During the Second World War, the bulk of Gibraltar’s civilian population was evacuated to facilitate military activities. An initial evacuation to French Morocco was terminated after a few months due to the deterioration of relations between Britain and the Vichy Government of France. The civilians were then re-evacuated to Britain, Jamaica and Madeira, though some went to Tangier and Spain of their own volition. Repatriation began in 1944, but due to accommodation difficulties in Gibraltar, the last repatriates did not return until 1951.
The experience gained by evacuees in their fight for better conditions for themselves and their compatriots gave a substantial impetus to the demand for greater self-government in the colony. The Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights was formed at the end of 1942 and in 1945 the City Council was reconstituted, for the first time with an elected majority.
The governor’s monopoly of legislative authority ended five years later, with the formation of a legislative council, and subsequent amendments allowed for a majority of elected members.
The post-war years were also marked by expansion and progress in social and economic spheres. Medical, educational, housing and social security services were developed.
The building of an airfield on the isthmus, the great construction achievement of World War Two, was to have lasting repercussions in peacetime. It is now used extensively by civilian operators and, combined with expanding land and sea travel facilities, has made Gibraltar a Mediterranean centre of communications between Europe and Africa. It also helped make tourism an important pillar of the Rock’s economy.
Early in September 1963, the United Nations Special Committee on Decolonisation considered a proposal for the future of Gibraltar to be discussed between Britain and Spain. On 17th September, the committee had agreed that representatives from Gibraltar should appear before it as petitioners, so the Chief Member of the legislative council, Joshua Hassan, and the Member for Education, Peter Isola, flew to New York to explain the wishes of the people of Gibraltar.
The delegation made it clear to the Committee that Gibraltar had already achieved a very large measure of internal self-government, that further constitutional changes were under discussion, and that the ultimate aspiration of the people was to achieve full internal self-government by means of a free association with Britain. The suggestion that the sovereignty of Gibraltar should be discussed with Spain was vigorously resisted.
The delegates returned from New York to a massive demonstration of support, which virtually the whole population took part in.
The debate resumed in September 1964, when representatives from Gibraltar once again made it clear to the committee Gibraltar had achieved a large measure of internal self-government and that they wished to continue, in close association with Britain. They once again resisted the Spanish claim to Gibraltar.
On 16th October 1964, the committee adopted a consensus – which did not meet with the full agreement of either the British or the Australian delegates –that Britain and Spain should hold conversations in order to find a negotiated solution to the problems raised by Spain concerning Gibraltar.
On 17th October, the Spanish Government began a series of escalating restrictive measures at the Gibraltar frontier, compelling Britain to state that the conversations recommended by the Committee of 24 could not be held so long as the Spanish restriction continued. Spanish measures against Gibraltar were subsequently intensified.
In July 1965 the elected members in the legislature agreed that, in the situation created by the Spanish restrictions, a political truce would be in the best interest of Gibraltar and a coalition was formed.
Another result was that the question of Gibraltar’s future constitutional relationship with the mother country aroused great public interest and a number of alternative forms were suggested and debated in the press and elsewhere.
In November, the United Nations Fourth Committee began a debate on Gibraltar. The Chief Minister and his deputy went to New York again, to attend the discussions and to act as advisers to the United Kingdom Mission. In December the General Assembly passed a resolution once again calling on Britain and Spain to hold talks on Gibraltar.
An economic survey was carried out in April 1965, with a view to preparing a master plan for the comprehensive development of Gibraltar. £1m was made available over a 3-year period under the Colonial Development and Welfare Acts, together with exchequer loans. A further special grant of £100k was made in recognition of the additional expenditure incurred as a result of Spanish measures. Local taxation measures were also introduced.
In January 1966, NATO aircraft were banned from overflying Spain if bound for Gibraltar. This ban was extended in August to all British military aircraft.
In August 1966, 2,000 Spanish women who formerly commuted to Gibraltar daily to work were prohibited by Spain from crossing the border. The frontier gates were finally closed to vehicular traffic in October 1966. The ban on exports from Spain to Gibraltar was made total by extending it to fish, fruit and vegetables. The British Government, as in 1965, made a further special grant of £100,000 to help meet the additional expenditure incurred as a result of Spanish measures.
In October, Mr Fred Lee, the Secretary of State for the Colonies, visited Gibraltar for consultations on political and financial matters. He announced the grant of a first instalment of £600,000 for development projects.
During 1966, the British Government agreed to hold talks with Spain over Gibraltar. This followed the 1964 consensus of the Committee of 24, endorsed by a resolution passed by the General Assembly in December 1965.
Talks began in London on 18th May 1966. Further sessions were held in July, September and October. Throughout the talks the British Government made it clear that it had no doubt about its sovereignty over Gibraltar and that it would protect the interests of the inhabitants. Britain proposed that the legal issues in the dispute be referred to the International Court of Justice at The Hague. This proposal was later rejected by Spain.
In December, the question of Gibraltar, which had once again been under consideration by the Committee of 24, came before the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly. The Chief Member and his deputy appeared again as petitioners on behalf of Gibraltar. Eventually a resolution was adopted that made specific reference to the interests of the people of Gibraltar. The resolution, which both Britain and Spain supported, called on Britain to expedite, in consultation with Spain, the decolonisation of Gibraltar and to report to the Committee of 24 not later than the next session of the assembly.
