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Jack Straw Slammed Over 'Andorra Solution' Blunder

by Ulrika Lomas,, Brussels

10 May 2002

The government of Gibraltar has criticised remarks made regarding a possible 'Andorra solution' to the problem of Gibraltarian sovereignty by UK Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw during his brief visit to the jurisdiction last week.

According to the Panorama news service, Mr Straw told journalists that one possible solution could be for Spain to maintain some degree of sovereignty over the Rock, creating the same kind of relationship as the country currently has with Andorra. However, since 1993, Spain has, in actual fact, had no sovereignty claim to Andorra.

Although in 1278, France and Spain decided to share sovereignty over the tiny nation, nine years ago Andorra declared a new constitution and became an independent European state with a democratically elected parliament. In theory, France and Spain retain responsibility for the principality's foreign affairs, and both countries enjoy a close relationship with Andorra, but in practice, neither has any claim to sovereignty over the jurisdiction.

The Foreign Secretary's remarks led the Gibraltarian government to respond earlier this week that: 'If Mr Straw has been correctly reported then he appears to be unfamiliar with the modern (post 1993) Andorra model, since he seems to be describing the old pre-1993 Andorra model.'

The government went on to observe that the new Andorra model would be of interest to the Gibraltarian side as a solution to the sovereignty dispute, but would be unacceptable to the Spanish authorities, who want to leave the door to full sovereignty over the low tax jurisdiction in the future open.

'Modern Andorra is not, as implied by Mr Straw, a case of "the joint sovereignty of a territory with (a) high degree of autonomy",' the government statement concluded.

There were suspicions that something was afoot regarding a so-called 'Andorra Solution' in March, when the UK Foreign Office withdrew the files relating to this issue from the Public Records Office. However, reports at the time speculated that the files had been withdrawn in order to avoid upsetting the Spanish government at a crucial point in the bilateral negotiations.

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