Cautious optimism from Campo mayors after Albares meeting

Campo mayors offered cautious optimism following their meeting on Monday with Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Jose Manuel Albares, broadly agreeing with the importance of a UK/EU treaty for Gibraltar and the opportunities it could create, but raising concern too about the dearth of detailed information and a host of issues specific to each municipality.

Juan Franco, the mayor of La Linea, welcomed the briefing and acknowledged the complexity of the negotiation.

“It seems that many points are already closed or about to be closed, and for me as the mayor of the most affected city, all the issues on our agenda have been discussed today, with varying degrees of detail,” Mr Franco said.

“It is very important for me that the minister has analysed the situation of the workers, the flow through the fence crossing, and the future regarding their pensions.”

“The expected solutions have not been communicated to us, but the intentions have, and it is crucial for us that this is one of the first topics addressed.”

And he added: “Although we do not have details, because we know that these are extremely complex negotiations, it has been very important for us to see that the agreement will not address all the day-to-day problems but will include a transitional period that we hope will help resolve the issues.”

“We are cautiously optimistic and hope that these problems will be resolved sooner rather than later.”

Juan Carlos Ruiz-Boix, the PSOE MP and mayor of San Roque who chairs the Foreign Affairs Commission in the Spanish Congress, also highlighted employment rights of cross-border workers as a key issue.

“This is the most relevant issue that the mayors have conveyed, and I hope that every effort will be made to ensure that this goal of harmonising employment rights with the llanitos is achieved,” he said.

“Secondly, I want to express gratitude that we could soon have an airport that not only provides connections to Madrid but also serves as a boost for tourism in the Campo de Gibraltar.”

“I believe that, together, we can add more economic activity and more wealth.”

He also reflected on “the challenge of dismantling the fence” – in reality, while the border will undergo major changes in the event of a treaty, the removal of the entire border fence is unlikely given its proximity to the airfield – and said it was important both Spain and Gibraltar considered this given an agreement “seems imminent”.

“We like the tone of these negotiations for the Campo de Gibraltar,” Mr Ruiz-Boix added.

“May they continue to flourish in negotiations to translate them into an agreement to achieve shared prosperity, but also to add benefits such as environmental rights, fiscal harmonisation, a special fiscal status for the Campo de Gibraltar because it is the only territory in the European Union that has this special relationship with a colony like Gibraltar, and that this produces benefits for all parties.”

“I hope that there is no attempt to sabotage the agreement and that the administrations led by the PP know that we are in a historic opportunity.”

Jose Ignacio Landaluce, the PP senator and mayor of Algeciras who chairs the Senate Foreign Affairs Commission, expressed a desire for more detailed information.

“We want these agreements to not harm cross-border workers in the Campo de Gibraltar,” he said.

“We need to know what the agreements entail, how they will be implemented.”

He voiced concern about ‘tax dumping”, Gibraltar’s lack of a sewage treatment plant and its bunkering business among other issues, including the prospect of Gibraltar competing with the Port of Algeciras with lower fees.

“Removing the barrier that hinders both communities, yes, but not at any price,” Mr Landaluce said.

“This agreement will improve Gibraltar's social situation, but we also need to improve the Campo de Gibraltar.”

Antonio Sanz, the PP Presidency councillor in the Junta de Andalucia, echoed that sentiment and said the meeting “should have taken place earlier and been more comprehensive”.

“There has been a lack of depth, specificity, and it has remained superficial given the importance of what is being negotiated,” he said.

He also expressed frustration that Gibraltar was part of the negotiation but not the Junta.

“If we are in the final stage of negotiations, we are concerned about the lack of transparency to express our opinion,” he said.

“I believe we are facing a unique opportunity, and we say yes, we want an agreement, but not just any agreement, but the best one.”

“It has to drive economic and social development in the Campo de Gibraltar, reduce the fiscal gap.”

“We have proposed a specific fiscal statute for the Campo de Gibraltar, and especially for La Línea. EU regulations allow for it.”

“We have extended a helping hand, committing the Spanish Government to form an inter-administrative table so that this can be a historic opportunity for advancement and progress.”

“But in respect of the issues that concerned us, we really have not had any information because the minister says that discretion is important for the agreement.”

Susana Perez Custodia, the president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar, the body that brings together all the Campo municipalities, also expressed cautious optimism.

“All of us who met with the minister today in Madrid want an agreement, but a good agreement, one that is the best for the Campo de Gibraltar,” she said.

“Because it could be the starting point for wealth creation, for the prosperity of the Campo de Gibraltar region, a region that historically has many needs.”

“And if Brexit was seen and continues to be seen as an opportunity for the Campo de Gibraltar, let's be smart, let's stay united, strong in our positions, and let this opportunity for wealth creation begin to materialize into reality.”

“We have conveyed our respect to the minister because we know that in such a tough negotiation, which has been going on for years, it is logical to request confidentiality from all parties.”

“But at such a historic and significant moment, we are going to be one of the main actors of the day after [a treaty is reached].”

“We are the ones who live in the area and will see the results of that announcement the next day.”

“And that is why we want to know, because we are going to be one of the main actors in the management of this.”

“If the negotiation is important, I believe that now begins an even more important stage, if that is possible, which is the implementation, the management of that foreseeable and imminent agreement once it is announced.”