Tuesday, May 31, 2005

UN Seminar drops Brussels reference - Bossano

The UN Seminar on decolonisation held at St Vincent and the Grenadines has been one of the most fruitful in recent years, Joe Bossano, Opposition Leader declared on his return last week.

Mr Bossano said it was well attended by government and other representatives of almost all the remaining British colonies as well as members of the Committee of 24and several member states. The UK did not participate although there was a representative from Spain.

Mr Bossano said that in the course of the debate in respect of other British territories, it clearly emerged that a number of British territories are now looking at a form of Free Association or the Fourth Option as an alternative to independence and a means of exercising self-determination and achieving decolonisation.

Mr Bossano said he had fully participated in the discussions on all the sessions, including those of other territories, and made a statement in relation to the way ahead on the general question of fulfilling the goals of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism and on the specific question of Gibraltar. He also says he refuted proposals put by Argentina on the Falkland Islands, since the Islanders were not represented.

“Probably the most valuable result from Gibraltar’s point of view was that the seminar this year, for the first time, dropped its backing for the continuation of the Brussels negotiations,” he said.

Last year recommendation 39 of the seminar held in Papua New Guinea stated:

“the participants reiterated that the Special Committee should continue to encourage the ongoing negotiations between the Governments of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and Spain within the Brussels process aimed at achieving a solution to the question of Gibraltar in accordance with the relevant resolutions and decisions of the United Nations.”

This was the reiteration of the recommendation in support of Brussels made in 2003 at the Anguilla seminar and in seminars in earlier years. Joe Bossano in his statement asked the participants not to continue to lend their weight to the Brussels process which enjoyed no support in Gibraltar from any quarter any longer.

“This year the Gibraltar specific recommendation was omitted altogether from the draft recommendation agreed to after the report was presented to the seminar by the drafting committee and fully debated. There were a number of other clauses in which references were made to territories over which there was a sovereignty dispute, but Gibraltar was not specifically mentioned and although Joe Bossano argued against this distinction being made as regards the application of the right to self-determination, it did not prove possible to get this text amended or omitted,” he said.

Mr Bossano said that the attempt by the delegate from Argentina to introduce a new Falklands Island recommendation which went even further in denying self-determination to the islanders was defeated after he made a strong speech condemning the Argentinian position. Argentina had asked for a recommendation from the participants that the islanders could not have the right to self-determination because its decolonisation was a matter of territorial integrity and its people had been illegally transplanted there by the occupying power and could not be distinguished from it.

Describing the Argentinian, view as utter and complete rubbish worthy of the views of Castiella in relation to Gibraltar in the 1960s, Mr Bossano told the seminar that they were being asked to do no less than to produce a new interpretation of the UN Charter. He reminded participants that the seminar was being held to protect the people of the remaining colonies and not to further the territorial claims of Argentina or any other member of the UN.

“The seminar in its conclusions and recommendations noted the remarks made by Argentina but did not endorse them and simply repeated word for word the recommendations on negotiations between the UK and Argentina which had been made by the seminar held in previous years and which is virtually identical to the recommendations previously made on Gibraltar and which have not been repeated this year,” he said.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Gibraltar and Algeciras explore direct Ferry link

Port and maritime officials from Gibraltar and Algeciras will explore the possibility of establishing a direct ferry link across the bay.

That was one of the key points discussed at a landmark meeting in Algeciras yesterday, held as part of the Los Barrios process.

Officials at the meeting said private companies had already expressed interest in the ferry project and would submit plans for consideration and approval.

They also highlighted forthcoming efforts to foster tighter cross-border cooperation on crucial concerns such as environmental protection and navigational safety in the bay.

Yesterday’s meeting was the first encounter of its kind, one that marked the beginning of a closer relationship between both ports.

“This is an important day in the history of the ports of Algeciras and Gibraltar, for the simple reason that this meeting should have taken place a long time ago, but for a number of reasons this didn’t happen,” said Joe Holliday, minister for trade, industry and communications, at a press conference in Algeciras.

The meeting was significant, not least because previous attempts to arrange formal discussions on maritime and port issues had run into political problems. But there was no mention of politics yesterday, or of the usual controversies over bunkering and pollution in the bay.

