Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Harmony in the EU, Britain-Spain-Gibraltar edition

As if the EU didn't have enough problems right now, Britain is huffing and puffing over Gibraltar, one of its pitifully few remaining colonial possessions which Spain claims as their territory. Guy Jackson, Gibraltar row heats up as Spain, Britain make threats AFP 08/13/2013:

As the threats were made over the British-held territory, British warships began setting sail for the Mediterranean for a naval exercise that will see the frigate HMS Westminster dock in Gibraltar.

Helicopter carrier HMS Illustrious steamed out of Portsmouth, to be followed on Tuesday by the type-23 frigate HMS Westminster, which is set to arrive in Gibraltar within a week.

The defence ministry has stressed that the deployment of the ships for the exercise is "routine" and "long planned".

But in a hardening of Britain's tone, a spokesman for Prime Minister David Cameron said the government was considering taking legal action over the checks by Spanish guards on the border of the rocky outpost on Spain's south coast.
BBC News breaks down the competing claims (08//12/2013):

Spain believes Gibraltar was taken in the context of a Spanish dynastic dispute and contests UK sovereignty over the entire peninsula. It also insists the cession in the Treaty of Utrecht 1713 did not include the isthmus with the airport on it and territorial waters.

Spain cites the UN principle of territorial integrity, through UN Resolution 1514 (XV) - which says "any attempt at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations".
This dispute has being going on a while, i.e., since before the American Revolution. A favorite trick of Britain, which they've also used in the Malvinas/Falklands, is to hold a referendum among the mostly-British inhabitants of the disputed territory:

There was a referendum in Gibraltar in 1967, which called on both Spain and the UK to take into account the "interests" of the people of Gibraltar. In it 12,138 of the 12,237 voters chose "voluntarily to retain their links with the UK". The referendum was condemned by the UN General Assembly, and not recognised by any international body or state. The UK promulgated the Gibraltar Constitution Order in 1969, in which it was stated that: "Her Majesty's government will never enter into negotiations under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their democratically expressed wishes."
This Stratfor video discusses the current conflict and its background in Tensions Rise Between Spain and the U.K. Over Gibraltar 08/05/2013:

Spain and Argentina have had high-level discussions about making a common united front against Britain over Gibraltar and the Malvinas at the United Nations. () The ongoing diplomatic controversy over Argentina's nationalization YPF, an energy company previously owned by the Spanish corporation Repsol, is a complicating factor. (Gibraltar y Malvinas, ¿juntos? 12.08.2013)

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