January 5 2016

Need to take level of self-government one step further, says Garcia

January 05, 2016

*New Year Message from Deputy Chief Minister and Liberal Party Leader Dr Joseph Garcia

Just over a month ago Gibraltar once again chose a GSLP/Liberal Government at the polls. That victory was a ringing endorsement of our work in office over the last four years and it provided overwhelming public backing for the policies set out in our 2015 election manifesto. We could not have asked for more.

In the last four years we succeeded in implementing an ambitious programme of Government. In almost every area we delivered a revolution and a new way of doing things. In housing, education, health, social services, tourism, the environment, town planning, Parliament and culture, to name but a few areas, we have changed Gibraltar for the better.

The people who voted for that change in 2011 were clearly satisfied with how we brought those changes about when the time came to express their view again in 2015.

It has been a pleasure to continue to be a part of that Government team and for me personally to have been able to drive forward some of those areas. Parliament has gone from two or three meetings a year to ten meetings a year. Business that was conducted in secret, like town planning decisions, are now discussed and determined in public. We said we would listen to the views of the electorate and we have done so. That electorate has now entrusted us with a second term.


There were areas of Government which saw my involvement over the last term and many of these were rewarding and helped to improve people's lives. However, the policy decision that we took in Cabinet to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the Wartime Evacuation of Gibraltarians will always have a special place among our actions in Government. It was very fulfilling to see the faces of those former evacuees who proudly participated in the Memorial event at Casemates, who attended the highly emotional WW2 Concert at the Victoria Stadium and who saw themselves at the centre of the exhibition at the John Mackintosh Hall. It was a genuine honour to have been part of the Government that put all this together.


The gradual transformation of the Northern Defences from a neglected and deteriorated "jungle" into a world class tourist site spanned the latter part of our last term in office and will continue into this new one. The work done on site so far has exposed a staggering network of fortifications connected by tunnels, walls, underground chambers and defensive positions. The Northern Defences kept Gibraltar British centuries ago and resisted seige after seige from Spain and her wartime allies.

That story should be told and it will be told.

It was very encouraging to see hundreds of people enjoy the guided tours that were conducted by the Heritage Trust and other volunteers. An inter-ministerial Committee of the Government is now discussing the way forward.


The identity of the people of any country is rooted in their past and Gibraltar is no exception. Constitutional Reform and political progress have gone hand in hand over the decades. We have a manifesto commitment to open the Constitutional debate once again and to look at a number of issues closely including the on-going development of human rights and the requirement for Gibraltar's removal from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories. The level of self-government attained in 2006 now needs to be taken a step further a decade later in partnership with the United Kingdom whose politics, culture, education and values is an inextricable part of what we are.

It is worth recalling that sixty years ago, in 1956, that same Constitutional debate resulted in the promulgation of an Order in Council whereby the military Governor was replaced by a Speaker in Gibraltar's Legislative Council, although the first Speaker was not actually in place until a couple of years later. In 1956 also, the number of elected members of the Legislature was increased giving them a majority over nominated officials. These moves were seen by some as revolutionary steps at the time. These steps seem perfectly logical in retrospect. We must certainly learn from the lessons of the past.


Looking forward, it is obvious that issues relating to Gibraltar's position in the European Union will continue to dominate. The referendum on the UK's position in Europe will include Gibraltar as promised. There has been considerable work at official level between the UK and Gibraltar Governments behind the scenes and our Bill was published a couple of weeks ago. This will make provision to mirror UK legislation in relevant areas given that it is a UK-led referendum. The Bill is a one-off which will repeal itself after the Referendum had taken place. It has been very interesting to chair the technical committee and to participate in the internal discussions that have led up to it.