Following the UN resolution passed in December 1966, it was decided that the views of the people of Gibraltar could be best determined by referendum and this was announced in the House of Commons on 14th June. The people of Gibraltar were invited to say which of the following courses they favoured:
- To pass under the Spanish sovereignty in accordance with the terms proposed by the Spanish Government to her Majesty’s Governor on 18th May 1966, or
- Voluntarily to retain their link with Britain, with democratic local institutions and with Britain retaining its present responsibilities.
Sir Robert Fowler, KCMG, was appointed Referendum Administrator and the Commonwealth Secretary-General, appointed a team of observers from four Commonwealth countries. Two members of the team paid a preliminary visit to Gibraltar in August to observe the early arrangements and the rest of the team followed, from the 4th to 13th September. The referendum was held on 10th September 1967.
The referendum was enthusiastically welcomed by the people of Gibraltar as an opportunity to express their own views as to their future. Those qualified to vote in the referendum were persons over 21 who were registered as Gibraltarians and ordinarily resident in Gibraltar. 12,138 were in favour of retaining the link with Britain while 44 voted for Spanish sovereignty.
The Commonwealth Observers reported:
"It is our unanimous view that the actual conduct of the referendum fully conformed with the requirements for the free expression of choice through the medium of the secret ballot".
The Director General of the United Nations Association in London, who was also present in Gibraltar for the referendum, informed the Secretary General of the United Nations that the result genuinely reflected the wishes of the electorate and should be respected by the United Nations.
In pursuance of the General Assembly Resolution, talks between British and Spanish officials were due to take place in April 1967. They were however postponed by Her Majesty’s Government when the Spanish Government announced its intention of declaring a prohibited air zone that was clearly designed to interfere with access to Gibraltar by air. It came into operation on 15thMay. The question was referred by the British Government to the International Civil Aviation Organisation. Signs of further harassment by the Spanish authorities were seen towards the end of the year when Spanish warships began anchoring in British waters around the Rock.
In October the British Government informed the Spanish Government that they were prepared to hold future talks on Anglo-Spanish relations, including the question of Gibraltar, in November. The Spanish Government replied that they would be prepared to resume talks in 1968 once the questions of Gibraltar had been dealt with by the United Nations which. When the discussion on Gibraltar was resumed by the United Nations, the Chief Minister and his deputy once again appeared before the Fourth Committee as petitioners. After a long debate the Fourth Committee adopted declaring that the referendum was in contravention of a former resolution and inviting Spain and the United Kingdom to resume their negotiations on Gibraltar. The British Government made it clear that decolonisation could not mean the handing over of the people of Gibraltar to Spain against their wishes and that they considered the resolution to be inconsistent with the provisions of the charter.
In April 1967, the legislature approved the development programme for the period 1967-70, involving expenditure of over £3.8m. Later in 1967 an exchequer loan of £200k was approved for electricity development. In February 1968, the Ministry of Overseas Development announced a grant of £1m to help finance the building of 560 flats over a four-year period. In December, the Ministry stated that a sum of £600k would be provided for a further hotel development over a similar period. On 6th May the Spanish Government closed the frontier with Gibraltar to all persons except Spanish nationals entering Gibraltar daily to work and civilian residents of Gibraltar who wished to apply for special passes to cross the frontier. As a result, the only remaining unrestricted communication with Spain was the ferry across the bay to Algeciras.
In May the Chief Minister and the Deputy Chief Minister left for London for preliminary talks on the proposed new constitution, to discuss the latest restrictions at the frontier. These talks continued during a visit to Gibraltar later in the month by Mr George Thomson, Secretary of State for Commonwealth Affairs. The formal constitutional talks opened on 16th July and ended on 24th. They were held in Gibraltar under the Chairmanship of the Minister of State at the Commonwealth Office, Lord Shepherd, and were attended by all the elected members of the legislative council and City Council and by representatives of the Integration with Britain Party.
The Gibraltar City Council met for the last time in August. Its functions, assets and liabilities were transferred to the government and a start was made on the process of merging the two administrations.
The Spanish Government imposed further restrictions during 1969. On 9th June, the Spanish labour force of 4,666 men who had previously entered Gibraltar daily to work was withdrawn; on 27th June, the Algeciras Gibraltar passenger ferry services, the last remaining link with the mainland of Spain, was also withdrawn.
On 1st October, telephone and telegraph links with Gibraltar were cut.
Lord Shepherd held a series of discussions with His Excellency the Governor and Gibraltar Ministers in Gibraltar in August 1969, followed by further talks in London on Gibraltar development proposals in December. As a result, the British Government agreed to make available a sum of about £4m over the three year period 1970-73.
In 1973, Gibraltar entered the European Economic Community, as a dependent territory in Europe, under Article 277(4) of the Treaty of Rome, but was excluded, at the request of the Government of Gibraltar, from the common external tariff, the common agricultural policy and Value Added Tax. 1973 also saw Gibraltar’s re-inclusion in the Scheduled Territories of the Sterling Area.
HMG development aid to Gibraltar for the programme period 1978/81 amounted to £14m, and was largely directed towards port development, education and housing. For its own part, the Gibraltar Government contributed £20m for the construction of a new power station, a new IDD telephone system and social projects, notably housing.
