Lt. Gen Sir James Dutton, KCB, CBE, ADC recently announced his resignation as Governor of Gibraltar after serving less than two years, an action unprecedented in The Rock’s modern history. He took the job in December 2013, leaving behind a high-profile position with construction and engineering company Bechtel Corporation in Gabon and Qatar. While his public pronouncements on his decision are diplomatic, the feeling is that he was frustrated by the Foreign Office’s failure to stand up to Spanish aggression. UKIP’s William Dartmouth has stated that, “The Government is more interested in appeasing Spain, to build allies in Brussels, than defend the interests of Gibraltar”.
The 30,000 Gibraltarians overwhelmingly rejected proposals for Spanish sovereignty in a 1967 referendum and again in 2002. Under its 2006 constitution, Gibraltar governs its own affairs, though some powers, such as defence and foreign relations, remain with the UK Government.
The deliberatively provocative actions of the Spanish authorities at the border, La Linea, are well documented as are the intrusions into Gibraltar’s territorial waters, which have increased since the election of Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in 2011. Yet it beggars belief that Spain is so vexed on this issue while having no problem with the fact that, across the Mediterranean, it resolutely hangs on to its two colonial exclaves on the coast of Morocco.
Ceuta is regarded as an autonomous city of Spain. It is 7.1 square miles in area and was part of Cádiz province until 14 March 1995 when its Statute of Autonomy was passed. The majority of the city’s 82,376 population (as of 2011) are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco. This sentiment echoes that of Gibraltarians who don’t want to be ruled by Spain.
Further to the east (about 235 miles by road) is Melilla, also regarded as an autonomous Spanish city. It is 4.7 square miles in area and was part of Málaga province until 14 March 1995 when its Statute of Autonomy was passed. The majority of the city’s 78,476 population (as of 2011) are opposed to the idea of being ruled by Morocco. Again this echoes that of Gibraltarians who don’t want to be ruled by Spain.
Both Ceuta and Mellila are claimed by Morocco and are considered by the Moroccan state to be occupied territory but Spain pays no heed as it is their position that both exclaves are integral parts of the Spanish state.
An Anglo-Dutch force captured Gibraltar from Spain in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession on behalf of the Habsburg pretender to the Spanish throne. It was ceded by Spain to Britain in perpetuity under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713. As a British Overseas Territory it is included on the UN list for decolonisation but Ceuta and Melilla have much greater autonomy and are thus not included. However, it is surely absurd for Spain to claim sovereignty over Gibraltar while continuing to occupy its two exclaves.
Spain’s double standards make it look blinkered and hypocritical and thus prompts the question as to why anyone should treat its claim seriously. The British government should show much more support for the fiercely loyal population of The Rock.
Footnote: The name Gibraltar is the Spanish derivation of the Arabic name Jabal Tāriq, meaning “Mountain of Tariq”. It was named after the Umayyad general Tariq ibn-Ziyad who led the initial Moorish incursion into Iberia in AD711. The Romans named it Mons Calpe and Gibraltar is considered the northern of the two of the Pillars of Hercules. These appear in the modern Spanish coat of arms, which is also a feature on its flag.
Photo by Houser Wolf