In the past and present: Spain is a parochial pain when it comes to Gibraltar

In the past and present: Spain is a parochial pain when it comes to Gibraltar

The matter of the oil tanker arrest is of major importance in western policy, and the action taken in Gibraltar has been successful. But the Spanish foreign minister Josep Borrell, instead of congratulating Gibraltar and Britain, descends to parochial platitudes, repeating that Gibraltar does not have territorial waters. How parochial can anyone get? 

These waters have been controlled by Britain for 300 years and the UN convention on the seas determines that we have territorial waters like everyone else. Not only that but even in Franco days, the then Spanish Government would anchor a warship out in the bay, which became known as Smokey Joe, but not within British waters.

Now, with such attitudes, how can he be selected to be the foreign high priest of the EU? No wonder the EU is destroying itself.

Be that as it may, the other day I went to a plush Costa hotel who were celebrating their 60th anniversary. As you enter the palatial structure, you come across an exhibition of portraits of famous people who have stayed at the hotel, kings included. Perusing the scene, I came across a portrait of Manuel Fraga Irribarne, who was the all-powerful minister of information in Franco days.

Two appointments happened in those days, that I became the Gibraltar correspondent of the prestigious 'Financial Times' and Fraga became Spanish Ambassador in London.

The paper had, until then, covered Gibraltar stories by its Madrid correspondent, but when I became their correspondent, the scene changed - it was now a Gibraltarian writing about Gibraltar abroad, objectively, during a crucial period in the Rock's history.

Fraga did not like what I wrote. He could not digest reading the truth about the Rock, so he wrote a long letter to the paper espousing his views. The letter was published, and I kept writing about Gibraltar in the 'Financial Times' for over 20 years.

On the day the frontier reopened, Anglo-Spanish talks took place in Geneva. At an intenational news conference there, I asked the Spanish socialist foreign minister Fernando Moran if he respected the wishes of the Gibraltarians.

To the amazement of those present, including myself, before answering the question, the Spanish minister started talking about my professional standing, disclosing that he had been 'one of your readers over many years, learning much about the feelings of Gibraltarians, through your articles in the British press.'

It so happens that Moran had replaced Fraga when the Spanish socialists gained power in Spain. He went on to be Spain's folreign minister.

Another encounter with a Spanish foreign minister was with Marcelino Oreja. I travelled to Madrid to interview him in the Spanish foreign ministry, becoming the first Gibraltarian ever to formally interview a Spanish minister. They opened every door in the ministry so that I could meet all the high-ranking diplomats, and as one of them said, 'this is a historic day, as you are the first Gibraltarian journalist to interview a Spanish minister.'

The feeling had changed from the days of Fraga in London, so one would have hoped that a more understanding policy should have immersed in Spanish policy on Gibraltar sinc then, but that has not been the case.

With Borrell in the ministry, it's almost like going back to Franco days.