The message was one of “normality”, of two ports that co-existed in close proximity and were finally working together to mutual benefit. Top of the list was environmental protection and navigational safety. The need for closer ties in this area was thrown into sharp relief by an incident in the bay last September, when the cruise ship Van Gogh, sailing out of Gibraltar, collided with the tanker Spetses as it sailed into Algeciras in thick fog.

A working group will be set up to establish safety protocols and procedures, both in the event of an accident and, perhaps more importantly, to avoid one in the first place.

“It’s important to have cooperation between both ports in this area, not only in terms of tackling an accident that might occur in either port, but also to develop a prevention plan,” Mr Holliday said.

Manuel Morón, president of the Algeciras Port Authority, stressed that the focus of this work must be on both “preventive and corrective” measures, though there were no details at this stage of any specific initiatives.

Both men also drew attention to a proposal to establish a ferry link between Gibraltar and Algeciras.

Although there was no hint of any timescale, the emphasis on this project left little doubt that officials were keen to see it happen.

“I believe that there is now a commitment on both sides to try and find a solution and the means to put this in place in the short term,” Mr Holliday said.

“I think this would be of great importance for the commercial development of the region as a whole.”

A second working group will be formed to explore areas of technical and commercial cooperation at port authority level, something that is also likely to eventually include other ports in the Strait of Gibraltar.

Next year, as part of its centenary celebrations, Algeciras will host the first meeting of ports in the Strait, at which some of these issues will be discussed. Mr Morón said that it was important to involve the private sector in the initiatives to bring both ports closer together, though many shipping companies are already one step ahead of the authorities in that they already operate on either side of the bay.

Yesterday’s meeting, described by Mr Holliday as “pleasant and productive”, will provide a solid foundation on which to build. There were no earth-shattering announcements to be made, but the commitment on both sides was clearly evident.

“This was not about reaching agreement on any of these issues, but simply to make clear the willingness on both sides to proceed working on these areas of common interest in the future,” Mr Morón concluded.

After the discussions, the officials toured the Spanish port and witnessed at first hand the massive expansion that is currently under way there.

Algeciras is the busiest port in Spain in terms of tonnage throughput, handling 65.7 million tonnes of cargo last year.

Before the summer, a delegation of port officials from the Spanish port will visit the Rock for tour of local port facilities. A second high-level meeting will probably be scheduled for some time in the autumn. Between now and then, the working groups will draw up a number of concrete initiatives for consideration.

Attending as part of the Gibraltar delegation at yesterday’s meeting were Richard Garcia, chief executive at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Communications; Flavio Madeira, Mr Holliday’s private secretary; James Ferro, Captain of the Port and Stephen Ramagge, Gibraltar’s coordinator under the Los Barrios process.

In the Algeciras delegation were José Luis Hormaechea Escós, director of the port authority; Karim Breir Moreno, head of the maritime safety service at the Capitanía Marítima in Algeciras; and Eduardo Villalba Gil, chief secretary at the presidency office of the Algeciras port authority.

Also present at yesterday’s discussion were Juan Montedeoca Márquez, president of the Mancomunidad de Municipios del Campo de Gibraltar, accompanied by José Manuel Alcántara Pérez, managing director of the same body.

Related Links:

Algeciras Port Authority

Gibraltar Regulatory Authority

Queen's Coronation gun salute at the Tower

A Royal Gun Salute to mark the anniversary of the Queen’s Coronation will be fired by Thompson’s Battery of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment on Thursday 2 June at 12 noon immediately outside the Tower in the Naval Base.

Members of the public are most welcome to attend the salute.

Tickets for the event (at no cost) can be obtained from the Information Office at the Gibraltar Tourist Board (GTB) in the Duke of Kent House. Spectators are invited to gather between 11:15 and 11:30 on the day of the salute.

‘Oceana’ hit by ‘Aurora' type virus

A highly contagious virus has struck down scores of passengers on board another P&O luxury cruise ship.

About 200 passengers on board the Oceana cruise ship have contracted the norovirus, which caused chaos on P&O’s Aurora vessel in 2003 and led to a diplomatic incident with Spain.

The company said that about 10 per cent of the 2,015 passengers on board the five-year-old Oceana had been affected by the 24-hour bug, which causes diarrhoea and vomiting. Around 130 passengers are still ill and have been isolated in their cabins.

The ship left Southampton on May 19 for a 17-night Mediterranean cruise. It is due back in port on June 5 and is today travelling from Naples to the Croatian port of Dubrovnik.

