Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Morations remains confident on Airport breakthrough

Dominique Searle Reports

Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spanish Foreign Minister, has reiterated “moderate optimism” over an agreement being reached that allows expanded use of Gibraltar airport And the Spanish Government continues to press for a resolution also on claims by former Spanish workers to have their pension payments increased to at least meet inflation over the past few years.

Speaking to the Foreign Affairs Commission of the Senado in Madrid Sr Moratinos expressed hope that the new dialogue forum will be able to reach an agreement on shared use of the airport although he did not reveal any date for the working groups to begin substantive talks on this issue.

Meanwhile, it is understood that the issue of the application of EU norms to the airport could be a stumbling block as would the question of access.

Only last month officials visited the Geneva International Airport to see how, in practical terms, that operates between two separate jurisdictions. Both Spain and Gibraltar remain anxious not to prejudice their positions on sovereignty generally and in relation to the isthmus in particular since Spain distinguishes between the Treaty of Utrecht and the isthmus.

In addition Britain has made clear that the airport is an MoD airport and that any arrangement will have to take that position into account.

All indications are that serious discussions on these issues will remain on hold whilst Britain heads for a general election on May 5.

In the meantime it is understood that the PSOE leadership has been holding private discussions in a bid to heal the rift with the PP (Partido Popular) Opposition and to return the Gibraltar issue to one where there is a consensus although the PP have generally indicated a preference for joint-sovereignty talks on the basis of reopening the ‘Hain’ process.

Another factor likely to pace the tripartite process at national level is the fact that the Gibraltar deskman Santiago Chamorro has been promoted to an Ambassadorship and the PSOE will want his replacement to be sensitive and attuned to their current policy on Gibraltar.

The Spanish diplomatic service position on Gibraltar has generally been geared more to a hard-line approach.

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