In late 1981, a £4m tranche of development aid was agreed for urgent projects forming part of the 1981-86 development payment. In December 1982 a further £9m of Aid was granted, raising HMG’s contribution to the development programme to £13m for the period 1981-86.
In November 1977, the Spanish Foreign Minister and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs met in Strasbourg to discuss the Gibraltar question. The Chief Minister Sir Joshua Hassan and the Leader of the Opposition Maurice Xiberras attended the meeting as part of the British delegation.
A further meeting was held in Paris on 15th March 1978 and joint working parties of officials were set up to study the questions of telecommunications, social security benefits for Spaniards formerly working in Gibraltar and maritime communications between Spain and Gibraltar. The working parties met in London in July 1978 and in Madrid in December.
For some years, the Internal Trunk Service with Gibraltar had been temporarily restored by Spain during festive seasons. When the service was restored during Christmas 1977 it was not subsequently withdrawn.
In September 1979 the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs had a meeting with the Spanish Foreign Minister whilst they were in New York attending the United Nations General Assembly. During their first meeting they had a preliminary discussion on Gibraltar. They agreed that it was in the interests of both Britain and Spain to seek ways of resolving their differences on the question and to consider possible ways forward.
On 10th April 1980, after talks in Lisbon between the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs and the Spanish Foreign Minister a joint statement was issued in which both governments agreed to start negotiations aimed at resolving the differences between them on Gibraltar. The statement recorded the Spanish Government’s decision to suspend the application of the measures at present in force. It was envisaged that the preparations to implement the agreement would be completed nolater than 1st June 1980.
The arrangements on the Gibraltar side were completed by the date, but the Spanish Government did not signify a date for the implementation of the agreement. On 15th December 1982, the Spanish authorities partially opened the frontier for pedestrians, but restricted this to British Passport holders resident in Gibraltar and Spanish nationals. Persons crossing the frontier were not allowed by Spanish customs to export goods from Gibraltar.
Elections were held in January 1984 and eight members of the Gibraltar Labour Party/Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights and 7 of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party were elected. The Gibraltar Labour Party/Association for the Advancement of Civil Rights accordingly formed government for the fourth consecutive term with Sir Joshua Hassan as Chief Minister.
On 27th November 1984, the Brussels Agreement was signed by British and Spanish Foreign Ministers. This agreement paved the way for the lifting of all Spanish restrictions on Gibraltar and for talks on sovereignty.
The Brussels Agreement was condemned by the GSLP, which had 7 opposition seats and the Democratic Party of British Gibraltar, which had no seats but obtained 17.8% of the vote.
Spain opened its border on 5th February 1985. There were meetings of working groups of officials periodically prior to meetings between the Spanish and British Foreign Ministers. Spain, however, refused to restore the sea ferry removed on 25th June 1969 or to remove the air exclusion zone introduced in 1967.
The question of air communications was discussed between Spanish and British co-ordinators throughout 1985 and 1986. The position of the Gibraltar House of Assembly was set out in the following motions passed unanimously on 24th March 1986 and 17th December 1986 respectively:
"This House affirms, that should proposals be put forward in connection with greater civilian use of the Gibraltar airport, which might in the view of the Gibraltar House of Assembly make it possible to represent or interpret such use as being an encroachment on British Sovereignty over the isthmus, such proposals would be unacceptable to this House and to the people of Gibraltar. It calls on her Majesty’s Government to note this view and make it known to the Government of the Kingdom of Spain."
"This House declares that the views and wishes of the people of Gibraltar in respect of the use of the Airport are: (a) that it should continue under the exclusive control of the British and Gibraltarian authorities and (b) that any flight from or to any foreign country should be governed by the rules applicable to international flights."
Independent of bilateral talks between the United Kingdom and Spain, the EC agreed on a package of liberalisation which was an extension of the one agreed in 1983 in which Gibraltar had been included as a British regional airport. In July 1987, in Luxembourg, when the new liberalisation agreement was about to be ratified, Spain used its veto to make its support of the agreement conditional on Gibraltar being left out of it. On 6thJuly 1987 the House of Assembly passed the following motion unanimously:
"This House –
1. Notes the refusal of the Government of the Kingdom of Spain to ratify the agreement to liberalise air travel within the European Community because it applies to Gibraltar.
2. Notes that the provisions of the Treaty of Rome apply to Gibraltar, as a territory in Europe for whose external relations Britain is responsible, by virtue of Article 227(4) of the Treaty, subject to the exceptions agreed by the Community, and that those provisions have applied to Gibraltar since 1st January, 1973.
3. Notes that Gibraltar is obliged to comply with community directives and regulations as required by its terms of membership.
4. Notes that Gibraltar is entitled to the privileges and benefits deriving from its terms of membership.
5. Notes that the Kingdom of Spain applied for membership of the European Community and achieved accession on 1st January, 1986, in the full knowledge of Gibraltar’s rights and obligations under the Treaty of Rome.
6. Considers the position adopted by the Government of the Kingdom of Spain in relation to the liberalisation of air travel totally unwarranted and an attempt to deprive Gibraltar and its people of their rights as members of the Community.
7. Warmly welcomes the resolute stand adopted by Her Majesty’s Government and urges them to continue to maintain this stand.
8. Requests Her Majesty’s Government to transmit the views herein contained to the Governments of the other 11 member states as the views of the people of Gibraltar expressed through their democratically elected Parliament."
