EU team to investigate Gibraltar dispute next week

LONDON Tue Sep 17, 2013 7:46pm BST

A traffic signal is seen in the middle of the Winston Churchill Avenue to indicate to the drivers the way to enter to Spain at its border with the British territory of Gibraltar in Gibraltar, south of Spain August 9, 2013. REUTERS/Jon Nazca

A traffic signal is seen in the middle of the Winston Churchill Avenue to indicate to the drivers the way to enter to Spain at its border with the British territory of Gibraltar in Gibraltar, south of Spain August 9, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Jon Nazca

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LONDON (Reuters) - The European Union will send a team to investigate the border dispute between Spain and Gibraltar next week, Britain's Foreign Office said on Tuesday.

Officials from the European Commission, the EU's executive arm, will visit the British overseas territory on September 25 to look into what caused a summer of tension at the frontier that has strained relations between Madrid and London.

Spain lays claim to the territory, which has a population of 30,000, which it ceded to Britain by treaty 300 years ago.

The team will "assess the border controls, free movement of people and goods, including fraud and smuggling", the Foreign Office said, citing an EU document given to its officials in Brussels.

They will also check Spanish complaints that Gibraltar impeded its fishing boats by dropping concrete blocks into disputed waters off the territory. Gibraltar said it had created an artificial reef in the Mediterranean to protect fish stocks.

"We welcome this confirmation that a monitoring mission will be sent," a Foreign Office spokesman said. "We stand ready to offer all necessary support to ensure that the mission can conduct its investigation successfully."

Spain tightened border controls over the summer in retaliation for the reef, causing long tailbacks, and threatened to take further action, including a 50-euro ($67) border levy.

Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the threat and said Britain was not prepared to discuss Gibraltar's sovereignty.

Opposition parties in Spain and Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo have accused Spain's ruling centre-right government of using the conflict to distract voters from the weak economy and a corruption scandal involving senior politicians.

(Reporting by Peter Griffiths; Editing by Janet Lawrence)

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Comments (3)
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Seeing a picture of a small RN Frigate berthed alongside the Gibraltarian portside was a little bit underwhelming in my eyes…

Why not have a Destroyer and a Vanguard class Trident nuclear sub in the waters? (surely the RN can find one spare, as we have four of them!)

Sep 17, 2013 10:18pm BST  --  Report as abuse
Raymond.Vermont wrote:
Gibraltar would make a fine base for a new variant of RN fast guided missile boat. (which is the ideal type of boats for the Med, i.e under 1,000 tons, 55 knots and packing autocannons and anti-ship missiles)

Sep 17, 2013 10:29pm BST  --  Report as abuse
SCSCSC wrote:
Manana, manana, manana.

Weeks after the EU should have responded they are finally back from their lovely holidays. I do hope that they enjoyed sunning themselves.

The Uk must ensure that they get something back from Gibraltar in return for the spend on protecting them. Less UK tax evasion and more contracts like the concrete contract that a Spanish firm lost as result of the dispute.

Sep 18, 2013 9:14am BST  --  Report as abuse
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