Albares: "Spain is ready to sign the Gibraltar agreement."

The Government of Spain is "ready" to support the signing of an agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom regarding Gibraltar after Brexit. This is how emphatically the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares, expressed himself on Monday during his appearance in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of Deputies, chaired by Juan Carlos Ruiz Boix from San Roque.

Albares, who appeared to report on the priority lines of action in foreign policy in the XV Legislature, explained that Spain "has presented a comprehensive, balanced, and generous proposal to create a zone of shared prosperity between Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar that allows freedom of movement for people and goods, the physical removal of the Border, and the joint use of the airport."

"Spain is ready to sign the agreement, and I ask for your support for it," he requested from the present deputies. "We are currently awaiting the response from the United Kingdom," Albares added, considering it a matter of vital importance in Spanish foreign policy.

"We have shown our partners the leadership of Spain, the European commitment of Spanish society; we have worked for a fairer, stronger, more united Europe, and we will continue to do so in this legislature," he asserted at another point in his speech when "a new world order is being defined."

The treaty must be concluded before the European Parliament dissolves for the elections from June 6 to 9, 2024. Otherwise, the agreement would be further delayed. Time is pressing more than it may seem, as after closing a draft, the Treaty itself would need to be drafted and subjected to the votes of the parliaments of the member states, Westminster, and Gibraltar. Additionally, elections are scheduled in the United Kingdom in 2024, posing the risk of Gibraltar entering a political limbo again.

The negotiation is based on the so-called New Year's Eve Agreement, a non-binding but essential pact that Spain and the United Kingdom reached to lay the foundation for the future treaty, which began negotiations in October 2021.

On January 25, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, stated that treaty negotiators expect to meet again in the coming weeks to address the "final and crucial" details of the document. Picardo responded to the questions of the opposition leader, Keith Azopardi, while negotiators held the 15th round of talks, concluding in Brussels after three days.

"I hope we can conclude the negotiation very soon. We are very united, as always. In any negotiation, the final details are always the crucial details," Picardo said in statements quoted by the Gibraltar Chronicle. "The final details are not very different from the issues one has been facing for many years," the Chief Minister added.

In the fourteenth round of talks held from December 13 to 14, 2023, "some of the main pillars of the next agreement" were already addressed, according to community sources, and it took place eight months after being postponed due to electoral processes in Spain and Gibraltar.

The Government of the United Kingdom reaffirmed its commitment in the third week of January to reach an agreement with the European Union on Gibraltar "as soon as possible," although it reiterated that it would not accept any treaty compromising its sovereignty. This statement was part of the Government's response to the report of the UK Mission to the EU Committee, published on the 16th.

"The UK, working hand in hand with the Government of Gibraltar, is committed to concluding a treaty between the UK and the EU regarding Gibraltar as soon as possible. The UK is firm in its support for Gibraltar and will not accept anything that compromises sovereignty," it stated in the response to Parliament.

In November 2023, José Manuel Albares already stated that the governments of the United Kingdom and Spain were close to reaching an agreement on the status of the colony. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, also stated in his New Year's message that "the issue of Gibraltar's future relationship with the EU" would be resolved in the first half of 2024.

Gibraltar is not included in the comprehensive withdrawal agreement agreed upon by Brussels and London in 2020. It requires a separately negotiated solution that needs Spain's approval. This is what is being negotiated with the ultimate goal of creating a "zone of shared prosperity" between the two regions and "bringing down" the Border, which would place Schengen controls at the port and airport in Gibraltar.