spanish and Gibraltarian fisherman Europe has warned both country’s to work together to protect the Site of Specific Cultural Interest (SCI) which runs alongside the rock.

Environment commissioner Janez Potocnik says that both country’s have legal obligations to protect the area and they should work together on protecting it from damage and spend less time arguing about who’s water it is.

However, Gibraltar’s response is that Spain has no say in the matter as the area is within British waters and it has full backing from the UK who refuse to recognise the ‘Spanish designations within British waters’ even though the EC approved the site in 2008.

“The response from the EU Commission is erroneously based on the false premise that the waters around Gibraltar are anything other than exclusively British,” a spokesman for the Gibraltar government said.

A UK foreign office spokesman added: “Neither Spain nor the Commission alerted the UK to the Spanish SCI proposal. The UK does not recognise the Spanish SCI listing and is challenging the listing in the European courts.”

The EU have become embroiled in Gibraltar-gate after Gibraltar MEP Sir Graham Watson asked the commission about Spain’s failure to notify the UK about the filing of its designation.

The tension between Spain and Gibraltar has been escalated further after numerous conflicts between Spanish and Gibraltarian police, anger from Spain over Prince Edwards visit, and the provocative visit from King Juan Carlos who met with Spanish fisherman while visiting Algeciras.

There were also minor clashes during the Diamond Jubilee celebrations when provocative gestures from a small group of Spaniards prompted an angry crowd to gather around them. They were subsequently escorted over the border by police “for their own protection” after one of them kissed the badge on his Spanish football shirt during the playing of the British National Anthem. A police spokesman compared the provocation to ‘going round Tel Aviv celebrating Hitler.’

Prince Edward in Gibraltar

Prince Edward meeting the crowds
Prince Edward meeting and greeting in Gibraltar

Despite objections from Spain the Queen’s youngest son Prince Edward, Earl of Wessex, has arrived in Gibraltar for a visit to mark his mothers Diamond Jubliee.

In case you missed it, HM Queen Elizabeth II has been on the throne for 60 years and the UK celebrated with a lavish weekend of river pageants, concerts and street parties. Gibraltar, not to be outdone by it’s big brother also held a few parties in celebration.

After arriving to a fan-fair the royal couple inspected a Tri-Service Guard of Honour at RAF Gibraltar before laying the first stone for a Diamond Jubilee Monument.

The Prince, and wife Sophie, the Countess of Wessex talked to 91-year-old Gibraltarian Aurelio Montegriffo, who dined with the Queen during a previous royal visit in 1954.

A sea of red, white and blue flags lined the streets and a chorus of both the Gibraltar and British national anthems rung out as the royals arrived at the Convent to meet Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo.

“The people of Gibraltar have done themselves proud,” said Picardo.

“We wanted to show Her Majesty our respect, affection and loyalty in her Diamond Jubilee year and the people of Gibraltar have come out in droves to welcome our Royal visitors.”

Spain had expressed anger at Prince Edwards visit saying it was not right for him to visit the country that Spain claim as their own while the dispute over fishing rights is still raw, despite it being under British rule for 300 years, and despite the Gibraltarians saying they don’t want to be Spanish.

British Foerign Secretary William Hague argued that the Prince had every right to visit any British territory at any time without requiring approval from any body.

Further clashes in Gibraltar-Gate fishing dispute

Royal Gibraltar Police
Gibraltar’s Maritime Police are a busy unit

Spanish and Gibraltarian police have clashed once more over fishing rights in the waters around the Rock.

For two nights in a row police from both countries have been patrolling the water that Gibraltar claim is theirs, and Spain claim is Spanish.

Reports suggest that Royal Gibraltar Police boats surrounded three Spanish fishing vessels after they cast their nets close to Gibraltar harbour the previous night.

The Gibraltarian news agency said several Spanish Guardia Civil boats then appeared and seemed to assist the fishermen, despite being ordered to leave by the Gibraltarian police.

A quick change of heart followed and the Spanish boats left the area after a Royal Navy vessel arrived and reiterated the order to leave.

Gibraltarian police say the Spanish fishing boats were using large nets which is illegal in the area due to environmental law but Spain claims sovereignty over the British colony and ministers support the rights of the Spanish boats to fish there.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague is due to meet his Spanish counterpart in London on Tuesday and the long-running dispute is unlikely to be ignored. However, Spain’s foreign ministry made assurances that the dispute will not affect its “excellent” relationship with Britain.

“Spain hopes that these incidents will not repeat themselves and that the question of legitimate fishing rights can be resolved through collaboration and negotiation,” said a spokesman for the Spanish foreign ministry.

The UK has seen Gibraltar as a colony since 1713 when it was ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” under the Treaty of Utrecht following the capture of the island from the Spanish in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession when it was taken by Anglo-Dutch forces.