A spokeswoman for the firm said the 77,000-tonne vessel was undergoing an “extensive programme” of sanitation and disinfection to try and stop the spread of the virus.
She said:

“There has been an incident of gastrointestinal illness among passengers on board the current sailing of Oceana. Passengers unwell are being asked to isolate themselves in their cabins for as long as necessary.”

She said that those who were isolated in their cabins would receive compensation and added that American research had shown that the chances of catching the virus on land was 1 in 12 compared to 1 in 4,000 on a cruise.

The spokeswoman said the virus had probably been brought on board by a passenger. In 2003, 500 out of 1,800 passengers aboard the Aurora suffered serious stomach upsets caused by what was then a new variant of the norovirus.

The £200 million ship was banned from docking in Greece while Spain sealed its borders with Gibraltar for the first time since 1985, after the ship docked here.

Related Links:

Information on Mediterranean Cruises Online with Lastminute.com

Gibraltar Museum in Zurich

Museum Director, Clive Finlayson, has just returned from Zurich, Switzerland, where he gave a seminar on Neanderthal Ecology.

The hour-long lecture was followed by a long discussion session.

Professor Finlayson had been invited to give the seminar by the prestigious Institute of Anthropology of the University of Zurich. The Institute is one of Europe’s leading and traditional centres of research.

The seminar was attended by professors, staff and students and was an opportunity for Professor Finlayson to put across his theories of human evolution, particularly as they applied to the Neanderthals. The seminar had a Gibraltar focus as the lecture and discussion was dominated by Gibraltar as a case study in this field, further emphasizing its leading role in cutting edge science.

Related Links:

The Gibraltar Museum

Friday, May 27, 2005

Gibraltar's Safeway up For Sale

• Movement in Morrisons UK

Morrisons Supermarkets UK
Morrisons, the owners of the Safeway store instructed the property dealers Rapleys to advertise the Gibraltar store in trade publications it has emerged.

The advertisement focuses on this being a prime retail store “with significant development potential” although highlighting that any development would be subject to planning.

Adverts appeared in the past four weeks but Morrisons declined to comment on what response they have had so far.

The Westside site of 6.79 acres has a long leasehold and the advert shows a picture apparently taken from the Europort tower.

This comes just a month after Morrisons management from Britain visited Gibraltar and held meetings with local staff as well as Government ministers.

Last month the Chronicle reported that the supermarket chain had been enticed by property developers to allow the massive supermarket site at the heart of the Westside reclamation to be sold for development.

In April this year Morrisons themselves confirmed that they had received a number of unsolicited enquiries from other retailers about the Gibraltar store.

“The board have decided to market the store to understand the true nature of this interest, which may lead to the store being sold,” they told the Chronicle then.

On April 30 with the sale of its two Safeway stores in the Channel Islands the company confirmed its strategy of “focusing its business in the UK” and said that this had followed the previous week’s announcement to local employees that the Safeway store in Gibraltar would be marketed in the near future.

Meanwhile, Morrisons yesterday announced that executive chairman Sir Ken Morrison has stepped down from the day-to-day running of the firm in order to concentrate on the firms strategic vision.

As shareholders met for the annual meeting in Bradford, Sir Ken pledged to stay with Morrisons for at least another year yesterday in order to see through the troubled integration of Safeway.

Predicted shareholder disquiet failed to materialise at the packed meeting as speakers lined up to praise the 73-year-old and urge him not to be “diverted by temporary storms’’. Only one arm from the floor was raised in opposition to his re-election as chairman.

The Bradford-based group, which last warned on profits just two weeks ago, also announced the appointment of Richard Pennycook as finance director, following his departure from motoring group the RAC.

Sir Ken will remain chairman of the plc board, which meets about every month, but is leaving the operations board, which meets every week, to make key decisions. Mr Stott denied the change meant Sir Ken was no longer in charge.

“He’s stepping back a little and allowing me to operate as chairman of that board," he said. “As chairman of the company, of course, he’s in charge."

Morrisons said it still expected operating margins to be significantly lower than last year’s level for much of the year, as indicated in this month’s profits warning, but it would be unable to give guidance on operating profits until “further detailed work" on its forecasts.

