Spain puts ‘outdated political claim’ over interests of Campo residents, UN told

Gibraltar’s exit from the European Union has led to the Spanish Government seeming to “care more about advancing an outdated political claim than protecting the interests of their own people”, Richard Buttigieg, Chairman of the Self-Determination for Gibraltar Group, told the United Nation’s Committee of 24 (C24) on Monday.

Mr Buttigieg was speaking in New York as he addressed the UN Committee of 24 on Gibraltar’s right to self-determination.

During his address, Mr Buttigieg told the committee: “One would have thought that in this day and age, such a right would be respected by all and in fact encouraged.”

Pointing to numerous generations of Gibraltarians - including those of the evacuation, the closed frontier, the referendum, and of Brexit - Mr Buttigieg highlighted the “unique identity” of the people of Gibraltar.

With a Brexit treaty yet to be concluded for the Rock, Mr Buttigieg underscored the “difficult situation” Gibraltar was placed in “through no choice of its own” after the 2016 referendum.

“In fact, 96% of Gibraltarians chose to remain within the European Union, but when the United Kingdom chose to leave, we had no option but to do so as well,” he told the committee.

“Faced with the prospect of leaving the EU, His Majesty’s Government of Gibraltar has had to work extremely hard since Brexit to try and secure a deal that ensures the continued prosperity of our land, whilst preserving our sovereignty.”

“Unfortunately, the negotiations Gibraltar has now been immersed in for several years have encountered a Spanish delegation that, whilst making all the right noises publicly, insist on certain measures that would be unacceptable to much of the people of Gibraltar.”

Mr Buttigieg pointed to Spain's apparent ambition to deploy "uniformed and armed guards within Gibraltar".

“They will argue that is to ensure that Spain - as a Schengen member - can ensure that Frontex - as the European force which controls Schengen borders - does its job properly,” he told the committee.

“But those checks can be carried out in a number of ways and we do not need to have uniformed Spanish police exercising any form of control in our jurisdiction.”

“So, the reality is that this is simply a ploy by Spain to get their foot in the door.”

“To, once again, try and take advantage of an unfortunate situation in Gibraltar to surreptitiously advance their anachronistic and archaic sovereignty claim.”

He underscored how a treaty is vital to both parties on either side of the border, with over 10,000 Spanish cross-frontier workers, “who cannot earn a living in their own country”, relying on Gibraltar.

“Gibraltar also contributes a significant percentage of the adjacent Campo de Gibraltar’s GDP,” he added.

“If we cannot find a solution acceptable to all sides, a hard Brexit will be harmful to Gibraltar but will also cause severe hardship to these humble people in Spain.”

“Yet, their Government seems to care more about advancing an outdated political claim than protecting the interests of their own people.”

Acknowledging that Brexit negotiations “are not really a matter for this Committee or the UN”, Mr Buttigieg urged the C24 to “take note of what Spain does rather than what it says”.

“Because through their actions they reveal their obsession with denying Gibraltarians their right to self-determination,” he said.

“They want Gibraltar to be Spanish whether its people like it or not.”

“As the guardians of the right to self-determination you must all ask yourselves why Spain is allowed to continue with its claim before this Committee.”

“Why Spain is not told that the rights of a people to choose their own future is a fundamental right enshrined in the UN Charter.”

“And that they, Spain, should therefore leave Gibraltar alone once and for all.”

And he concluded: “We will not be silenced. We will not be bullied. We shall never give up.”