Schengen: fluidity between Gibraltar and Spain?

Christopher Pitaluga

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Taking it up a level, it means that, at last, flights from anywhere in the EU should, again in theory, be able to come into Gibraltar airport. You may not know and will scarcely believe that, hitherto, it is Spanish obstructionism that successfully lobbied the EU to get the Rock excluded from all Directives on aviation harmonisation. Again, in theory, a 180 degree turn-around. All this should result in renewed mercantile expansion across the region. Indeed, it is the Spanish Government that has been most ardent in advocating the Treaty in order to bring about an “area of shared economic prosperity”. After decades of describing Gibraltarians as pirates (not kidding) garrison-followers (whatever they are), tax-evaders, smugglers and a generally disappointing lot, the language has also done full circle and it seems to have finally clicked that, in the third decade of the 21st century, politics should be about doing all things possible for the citizenry to make the most of the opportunities available to it. Finally, and most importantly, implying as it might a lasting and permanent resolution to “the Gibraltar problem”, the Treaty should allow Gibraltar to attract business right across all its established areas of expertise: mutual funds, wealth management, banking, corporate administration and trusteeship and gaming. Darn. Fantastic. I hear you thinking (you were probably thinking this back up there when trying to work out my age) that, after Spain’s long history of incursions into British territorial waters around Gibraltar, there’s no such thing as a free seafood lunch. Where is the catch? Is there something fishy going on? Are we really in a good place? Or is Spain’s soul still in the past?

Very good questions indeed and once I’ve worked it out I’ll let you know the answers but we’re told the worst case is that the Gibraltarians are going to have to accept EU officials at our “new” borders at the airport and the ports (ie the new entry points to the Schengen area for which Spain will be responsible) and that maybe one day they will be Spaniards dressed up as EU officials. Hmmmm. The other big plus for Spain is that by dispensing with what they have always called “La Verja” – the fence - which its government has used for two generations to leverage pain for the Gibraltarians, its removal results in a kind of territorial blurring of where Gibraltar begins and Spain ends. How have they not twigged before that the symbolism of taking away the fence means, in effect, visually advancing, however minutely, their claim that actually Gibraltar and Spain are a single territorial unity? Whether or not Spain succeeds in persuading my grand-children that their future lies with that nation, at the very least they seem to have taken the first big, big step in the right direction to make those of us of earlier generations think that they might at last be worthy of our trust and let’s-get-down-to-business collaboration. In “Mending Wall” it’s actually a wall, not a fence, that separates the orchards. Turns out that it’s not fences or walls that make good neighbours. “Something there is that doesn’t like a wall” says our man, as it keeps crumbling, no matter the efforts to rebuild it. What have we all been trying to keep in? What have we all been trying to keep out? As we embark on this journey, with still a long way to go, surely the most exciting thing is that we’re all about to discover just what we’ve all been missing.

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