Related Article:

04 May 2005 - Morrisons reduces overseas stores

22 April 2005 - Morrisons consider bid for Gibraltar Safeway store - Confirmed

Merger story ruffles GSD and Labour

Ahead of a GSD (Gibraltar Social Democrats) executive meeting set for Tuesday, which is expected to discuss the subject of a the governing party, the GSD, agreeing a merger with the Labour Party, members were yesterday playing down reports on GBC (Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation) Radio that such a merger is imminent.

Whilst it was made clear to the Chronicle by Terry Cartwright, a senior GSD figure, that “much” of the GBC report was incorrect, she declined to elaborate on what aspects she was referring to.

However other senior GSD sources suggested that the critical issue now is how the executive decide to handle the matter.

Party leader, Peter Caruana, is known to have largely persuaded his ministers about a month ago to support the move although the main reservations remaining for some are over the title of the future party.

Some GSD members do not wish to carry the Labour label and say the name should remain simply as GSD.

GBC suggested in its report that the GSD has warmed to the idea of merging the executives because of a recent Panorama poll that pointed to their lagging behind the GSLP/Liberals.

What has been established is that the Labour executive gave a majority vote in favour of the move six weeks ago although Daniel Guerrero subsequently resigned and Bill Pisani has ceased to be active in it.

Yesterday Mr Guerrero was reluctant to comment but confirmed that he is “still active in politics” and would be making a statement.

Mr Pisani, meanwhile has made no secret to friends and colleagues of his disappointment with the direction Labour is taking with the merger plan.

Mr Feetham himself, who is reported as being satisfied with the GSD position on non-attendance of Brussels talks, also declined to comment.

Related Story:

Reform Party response to GSD-Labour merger

Spanish Police arrest local man in drugs operation

A Gibraltarian man has been arrested by Spanish police in an anti-drugs operation in Santa Margarita on Tuesday night during which 1,200 kilos of cannabis was seized.

Two Spaniards were also arrested after a home was raided by police. It is understood the three men are in police custody.

Former Mancomunidad Chief demands solution to Spanish

Landero attacks Caruana

The results of the tripartite forum for cross-border dialogue have been wholly negative, that is the opinion expressed by Jose Luis Landero, a former president of the Campo Mancomunidad and member of the Partido Popular.

In a statement to the press yesterday, Sr Landero declared that “until there is a change of attitude from Caruana as regards the Spanish pensions problem”, the Mancomunidad should call for the tripartite forum and the Mancomunidad’s own Comision Mixta “to cease all activities.”

Sr Landero also called on the present incumbent Juan Montedeoca to explain what the role of the forum and the Mancomunidad has been in this “delicate” affair. The former president said:

“In relation to the Gibraltar issue, in the past year we have been told that there is a solution to the historical conflict. There has been criticism of how the matter was handled by the Aznar Government even though there had never been closer relations between the British and Spanish Governments.”

According to Sr Landero, the tripartite forum has not produced any results other than giving Chief Minister Peter Caruana excessive power” and turning him into the “judge and jury” of the case.

Kop Rules!

The victorious Liverpool football team touched down on home soil yesterday after their dramatic European Cup victory. As seen above, pubs in Gibraltar shared in the excitement!

The team arrived at Liverpool John Lennon Airport to be greeted by dignitaries including the Lord Mayor of Liverpool, Alan Dean.

The players were cheered wildly by airport ground staff, who had gathered to meet the team after their dramatic penalty shoot-out win over AC Milan in Istanbul Thursday night.

Yesterday Prime Minister Tony Blair sent a message to Liverpool’s Spanish manager Rafa Benitez congratulating the team on their extraordinary success.

“Unbelievable. Incredible. Brilliant. The whole country is proud of you,” said Mr Blair. Leader of the Opposition Michael Howard, a life long Liverpool supporter, also praised his team’s comeback and said the outcome was a dream come true.

Meanwhile local Liverpool fans were celebrating until the early hours yesterday following their historic fifth European Cup Final win against AC Milan achieved in dramatic fashion after levelling a three nil first half deficit and clinching victory in a tense penalty shoot-out.

Around Gibraltar, in pubs and homes, fans huddled around television sets to watch the nail-biting encounter and exploded in jubilation at Liverpool’s extraordinary feat.

After the match dozens of motorbikes and cars crammed with ecstatic supporters gathered in the Waterport area (fuente del capullo), blowing their horns and driving around the fountain to celebrate their amazing win. Congratulations to Anfield fans.