The British Government sent a senior official to Gibraltar to sound out local opinion on a proposed agreement on the joint use of the Gibraltar Airport. A mass public demonstration of 16,000 persons led by all members of the House of Assembly was held on the 10thNovember 1987 which rejected any agreement giving the Spanish Government a measure of control over the Gibraltar airport. On 17th November 1987 the following motion was unanimously passed at the House of Assembly:-
"This House –
1. applauds the initiative of the Action for Gibraltar Group and the Gibraltar Trades Council in organising a demonstration on the question of the airport in support of the stand taken by the House of Assembly and thanks the representative bodies and the thousands of persons who signed the petition and participated in the demonstration;
2. reiterates the views expressed by this House in the resolution adopted on 25 March and 16 December 1986;
3. calls on her Majesty’s Government not to conclude an agreement with the Spanish Government, on the question of the Gibraltar airport, which would involve any concessions being made to Spain or which would in any way establish, or at any time in the future lead to, any form of joint control of the airport; and
4. rejects the following proposals made by the Spanish negotiators as published in El Pais on the 29 October 1987, ie
• access for Spaniards to the airport without passing through British Customs and Immigration
• construction of another terminal
• Spanish participation in the control of Gibraltar Air Space
• possible presence of Spanish air traffic controllers in the Gibraltar Control Tower
• Spain’s eventual association with the management of the airport."
Notwithstanding the fact that public opinion was diametrically opposed to a bilateral deal treating Gibraltar differently to all other European airports, the British and Spanish Governments went ahead and announced an agreement in December 1987 for the joint use of the airport. The agreement left it up to the legislature of Gibraltar to pass the necessary legislation to enable it to come into force.
The Brussels and Airport Agreement featured prominently in the March 1988 election campaign. The GSLP sought a mandate against both agreements.
The Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party won the election obtaining 58.2% of the vote compared to 29.3% obtained by the Gibraltar Labour Party/AACR. Mr J JBossano was appointed Chief Minister.
In September 1989, the Gibraltar Government filed an application under Article 173 of the EC Treaty before the European Court of Justice challenging the legal validity of Gibraltar’s suspension from the EC Air Liberalisation Regime as enshrined in the 1987 Anglo/Spanish Airport Agreement. The ECJ heard the case on the 6thMay 1992. The Court later ruled, on 29th June 1993, that Gibraltar’s case was inadmissible on the grounds that the dispute between the UK and Spain, as evidenced by the bilateral airport agreement, represented an obstacle of an objective nature to the implementation of the EC Directives having regard to their aims.
At meetings in Luxembourg on 26th June and 1st July 1991, all the EC member states came close to agreement on a convention on the demarcation of the community’s external frontier, a key step in completing the objectives of the free movement of persons provisions in the EC Treaties. Spain opposed the text for political reasons because it included Gibraltar within the community’s external frontier. The UK maintained that Gibraltar was part of the EC under Article 227(4) of the Treaty of Rome and exempting Gibraltar, or making it subject to a separate bilateral agreement, would be contrary to Gibraltar’s status within the EC. To date, the deadlock over final agreement on the convention continues.
A general election was held on 16th January 1992. The GSLP government sought a new mandate based on its record since 1988 and on the need to reform the 1969 constitution to take account of the impact on Gibraltar’s status following developments in the European Union, as these affected both domestic and non-domestic affairs. The government was re-elected by a 73% majority vote.
In his inaugural address to the House of Assembly of 9thFebruary 1992, Mr Bossano said that it was the intention of his government to change the territory’s constitution and shed its colonial status. He proposed that in so far as EC had a collective defence and foreign affairs policy, the community should become involved in these matters on Gibraltar’s behalf. However, to the extent that defence and foreign affairs were not co-ordinated through the community, the United Kingdom should remain responsible. Mr Bossano said that Gibraltar was seeking to reform its 1969 constitution. He told the House of Assembly:
"The time has come for Gibraltar to be seen as a territory whose people are fully entitled to the right of self-determination. We reject entirely the argument that an eighteenth century treaty can limit or inhibit the right of European people to exercise self-determination when that right is not denied to another single human being."
On 28th July 1992, Mr Bossano appeared before the UN Committee of 24 after a Gibraltar absence going back some 25 years. He reiterated the need for a new constitutional relationship with the UK in the context of Gibraltar’s status within the EC.
Mr Bossano returned to the UN in 1993 where he addressed both the Committee of 24 on 14th July and the Fourth Committee on 12th October. He asked for recognition of Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and sought the protection of the UN to ensure that this right was not denied to the Gibraltarians who were committed to ending their colonial status in keeping with the UN Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples and the Eradication of Colonialism by the year 2000.
On 10th September 1993, Gibraltar celebrated its first ever National Day, which drew a massive turnout of some 16,000 persons at a public rally, supported by all the local political parties, demanding recognition of the right to self-determination.
Mr Bossano again addressed the Committee of 24 and the Fourth Committee on 12th July and 11th October 1994. He made it clear that it was impossible to have decolonisation without self-determination. He repeated the need for UN support to ensure that Gibraltar did not remain the one remaining colonial territory, which was not de-colonised by the year 2000.
On 21st November 1994, Mr Bossano presented Gibraltar’s case for self-determination before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in Geneva. In its conclusions, the committee stated.
