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Peter Caruana Speaks On Referendum

by Jason Gorringe,, London

06 November 2002

In a Ministerial speech broadcast by GBC Television on Monday, the Rock's Chief Minister, Peter Caruana strongly urged the population of Gibraltar to vote 'No' to joint sovereignty with Spain in Thursday's referendum.

Detailing the misgivings held by the majority of the population with regard to the Anglo-Spanish negotiations, Mr Caruana observed that: 'Any political process or dialogue leading up to our making a free and democratic choice must not, because of the way it is structured and conducted, itself amount to a denial of our political rights as a people to decide our own future.'

Speaking with regard to the 'in principle' concession on joint sovereignty announced by Foreign and Commonwealth Secretary, Jack Straw in the House of Commons on July 12, the Gibraltarian Chief Minister told viewers that:

'Your Government believes that this declaration constitutes a violation and betrayal of our right to self-determination...That right is not fully respected by simply giving us the ability in a referendum, at some distant time in the future, to say yes or no to practical implementation of an Anglo-Spanish deal, while the UK and Spain leave on the table their agreement as to the political principles affecting our sovereignty, our future and our rights, regardless of what we say in that referendum!'

Suggesting that agreeing to enshrine Gibraltar's colonial status forever was not an appropriate legacy to bequeath to future generations, the Chief Minister urged even those in favour of continued dialogue with Spain to vote 'No' on Thursday, arguing that dialogue must take place in a such a way that the process does not represent a threat to the jurisdiction's right to self-determination.

Meanwhile, speaking at a press conference in London, UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair - arguably deliberately - missed the point of Peter Caruana's argument, explaining that:

'We are still in discussion with Spain about the possibilities of getting a better relationship, because that is in the interests of people in Spain, in Britain and Gibraltar too, and obviously the people of Gibraltar are entirely entitled to say whatever they wish to say, but we have given a very firm commitment that there is no change in their constitutional status without the consent of the people there.'

He added: 'We do think it is important however that we carry on talking to Spain about an issue that is a problem for all of us.'

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