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European Union Expresses Concern Over Spain-Gibraltar Frontier

Panorama

04 December 2000


This story is reproduced by kind permission of Panorama at http://www.panorama.gi

A formal letter under article 226 of the European Community Treaty has been issued by the EC Commission to the Spanish Government expressing the EC Commission's concern with the manner in which the Spanish Government operates its land frontier with Gibraltar.
The letter constitutes a formal step in the procedure which may result in legal proceedings by the EC Commission against the Spanish Government in the European Court of Justice, said a Gibraltar government statement here today.

The Commission has said that it considers that the checks conducted at the border which lead to delays could not be proportionate to the legal and practical objectives they are intended to pursue. The Commission has therefore formally asked Spain to justify the measures.

Further, the Commission has expressed disappointment that the April agreeements, between Britain and Spain, relating to competent authorities and to recognition of Gibraltar's ID cards as valid travel documents do not appear to have led to any marked reduction in the number of complaints about delays on travellers crossing the frontier between Spain and Gibraltar.
The Gibraltar government says that, up to now, it had been advised "it is constrained by rules of confidentiality affecting this procedure between the EC Commission and Member States from referring to this matter in public more specifically. However, the position has now changed following a public reference to the matter by the Commission itself."

"I very warmly welcome that the Commission has, at last, initiated formal intervention in this matter. Let us hope that it leads, as soon as possible, to the europeanisation of the frontier. Gibraltar is entitled to action as a matter of unconditional right," said the chief minister Peter Caruana.

A frontier complaints office, set up in Gibraltar last year, has resulted in over 30,000 individual complaints being sent to the EC Commission.

There are regular delays on traffic at the frontier, reaching up to six hours and more at the worst of times and it is generally felt in Gibraltar that such delays are prompted by the Spanish claim to the sovereignty of Gibraltar, which she ceded to Britain under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, but wants back. The Spanish government blames the level of smuggling at the frontier and that Gibraltar does not belong to the European customs union. (30.11.00)

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