"….calls upon all parties to the existing situation to ensure full respect for all the rights recognised in the Covenant (ie 1976 Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights) in relation to future developments concerning Gibraltar."
A general election was held on 16th May 1996. The Gibraltar Social Democrats won the election with 51% of the vote. Mr Peter Caruana was appointed as Chief Minister. The new administration has pledged to establish a politically secure British Gibraltar with a modern constitution. In an address to the UN Committee of 24, the Chief Minister explained the Gibraltar Government’s policy of seeking dialogue with Spain, but only on the basis of Gibraltar having its own separate voice and representation. This theme was developed in a similar address before the UN Fourth Committee on 7th October 1996. The Chief Minister called upon the Fourth Committee to support Gibraltar’s right to having a voice and representative separate from that of the administering power.
On 6th June 1997, the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, once again addressed the UN Committee of 24, again seeking a clear recognition of Gibraltar’s inalienable right to self-determination.
The Chief Minister questioned that a colonial people should be deprived of self-determination simply because another state, i.e. Spain, asserts a historical territorial claim. He added that it defies all logic for a third party to be able to frustrate the right of self-determination of the inhabitants of a colony when this is not done by the administering power itself.
Even though Gibraltar continued to seek the Committee of 24’s declaration of the right to self determination, the Chief Minister told the Committee that his Government does not make acceptance by Spain of his Government’s position a pre-condition for dialogue with her. What Gibraltar does insist on is that any dialogue should recognise Gibraltar’s right to represent its own position in its own right with a distinct voice.
The Chief Minister referred to the UN’s Special Committee’s target for the eradication of colonialism by the year 2000. If Gibraltar is to have any chance of progress, let alone success, he said, the Special Committee must inject new life, a catalyst, into the issue. The catalyst is the recognition of the supremacy of the wishes of the people of Gibraltar coupled with a call for Gibraltar to be allowed to represent itself in its own right at dialogue.
The arguments were reiterated when Mr Caruana addressed the Fourth Committee on 9th October 1997 calling upon it to recognise that the people of Gibraltar, like the people of all non-self governing territories on the UN list, have the right to self determination and that any talks about Gibraltar must include the elected representatives of the people of Gibraltar in their own right.
The Chief Minister stressed that there can be no progress in resolving our differences with Spain if they continue to insist that the matter must be resolved bilaterally between the UK and Spain, thus denying Gibraltar its fundamental human right of self determination.
The Gibraltar Government was again absent at a further round of Anglo-Spanish talks under the Brussels Agreement held in London on 10th December 1997 issuing a public statement detailing its conditions for participation in future talks as follows:
• A single composite British delegation comprising internally separate Gibraltar and UK representative parts, led by the Foreign Secretary with the Chief Minister as deputy leader.
• The Chief Minister, and (where appropriate) other members of the Gibraltar part of the British delegation, to be present throughout all parts of the talks.
• HMG should not agree, without the chief Minister’s prior specific endorsement, to any new arrangements under the Brussels Agreement on any matter affecting Gibraltar.
Once again, the Chief Minister appeared before both the Committee of 24 and the Fourth committee of the United Nations during 1998. On these occasions the Chief Minister stressed Gibraltar’s right to self-determination stating that the constitutional relationship involving Gibraltar and the administering power, the UK, should not be an obstacle to better relationships between Gibraltar and Spain.
Running on a par with the Government’s continued attempts to obtain a voice for Gibraltar in Anglo-Spanish discussions over the Rock is a process set in motion by the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, for Gibraltar to modernise its constitutional relationship with the UK.
The new administration has also been instrumental in rebutting Spanish attempts to preclude Gibraltar from accruing any benefits from its membership, with Britain, of the European Union. The Chief Minister has led two official Gibraltar Government delegations to Brussels for this purpose and a Gibraltar Office now functions in the European capital.
On 18th February 1999, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that in denying citizens of Gibraltar the right to vote in European elections, the United Kingdom was in violation of its European Union obligations. Arrangements are now proceeding to correct the anomaly through which European citizens in Gibraltar were disenfranchised.
The Chief Minister informed the Fourth Committee of a publicly stated desire by the Spanish Foreign Secretary, Mr Abel Matutes to meet the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, which had been reciprocated by Mr Peter Caruana in also showing a willingness to meet. Unfortunately the meeting has not yet taken place.
On 22nd June 1999, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons published a report on Gibraltar. This followed the taking of extensive evidence on the subject, which included question and answer sessions at ministerial level with both the Rt. Hon Joyce Quinn, Minister of State at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with the Hon Peter Caruana QC, Chief Minister of Gibraltar. The report’s summary of conclusions and recommendations were well received in Gibraltar.
Gibraltar went to the polls on 10thFebruary 2000. The Gibraltar Social Democrats, who continued to be led by Peter Caruana, were re-elected into office with an increased majority obtaining over 58% of the vote. An alliance led by Joe Bossano between the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party and the Gibraltar Liberals obtained 40% of the vote and formed the opposition.
Soon after the elections, in which the Gibraltar Social Democrats led by Peter Caruana QC were returned to office for a second term, an agreement acceptable to the Gibraltar Government was reached between the British and Spanish governments that enabled the unblocking of a number of European Union issues. Specifically these related to Gibraltar's inclusion in the UK's participation in the Schengen Agreement, the recognition of Gibraltar issued identity cards, police co-operation under the Schengen Agreement and problems which were being faced by Gibraltar in the administration of EU matters.
