Diamond Jubilee: Spain’s childish temper-tantrum

Spain needs to grow up and accept reality.  Gibraltar was ceded to the British 199 years ago, its inhabitants regard themselves as British, and nothing is going to change that.

Stirring things up is not a bright idea, and there are many of us with long memories, such as of the attempt by the Spanish Armada to invade Britain in 1588.

You don’t have to attend if you don’t want to, but whining and moaning over spilt milk is juvenile and unhelpful.

Deal with it.

Jeff Goodall.

Gibraltar issue overshadows Queen’s Jubilee celebrations

Voice of Russia
Fedyashin Andrey: May 18th, 2012 

Queen Sofia of Spain will not be attending the Diamond Jubilee lunch at Windsor Castle on Friday, May 18th . She turned down an invitation to the biggest gathering of royal blood in recent years at the request of the Spanish government. The latter argued that it would be “inappropriate in the current circumstances” of heightened tension around Gibraltar.

The British press has called it “Spain’s Jubilee snub to the Queen”. The reference, of course, was to Queen Elizabeth II, because her predecessor Queen Elizabeth I, who fought Spain on land and sea, would have definitely approved. What business would the Queen of Spain possibly have on British soil and at Windsor Castle anyway?

The Windsor lunch will mark the start of mass celebrations of the 60th anniversary of Queen Elizabeth’s accession to the throne in 1952. Both Their Majesties will no doubt feel some disappointment.

The outrage would have been even bigger were His Majesty King Juan Carlos of Spain sufficiently fit to attend, but he declined the offer after fracturing his hip during an elephant hunting trip in Botswana last month.

So the Rock is doing again what it has always done since the British captured all the 6.8 square km of it in 1704 and Spain ceded Gibraltar to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht. Periodically, Gibraltar injects bad blood into the relations between Spain and the UK, as Spain continues to claim sovereignty over it.

This time the Spaniards were enraged by the planned visit in June of the Queen’s youngest son the Earl of Wessex and his Countess wife, Prince Edward and Sophie, to the disputed territory. Back in 1981, the Spanish royal couple refused to attend Prince Charles’ wedding to Diana the Princess of Wales because the latter were planning to visit Gibraltar as part of their honeymoon. The last royal to visit the territory was the Queen’s daughter, Princess Anne, who in 2009 opened a military clinic there, prompting diplomatic protests.

The Queen herself has only visited Gibraltar once back in 1954. The visit naturally inspired Spanish dictator Francisco Franco to renew claims to the Rock. In the same year, according to the information from the British National Archives, he went as far as produce documents which claimed that Spain had been promised the Rock in return for refraining from attacking the territory during the Second World War. The British Foreign Office, however, called the Spanish proof “a flimsy and unconvincing document” and refused to comment any further.

That is more or less where the two countries stand now, and it seems to suit some 30,000 Gibraltarians just fine.

Although Gibraltar is as much of a symbol of Britain’s colonial past as Windsor Castle or Buckingham Palace are of its monarchy, its residents probably consider themselves even more British than the British themselves. It is a remarkable place where ‘Britishness’ collides with the Mediterranean identity and manages to both prevail over it and suppress it.

According to the latest census, 83.22% of the population consider themselves “Gibraltarian”, 9.56% “Other British”, 3.50% Moroccan, 1.19% Spanish and 1.00% “Other EU”. Ethnologists actually say that, based on the origin of names in the electoral roll, only 27% might be considered Britons, 26% Spanish, 19% Italians and Genoese, with the rest being of Portuguese, Maltese and Jewish origin.

Indeed the locals feel so British that they resent the British press calling Gibraltar “the last colony in Europe”.

The Voice of Gibraltar Group said in its latest press-release on the coming Royal visit and Spanish reaction that “Gibraltar today is manifestly self-governing, and it’s time the UK press dropped the derogatory title ‘colony’ from their pages and articles. Britain does not have colonies any more, and even if it did, we are not one of them.” Well, they used to say practically the same about India, South Africa, Uganda, Kenya…

The group did not bother much with diplomatic niceties and added: “Have Spain taken their claim to the territory to the European Court? No, because they lack the courage as well as any basis for a claim. This year we celebrate OUR Queen’s Diamond Jubilee to mark 60 years of her reign. For much of that time, Spain was a dictatorship and it is only of late that they have brought their royal family out of mothballs.”

Andrew Rosindell, a British Tory MP and chairman of the Overseas Territories All-Party Parliamentary Group, made a statement to the tune of “Hands off our Gibraltar!” He claims that “Gibraltar may be close to Spain, but it is not Spanish and its people do not want to be Spanish.” He further suggested that it is high time for Spain to “grow up.”

The Chief Minister of Gibraltar (the local Prime Minister of sorts), Fabian Picardo also made his mark by sending on behalf of all good people of Gibraltar a “‘message of loyalty” to the British Queen, to which she replied with a letter of Royal thanks.

In a peculiar sort of way, Gibraltar is a territory with a split personality without a chance of getting proper treatment. It remains wedged in time between the colonial past and the present. Hence it has all sorts of troubles and sometimes creates absurd problems with neighbours.

The recent controversies include a row over fishing rights in the waters surrounding the Rock, which was exacerbated by the seizure by the Gibraltarian authorities of Spanish vessels fishing in its waters. A couple of days ago, Spanish and Gibraltar police skirmished over suspected smugglers aboard an inflatable power boat, the use which was banned 10 years ago to discourage smuggling. The incident occurred in Gibraltar’s territorial waters, which Spain does not recognise as such. In the end, Spanish officers helped the boat’s three occupants ‘avoid’ Gibraltar jurisdiction.

Last year, Spanish police, after many complaints, arrested a gang of men for selling “entry tickets” to unsuspecting tourists queuing up to climb the Rock. The Spanish mayor of the nearest city on the mainland, La Linea, said that criminal activity involving these so-called “frontier gangs” had by then reached alarming levels.

Yet everyone accepts that Gibraltar is a lovely place to live. It can also be used as a tax haven and a convenient place to seek political asylum. It must be: one of Russia’s fugitive oligarchs Vladimir Gusinsky has offices and a home in Gibraltar.

See original here.

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