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Saturday, September 14, 2002

The Rock of Gibraltar is a peninsula on the western end of the south coast of Spain. It is accessible by land from Spain and by sea. It has its own, small airport. It is just across the Straits (of Gibraltar) from Morocco, in North Africa. Gibraltar is currently a British possession.

Britain acquired Gibraltar under the treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Its inhabitants are fiercely pro-British and do everything they can to frustrate attempts by Spain to gain control. Indeed, in a referendum conducted in 1967, a crushing majority of Gibraltarians (44), voted to join Spain. The derisory minority - 12,138 - voted to remain British. This referendum was held against the wishes of the UN committee on decolonisation..

Gibraltar is too small to be self-governing and it has been causing problems for British relations with Spain. One expects the European Union to overcome difficulties of this sort easily - in the big scheme of things, Gibraltar is tiny. However, Johnny Foreigner seems intent on making trouble and the British government would quite like the matter to go away.

The two governments have been having talks about the situation but deadlock is certain. Travel and communications between the Rock and Spain continue to be difficult and they are unlikely to improve.

Gibraltarians are planning a rerun referendum later this year. My guess would be that the integrationists should get about 100 votes this time. Such is progress. Strangely, I do not have any information at all about the simultaneous referendums to be held in the comparable Spanish colonies Ceuta and Melilla, just across the Mediterranean, in Morocco. Nor can I tell you about a similar consultation in the city of Olivenza, arguably Portuguese rather than Spanish...

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