During the course of the year, the Chief Minister addressed the UK Committee of 24 (21st June) and the Fourth Committee (27th September).
Mr Caruana reiterated Gibraltar's right to self-determination and its readiness to see the United Nations test whether this right is denied to the Gibraltarians by virtue of the Treaty of Utrecht as claimed by Spain. Since the Gibraltar Government is advised that it does not itself have legal standing to do so, the Chief Minister invited the Committee of 24 to refer this point to the International Court of Justice.
The Chief Minister told the Committee of 24 that whilst Gibraltar is open to dialogue with Spain, this is not seen as an alternative to proceeding with the natural aspiration as a people to be decolonised.
"Gibraltar's political evolution cannot stand like a rabbit caught in the headlights of Spain's territorial claim. We do not accept, as Spain asserts, that the options open to us, are to remain a colony of the UK or to become part of Spain."
The Chief Minister went on to inform the Committee of 24 that parliament in Gibraltar had recently established a select committee on constitutional reform with a view to achieving a consensus on constitutional proposals to submit to the UK such as would put an end to the colonial status of Gibraltar in manner acceptable to the people of Gibraltar in an act of self-determination.
When he appeared before the Fourth Committee in September, the Chief Minister followed up by proposing a four-point plan for the UK to pursue on Gibraltar, as follows:
• The despatch of a visiting delegation to Gibraltar.
• The proclamation, for the avoidance of doubt, of the Special Committee's belief in the existence of the inalienable right to self-determination of the people of Gibraltar.
• If the committee has any doubt whatsoever in that respect, it should recommend to this committee the referral of the legal points of conflict relating to our rights of self-determination to the International Court of Justice for a declaratory ruling, and
• The annual call for dialogue by the UN should be with a proper and distinct voice and representation for the people of Gibraltar.
In terms of newsworthy events, the year was dominated by the arrival in Gibraltar in May of a defective Royal Navy nuclear submarine, HMS Tireless, which has remained on the Rock whilst it is being repaired. The submarine's presence in Gibraltar has been a cause for concern expressed by environmentalists both in Gibraltar and across the border in Spain. Throughout the Government of Gibraltar has impressed upon the Ministry of Defence that the exercise should not pose any threat to public safety, public health or to the environment. For the purpose of monitoring this, the Gibraltar Government appointed a panel of independent nuclear experts who have closely followed the Ministry of Defence's repair plan and advised the government on a step-by-step basis.
The government followed the advice of the panel who gave the go-ahead for the repairs to be effected in Gibraltar. These went ahead and HMS Tireless finally left the Rock on Monday 7th May, a year or so after she had first arrived. Her reactor was safely switched on once she was in open seas.
Once again Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana addressed the UN Committee of 24 (16thJune) and the Fourth Committee (11thOctober). In addition, along with the Gibraltar Government's Chief Secretary Mr Ernest Montado OBE, the Chief Minister attended the UN's Caribbean Regional Seminar in Cuba in May.
The Chief Minister stressed that despite his repeated addresses, year after year, the Special Committee continued to promote bilateral talks, as if Gibraltar's decolonisation could be negotiated between Britain and Spain, without Gibraltar participation, in any manner that would be even remotely consistent with the Charter of the UN or the Declaration of Decolonisation. Surely, the Chief Minister insisted, the Special Committee exists to help the people of Gibraltar and not to balance the positions of Spain and the UK, or even to adjudicate between them.
He told the Committee of 24 that the Cuba seminar had not been good for Gibraltar, since everything he had said had been ignored and everything which had been said by the representative of Spain and Argentina had been diligently included in the "Conclusions and Recommendations". Mr Caruana added that he was therefore obliged to condemn these Conclusions and Recommendations and to disassociate Gibraltar from them. The Chief Minister was again critical of the Special Committee for allowing interested member states such as Spain and Argentina further opportunity to wield their obviously greater power and influence within the UN, and to frustrate the very objectives of the Special Committee and the principles which bind it.
Over 12,000 Gibraltarians (65% of the entire population) took part in a public demonstration in Gibraltar to protest at the UK's decision to agree to exclude Gibraltar from the EC Single Skies measures, as demanded by Spain, and to signify their support for a political declaration of unity signed by all present and past members of Gibraltar's Parliament of all parties and domestic political views. In essence the declaration stated that the people of Gibraltar will never compromise, give up or trade their sovereignty or their right to self-determination; that Gibraltar wants good, neighbourly, European relations with Spain; and that Gibraltar belongs to the people of Gibraltar and is neither Spain's to claim or Britain's to give away. In July 2001, the UK and Spain jointly announced that they were giving "a fresh impetus" to discussions between them under the Brussels Agreement to resolve all the differences between them.
In connection with this Chief Minister told the Fourth Committee that, whilst the people of Gibraltar did not wish to turn their backs on dialogue, this should not be bilateral in which Gibraltar's presence is relegated to some secondary or supporting role because that is inherently inconsistent with Gibraltar's right to self-determination.
Peter Caruana made it clear that Gibraltar should be present at dialogue with its own separate voice and that such dialogue should be safe for Gibraltar i.e. nothing should be agreed between the other two participants over Gibraltar's head.