The position that the Liberals and our partners in the GSLP have taken is to campaign for the UK and Gibraltar to remain in the EU. There are all sorts of political and economic issues in favour of this position. Gibraltar is a part of the European mainland and is connected to it by a hostile neighbour. Although we would all have liked the EU to have been more robust in defence of our legitimate rights as EU nationals in EU territory, the reality is that on issues like bunkering, land reclamation and the artificial reef, Brussels has found no beach of EU law. There have been three monitoring missions to the border since 2013. The situation would have been much worse were we outside the framework of EU law.

Against this background, we will continue to take Gibraltar's message to Europe throughout 2016, spearheaded by our new office in Brussels. In the same way, we will continue to lobby in Washington, in London and at the United Nations in New York. There will be a focus on greater coordination between these different strands and a number of new initiatives are under active consideration.

And so, as 2016 gets underway you can rest assured that during this New Year and during this term of office, in Government we will continue to implement our new manifesto in the same methodical way as we did the old one. We will once again deliver what we promised. We will do so with humility but with the same efficiency, conscious of the mandate that we have received.

The New Year 2016 will bring its challenges. We have to remain confident that we will tackle those challenges and that we will overcome them has we have done in over three centuries of our turbulent history.

I take the opportunity on behalf of my wife and family to wish you a happy and prosperous 2016.



Optimism For a Positive Year Ahead

January 05, 2016

This is the time of year when there are many questions regarding the outlook for the year ahead. And why at the start of a new year, it’s always worthwhile to reflect on the state of one’s country in order to note the progress registered and attempt to pinpoint those areas where work still has to be done.

Starting with the administration of our country. It’s obvious much has been achieved in the last four years; this was rewarded when in November the electorate handed the GSLP/Liberal Alliance another term of office.

The economy is strong and growing, unemployment has been reduced and various progressive social measures have been implemented.

Public’s Dim View Certain Aspects of Local Politics

Unfortunately, the public perception of politics and politicians has deteriorated even further, particularly over the past 8 or 10 year with many people viewing a good part of political work as having the ultimate aim of “making hay while the sun shines”.

Regrettable, the public’s dim view of certain aspects of local politics is down to political style in some and the behaviour regarding some high-profile political issues, which could or should have been handled differently. Look no further then the ‘opposition’s’ poor performance during the election campaign. How they politically twisted and attempted to manipulate the LNG issue. Yet, since the election there has not been one ‘(negative) peep’ regarding this matter from the GSD camp. So, what was all the fuss about? Judging by the size of the Governments election win the public or the electorate obviously worked that one out for themselves.

Todays Society More Liberal Outlook

Moving on, a positive development has been the fact that the people of Gibraltar seem to have become more liberal in their approach to life. In the past, the Rock suffered from the negative effects of insularity. This no longer seems to be the case as new ideas and different lifestyles are today much more readily accepted.

It is, however, disappointing to note that the concept of multi¬culturalism remains a matter of debate with many, it is also rejected by a fair number of people. Although admittedly, not as openly rejected as it is in many other parts of the EU and beyond. Nowadays, the general immigration topic generates heated arguments in many places Gibraltar is no different. In this sense, much still needs to be done to eliminate some racist attitudes that still linger with several locals and residents alike. The threat of terrorism near to our shores under the present climate has served to further complicate the issue and has led some to view multiculturalism as a threat to our national security.

Environmental Concerns in Certain Area’s… High

Environmental concerns are also high on the national agenda. While I feel it is very unfair to blame the present government for certain problems that has plagued Gibraltar for several decades now, one has to be realistic and admit that this is an area where we still have a fair amount of work to do to put our house in order.

Unfortunately, the present government is still burdened with several environmental problems which it inherited prior 2011, problems that have no easy or short-term solutions.

However, if environmental related laws are not rigorously enforced by the pertinent enforcement agency, the situation will not improve and matters could go backwards instead of forward particularly regarding important high profile issues of national interest. Enforcement of ‘Nature Protection Laws’ is one of them and is the subject of another Panorama report tomorrow.