Related Links:

BBC NEWS | UK | Euro champions return celebrated

BBC SPORT | Football | My Club | Liverpool | Benitez to launch new Anfield era Includes links to other Liverpool FC related stories, match reports, audio links and more...

Euro Commission calls on Spain to clarify Campo Benzene levels

The European Commission has called on Spain to clarify the assessment of Benzene levels in the Campo de Gibraltar following a formal complaint lodged in Brussels earlier this year by local environmental campaigners.

The complaint, which was filed by the Environmental Safety Group and other environmental groups in the area, pre-dates last fortnight’s controversy over this highly toxic substance.

But Spain has yet to provide the data requested by officials in Brussels.

Lone Mikkelsen, press spokesman for the EC’ s environment directorate, confirmed that the commission had received the complaint about Benzene emissions and was aware of concerns in the Campo de Gibraltar.

“We are in contact with the Spanish authorities to seek information on the assessment of the levels of Benzene in this region,” Ms Mikkelsen said.
“We have asked them to explain to us what measures they are taking and whether it is true that the levels are high.”

There was widespread alarm two weeks ago after a leading scientific body in Spain pointed to Benzene emission levels from the Cepsa refinery plant in Puente Mayorga that occasionally exceeded the legal limit.

But six days later, it retracted the statement and concluded that emission levels, despite high peaks, were within the legal parameters. Several months previous to that, however, local environmental campaigners had taken an air sample where the Benzene level far exceeded the limit under European Union rules. The current legal limit is 10µg/m3 [micrograms per cubic metre of air], including a margin of tolerance. The highest peak recorded by the Spanish scientists was 8.76µg/m3, which is within the law, but the sample taken by environmental campaigners last year showed levels of 110µg/m3.

That was way above the legal limit and prompted the Brussels’ complaint.

The rules on Benzene are set out in a directive dating back to 2000 that also required the EC to submit a report to the European Parliament on implementation. The report should have been filed by the end of 2004 but several European Union member states, among them Spain, have failed to provide the necessary data.

“The experience with this directive is still very limited and it would be premature to [submit a] report based on only few data supplied by Member States,” Ms Mikkelsen concluded. There is no indication as to when the report might be completed.

Related Articles:

25 May 2005 - CEPSA emissions within the Law - Confirmed

24 May 2005 - BBB responds to confusion on Benzene level limits

24 May 2005 - Scientists create confusion over Benzene legal limit

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

Junta intensifies efforts to combat Campo Pollution

The Junta de Andalucia has placed the Campo de Gibraltar industrial complex on round-the-clock pollution watch.

As from Monday, a five-man team of technicians will keep a close eye on the industry’s environmental standards 24 hours a day.

Using complex portable equipment, the team will sample air quality and emission levels, as well as gather physical and visual evidence of any pollution incidents in the area.

Junta environmental councillor Fuensanta Coves announced the measure in Algeciras yesterday in response to recent campaigns by residents and environmental groups in the area.

She insisted that the industrial complex complied with environmental legislation, but nonetheless recognised that “isolated” pollution incidents inevitably had an impact on the population in the Campo de Gibraltar.

According to the Europa Press news agency, Ms Coves said the Junta would intensify its efforts to reduce pollution, particularly of sulphur dioxide, by proposing new legislation to cut legal limits on emissions.

The work would start immediately, she said, though she added no further detail. “It is possible for industry to reduce its gas emissions and this is what we are going to try and do,” she concluded.

Related Articles:

25 May 2005 - CEPSA emissions within the Law - Confirmed

24 May 2005 - BBB responds to confusion on Benzene level limits

24 May 2005 - Scientists create confusion over Benzene legal limit

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

Gibraltar Business Networking

Gibraltar Business Network held its annual reception at the Mount on Wednesday and was addressed by its chairwoman Maruchi Risso.

Dignitaries from Morocco, Portugal and Spain attended together with local dignitaries and members of the business community.

This reception was held to celebrate the achievement of women and in order to continue to ferment the links and opportunities for women within the business and professional field in Morocco, Spain and Gibraltar. The Network has been instrumental since 1972 in fostering these links.

New Oil Terminal in Algeciras

A Russian-linked company plans to build a new oil terminal in the Port of Algeciras, in a move that will intensify competition in the ship re-fuelling market in the Bay of Gibraltar.