2002 could well be described as a momentous year for Gibraltar, culminating in a referendum by the Government of Gibraltar on 7th November, which resulted in 99% of Gibraltarians rejecting the concept of Anglo-Spanish joint sovereignty over the Rock, as set out by the British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw on 12thJuly.
The government and people of Gibraltar concentrated their political efforts during the year on opposing 'the done deal' through which Britain and Spain would come to an 'in-principle' agreement - not to be implemented until the people of Gibraltar would approve by referendum - to share the sovereignty of the Rock.
It became clear that the idea had been to agree in principle and delay implementation well into the future. It was within this context that the Gibraltar Government chose to hold its own referendum making clear the overwhelming opposition to the idea.
From the outset, the Government of Gibraltar insisted that the proposed Anglo-Spanish declaration of principles, even if not implemented, would amount to a betrayal of the political rights of the people of Gibraltar including the right to decide the future of themselves and of their homeland. During the course of the year the Chief Minister Peter Caruana conducted hundreds of interviews in the leading international media denouncing the proposed deal. This also became the main theme in his two appearances at the United Nations at the Committee of 24 and the Fourth Committee in June and October respectively.
Mr Caruana had first expressed his opposition to the proposed arrangements when he appeared before the House of Commons Select Committee on Foreign Affairs in November 2001, as did the Minister of State for Europe, Peter Hain. The committee has since publicly upheld the Chief Minister's position and to date the 'in principle' agreement has not been reached. The Spanish Foreign Minister Josep Pique (since replaced by Ana de Palacios) alluded to three red lines which prevent agreement; the fact that Spain will not agree to a deal for joint sovereignty being the conclusive outcome (Spain would still want full sovereignty); Britain's insistence that the military base in Gibraltar would remain exclusively in British hands; and Spain's non-recognition of any referendum by the people of Gibraltar to approve the deal.
Independent to the 'red-lines' issue, the Gibraltar Government-led campaign established massive opposition to the deal in both Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. Prior to the resounding referendum result, the Gibraltar Government had called for a demonstration on 18th March, in which virtually the whole of Gibraltar attended, signalling their opposition to the proposed Anglo-Spanish 'done-deal'. The Chief Minister undertook dozens of speaking engagements in Britain and in Spain and the Gibraltar Government conducted an extensive media advertising campaign in the UK involving the placing of full-page adverts in all the national newspapers and the painting of 50 London taxis in Gibraltar colours. The campaign also included numerous international press conferences and the sending of a political briefing note to every Labour MP as well as Mr Caruana's high profile attendance at political party conferences in the United Kingdom.
The campaign succeeded in mobilising British public opinion in favour of Gibraltar. A staggering 650,000 people responded in writing to the press adverts with messages of support; various UK opinion polls placed support for Gibraltar between 80% and 90%; opinion polls among MPs showed 75% in support of Gibraltar's right to decide its own future; the Conservative Opposition swung fully behind Gibraltar's position and a petition in support of Gibraltar at the Labour Party Conference obtained a massive 3000 signatures from delegates and visitors.
On 8th November, - the day after the referendum, the Gibraltar Government received the most favourable ever report from the Foreign Affairs Committee of the House of Commons finding in Gibraltar's favour on all aspects concerning the proposed deal.
During the year 2003, Gibraltar finally staved off the attempt by the UK and Spain to try and deal with the Rock’s future bilaterally. Chief Minister Peter Caruana QC concluded that; “there now appears to be a realisation and acceptance in London that, since this is our homeland, we have to be primary players in all discussions, processes and decisions about future.”
He added: “If only the UK could persuade Spain to show similar respect for our undeniable political and democratic rights as a people, then this would auger well for helpful dialogue and greater friendship and normality in our relations with Spain.”
Once again Mr Caruana travelled to New York to address the UN’s Committee of 24 in June, and subsequently in November, to speak before the Fourth Committee on decolonisation.
During the course of the former intervention, mention was made of the momentous events of the previous year, which culminated in a 99% rejection by the people of Gibraltar, of the Anglo-Spanish plan for joint sovereignty. The Committee of 24 was told that like all other non-self governing territories, Gibraltar is intending to proceed with a process of constitutional reform and modernisation which will take it to the level of self government, justifying its delisting from the UK list of remaining colonies. In fact proposals to this effect put together by a select committee of the House of Assembly in Gibraltar, have now been despatched to the UK for the British Government to examine. In his speech before the Fourth Committee they were encouraged to visit Gibraltar and see the reality for themselves, with the Gibraltar Government offering to pay the costs involved if need be. As in past years the Committee was urged to amend the UN’s annual resolution for the talks on Gibraltar’s future so that it reflects the primacy of Gibraltarians’ wishes and affords it a proper status in discussions. During the course of the year 2003 arrangements were finalised for Gibraltar’s first ever participation in elections to the European Parliament, which will be participating as part of a combined electoral region (the South West of England) with part of the United Kingdom. This represents quite an achievement for the people of Gibraltar who have long struggled both politically and in the courts for this to materialise.
General elections were held in Gibraltar towards the end of the year, with the Gibraltar Social Democrats being returned to office for a third four-year term. Peter Caruana was again re-elected Chief Minister after topping the polls. The GSD obtained 51% of the vote. The Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party in alliance with the Liberal Party obtained 40% to take all opposition seats. Joe Bossano therefore continues as Leader of the Opposition.