Another major preoccupation here is overdevelopment. We have to ask ourselves whether the building frenzy of the past 20 years or so, which in many ways now characterises the modern day look of Gibraltar, is sustainable over a long period of time, but I’m only asking?

Given the substantial number of still empty dwellings in many areas of Gibraltar, one has to ask whether we should go on building new structures at the present rate. One need only look at pictures of Gibraltar 50 or 60 years ago to realise, with a certain amount of uneasiness, how much of our beautiful nation has been lost in half a century.

One cannot also fail to mention the huge traffic problems we have to face every day and the state of some roads, although much improved, there are areas where one has to still regularly negotiate potholes to avoid damaging one’s vehicle. These are problems that irritate ordinary citizens that have to be solved sooner rather then later.

At the Micro Level, Traditional Social Problems Remain

First-and-foremost and I’ve been saying this for some time ‘we are in certain sectors of society undisciplined people’. One has to admit that respect for authority in many areas has reached an all-time low. The ‘rule of law’ means nothing to countless people in Gibraltar

To prove my point, only last November Panorama published an exclusive report where we confirmed that according to the RGP there are no less then ‘9000’ outstanding warrants of arrest are in their possession waiting to be executed. Not a new problem there, but one that has rocketed in recent years recording huge numbers clearly suggesting, that thousands of people are on the loose and on the RGP’s wanted list! The majority of defendants having committed criminal offences and traffic infractions who have stuck two-fingers to Gibraltar’s Criminal Justice System - including the ‘Rule of Law’ The government is obviously aware how important it is to reverse this disturbing trend!

Civic Respect, Noise Pollution and the Increasing Drug Problem

One cannot hide the fact that civic respect is still lacking among many. Look around in many areas, the daily problems encountered while trying to keep localities and public areas clean. Noise pollution also remains a perennial problem with several social repercussions. This Christmas the ‘anti-social manner’ in which a colossal amount of illegal fireworks were set off in estates and other residential areas weeks before and days after the Xmas festivities is proof of that.

Panorama readers will know that another serious social problem for me is the problem of Drugs/Alcohol abuse, especially among the younger generation. This is an on going and increasing social issue of real concern, not only for the Government and Police, but especially parents and families of teenagers and others affected, including society as a whole!

The Positives Are Just as Important

On the positive side, the government should be congratulated for its excellent record and efforts in the educational field. One also notes with pleasure that big advances have been made in sports and culture. While our small size precludes us from becoming world-beaters in any sports discipline, it is gratifying to note that the number of locals who practise sports has significantly increased during the last few years. This positive development is also due to the fact that the government has initiated an on-going programme of providing new and increased sports facilities (with more promised) in various disciplines and upgrading those already in existence.

As a nation, we have also achieved some notable successes in culture and the arts. Our singers, writers, artists and other cultural workers have reached notable high levels. One must note that popular participation in cultural activities has increased.

Spanish Politics is in a Dangerous, Uncertain and Precarious Place

Our relations with our nearest neighbour although important to our everyday life should not in my opinion, hinder Gibraltar’s march forward to further prosperity. Currently, Spanish politics is seriously fragmented; it also stands in an uncertain and precarious place. Politicians in Spain have no idea how to get to where they want to be or how their political landscape will be finally defined. Gibraltar’s position here is quite straightforward…we sit back and wait until the dust settles on the other side of the border then await and see who and what emerges!

2015 a Year From Hell for the European Union

From a European perspective, 2015 EU wise was a year from hell for many parts of Europe, with the migration issue threatening to tear the EU apart leaving it battered, bruised, downcast and littered with new national barriers. It is hoped that in the new year European leaders are able to learn from and put that learning to good use, we shall see, but don’t hold your breath for to long on this one?

Things could get even worse for the EU if the UK public decide to vote to leave the European Union. Another vastly important issue our own politicians will need to monitor carefully on the Gibraltar national radar and act accordingly, but decisively!