2004 began festively, as Gibraltarians gathered at Casemates (the main City square) to see in the New Year, marking the tercentenary of British sovereignty.
In the year 2004, the Tercentenary was celebrated with a series of successful and enjoyable events both in Gibraltar and the United Kingdom. The highlights were street parties, a ceremony to grant the Freedom of the City to the Royal Navy, a Rock concert at Gibraltar’s sports stadium by Elton John and a British Royal Family visit by Princess Anne. There were dozens of cultural and sporting events carried out by schoolchildren and a major event was the encircling of the Rock itself by its 20,000 plus inhabitants.
Among the celebratory events, which took place in London, was a church service at St Clement Danes, and the celebration of Gibraltar Day at the Guildhall. In addition the Government of Gibraltar invited nearly 500 World War II veterans from Britain to visit Gibraltar during 2004.
During the course of the year, the land transfer from the Ministry of Defence (UK) to the Government of Gibraltar went ahead, with 40% of MOD lands transferred to government without affecting MOD jobs or operations, utilised for housing space and opportunities for commercial development.
Three major projects featured highly during the course of the year 2005: a new hospital (£55 million investment); a housing scheme for the construction of 400 affordable homes; and a youth leisure centre.
There were important developments on the political front too. Gibraltar’s Chief Minister Peter Caruana addressed the UN’s Committee of 24 in June and the Fourth Committee again in October, once again impressing upon them Gibraltar’s aspirations for self-determination.
Later in the year, the UK and Spain introducedan albeit small modification to the text of the UN Consensus resolution to include a reference to the aspirations of the Gibraltarians. Mr Caruana noted that, whilst this is still a very long way from a proper recognition and respect of our inalienable political rights as a people, it is at least a small first step in the right direction, after years of Gibraltarian appeals to the United Nations.
For the first time ever too, Gibraltarians took part in European Parliamentary elections.
A very major political development was the agreement in December between the governments of the UK, Spain and Gibraltar to set up a new, trilateral process of dialogue outside the Brussels Process. This followed meetings between the Chief Minister Peter Caruana and the directors for Europe, of both the UK and Spanish Foreign Offices, Dominick Chilcott and Jose Pons respectively.
Another important development was the start of formal constitutional negotiations with the British Government to modernise Gibraltar’s constitutional relationship so that it ceases to be colonial in nature.
In his New Year message, the Chief Minister Peter Caruana announced a contribution of £100,000 to the victims of the Tsunami disaster on behalf of the people of Gibraltar.
In his subsequent appearance before the Committee of 24 at the United Nations the Chief Minister described the setting up of the trilateral process of dialogue as “a significant breakthrough”.
The trilateral forum had been established in the form of a joint statement issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Gibraltar. In this new forum, dialogue is on an open agenda basis, each of the three parties will have its own separate voice and participate on the same basis; and all three participants must agree any decisions or agreements reached within the forum. The three sides have already met on three occasions, once in Malaga (Spain), another in Faro (Portugal) where the Gibraltar delegation acted as hosts, and the third in Mallorca (Spain). First main subjects which have come under discussions have been the possibility of expanded use of Gibraltar’s airfield, the issue concerning pensions of Spanish workers formally employed in Gibraltar (they left the Rock when General Franco shut the Spanish Border in 1969), and a normalisation of telephonic communications between Gibraltar and Spain.
Before the UN Committee in June last year, Mr Caruana applauded the decision of the Kingdom of Spain to facilitate the establishment of this new trilateral process of dialogue, also Spain’s declared wish to normalise its relations with Gibraltar and its people, even though what Gibraltarians ultimately want is for Spain to recognise their right as a people to self-determination, and a withdrawal of her claim to the sovereignty of “our homeland against our wishes.”
He added: ”We take Spain at her word when she declares a wish to improve relations with the people of Gibraltar, but the people of Gibraltar will judge Her by Her actions, not by Her words.”
The Chief Minister reported good progress formally acknowledging Spain’s removal of restrictions on cruise ships sailing directly between Gibraltar and Spanish ports, and also the removal of the ban on Gibraltar-bound civilian air flights diverting, in the event of bad weather, to nearby Spanish airports. Although the Chief Minister described these as restrictions, ”which should never have been imposed in the first place”, he said these were welcomed first steps. He concluded that the Government of Gibraltar would certainly continue to take part in the new process of dialogue, which is not incompatible with Gibraltar’s right to self-determination and which he described as safe. But, he added, that Gibraltarians will never compromise on “our right to freely and democratically decide our own political future in accordance with our right to self-determination.”
At the United Nations some progress from the Gibraltar perspective was recorded with a new draft consensus adopted by the Fourth Committee in October 2005.
Chief Minister Peter Caruana welcomed the change in the terms of the consensus saying it represented a considerable step in the right direction, but adding that there is still further to go in achieving a realistic and sensible wording. The Gibraltar Government will continue to press for this in future addresses to the United Nations.
Another breakthrough to report was the commencement of talks exclusively between the UK and a cross party representation from Gibraltar led by the Chief Minister and including the leader of the opposition Joe Bossano aimed at modernising Gibraltar’s constitution, so that Gibraltar would remain British but in a non-colonial relationship with Britain.