As we start 2016, there are positive hopes looking ahead. Let us acknowledge that a lot has been achieved in Gibraltar and much more looks to be on the cards…although much still remains to be done!



How local children are now living their dreams

January 05, 2016


The opportunity local children now have to live their dreams and study what they want at university is something which most demonstrates how Gibraltar has improved since the 70s.

This is the belief of Ana Greeno, who left Gibraltar to go to UK and then Australia when she was 21-years-old, but who regularly takes time to visit her hometown to catch up with family and friends.

“I find that the local university is a really unique opportunity for young people as in my time it was limited to evening classes. Gibraltar always had some place to improve your skills and I used to belong to Art Group Four which had many people involved in it and was run by Mario Finlayson.

“We used to get together and go out painting but now there are more opportunities for people to show off their painting in terms of the Fine Arts Gallery or other smaller exhibition areas. But Gibraltar could have even more galleries, especially when you think of the success that Christian Hook has had, who demonstrates how we have some of the most original and successful artists among us.”

Having been born and raised in Gibraltar, she was sent to the Convent for schooling, training as a secretary to be able to help in her father’s business. “But I always really wanted to get into art,” she said. “I would have probably liked to have studied that at the time instead of the secretarial course I did, which is different to nowadays where all university students get a grant to study what they want.

“I could have studied that in Australia if I wanted to but instead have now become a guide around the city. But it’s great to hear of the educational opportunities there are over here especially as students all now have the opportunity to go over to the UK to study, which is more than we used to be able to in my time here.”


Greeno referred to the improvement of the way that Gibraltar looks to visitors: “The pedestrianisation of Main Street has been fantastic as when I was here the traffic drove through and it was far more noisy and dirtier than it is now.

“Most of the time when I was here the frontier was closed so it would be difficult to judge how tourism has grown but it has definitely expanded incredibly as every single day there are more people coming to Gibraltar and that is a fantastic opportunity for all our businesses.”

She realised how much more international Gibraltar had become since she left, as the frontier opened and Gibraltar started to navigate the world of international commerce, as opposed to relying on the MoD for employment.

“People from every field are always coming into Gibraltar from all parts of the world and that brings with it quite a lot of diversity,” she said. “It was a bit frustrating living here in the 70s with the frontier closed but soon after things changed when I moved to London and now I am based in Melbourne which has won the award for Most Liveable City in the World five times.

“There we have a similar culture based around the beach, mountains, restaurants serving food from all over the world and the best coffee! In contrast, here I just hope we can continue to preserve the heritage with all the extra construction going up all over the Rock. In that spirit I like what has been done to King’s Bastion in terms of turning it from a smelly power station into a leisure centre that can be used by everybody everyday.”


During her week back home to see family and friends she stayed at one of our most modern complexes at King’s Wharf which she described as having fabulous views: “It’s great to be there because when I was in Gibraltar I always lived in the middle of the town so I was used to the hustle and bustle while this is much quieter.

“I think the reclamation is a good idea as it gives people a place to live, as long as they do it tastefully, don’t destroy the old buildings in town and don’t have too many high-rises.”

Having been away so long she realises that although she has changed a lot since she left she admitted that through her occasional visits and her contact with her Loreto Convent friends, she admits she still has that connection with Gibraltar and it will always be in her heart.


Calpe House Appeal

January 05, 2016

Dear Sir,

As an ex Calpe House user, I appeal to GBC to allot some of the £120.000 plus and more still coming in to the Calpe House £5,000,000 appeal.

Apart from corporate donations lots of ordinary people throughout the years have contributed to the GBC open day appeal.

Maybe the Govt can donate a flat which are about to be built and raffled, this was done when Montague Gardens was built.

There are three extraordinary lottery draws every year, maybe an extra one in 2016 or 2017. An extra lottery draw in the Autumn next year?

Gibraltar is blessed in many ways, this is why I wish the whole of Gibraltar a very Happy New Year.

Thank You