The proposal, which was accepted by the port’s administrative board yesterday, foresees construction of a storage terminal and jetty covering 6 hectares of land reclaimed as part of the ongoing Isla Verde Exterior expansion.

But the developers behind the project still have to obtain environmental approvals before construction work can start.

If it gets the green light, the project, known as Alpetrol Terminal, will be carried out in three phases and will cost a total of 44 million Euros.

Lia Oil, part of Russia’s Alliance Oil Company, will own a 70% stake in the terminal, with Vilma Oil holding the remaining 30% share.

Once completed, the terminal will offer 300,000 cubic metres of storage capacity for liquid bulk products, primarily fuel oil for ships.

According to the port authority, US-based Chemoil Corporation would then supply products from Alpetrol Terminal to ships calling at Algeciras.

Chemoil Corporation is the largest supplier of marine fuels in the Americas but has been expanding in Europe and Asia over the past five years.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Directors of £3m holiday internet scam disqualified

* Money was banked in Gibraltar and Spain

Two directors of companies that misled people into believing they could save thousands of pounds on their holidays have been disqualified after DTI action which involved tracing accounts to banks in Gibraltar and Spain.

Discounts for luxury holidays all over the world were being offered from Britain and elsewhere, taking an estimated £3m in a two year period.

Nigel Moore of Liverpool Road, Chester, and Paul Charleston of Las Palmeiras, Spain, undertook not to act as company directors for 10 years based on their unfit conduct.

Members of the public were tempted to sales presentations by the offer of a “free” holiday. Once there, they were persuaded to pay as much as £6,000 to purchase a so-called “key” - a user name and password - giving access to websites which were said to offer incredible savings on holiday accommodation. In fact, the information given to potential clients to persuade them to buy a holiday key was bogus.

For example, Travelmasters falsely claimed to be both ABTA and ATOL bonded and to have originated from the former well-known holiday chain Intasun. The savings promised did not match the sales representations made.

Money raised from the 1200 or so clients was traced by the DTI investigation to bank accounts of CCH International Limited in Gibraltar and Spain.

The various companies (Travel-masters Limited, Mediterranean Marketing Limited, Callmasters UK Limited, CCH International Limited, Intersun Limited and Leisuremasters Limited) were all ordered into compulsory liquidation by the High Court at the end of 2002.

Potential clients were initially told to go to www.qualycon.net. Subsequently the following URLs were used: go-travelmasters.com; travelmasters.com; intersun.co.uk; leisuremasters.co.uk; and leisuremasters.net.uk.

By virtue of the winding up orders the government's official receiver is now the liquidator of all six companies and has a responsibility to investigate why they failed and the conduct of the directors.

Any enquiries should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 21 Bloomsbury Street, London WC1B 3SS, or by phone on 020 7637 1110.

Britain seeks extra time in Pensions case

Britain has requested extra time to respond to the European Commission on the Spanish pensions issue, official sources have confirmed.

The UK has asked for a fortnight to respond to the complex issues raised by the Commission’s challenge and must now have their formal response in Brussels by June 3.

The Commission has raised the possibility of taking UK to court over payments made to Gibraltar pensioners on a residential basis such as the Household Cost Allowance.

It is regarded as a challenge to Community Care payments and follows long-standing lobbying by the Spanish pensioners association Alpeg.

Pensions were frozen over a decade ago but Spanish pensioners, reportedly some 9,100, are not entitled to any additional payments.

Holliday in Algeciras for talks with Port Authority

Minister for the Port Joe Holliday will be attending a meeting with his counterpart in Algeciras at the Autoridad Portuaria, on Friday, to discuss issues of mutual interest.

It is understood the issue of environmental co-operation, oil pollution and joint response to emergency situations will be among the themes to be discussed.

A Gibraltar Government spokesman said:

“As part of the Los Barrios process, an initial meeting will be held on Friday May 27th 2005 on the issue of port and maritime co-operation between the ports of Gibraltar and Algeciras.

The principal item on the agenda will be the issue of co-operation, collaboration and co-ordination between the ports of Gibraltar and Algeciras in matters that impact on port operations, security and the environment, including pollution control.

The Gibraltar delegation will be headed by the Minister with responsibility for the Port Joe Holliday. He will be assisted by officials from the Gibraltar Port Authority and the Ministry for Trade, Industry and Communications.

The Algeciras counterparts will be headed by the Mancomunidad President Juan Montedeoca and Manuel Moron, President of the Algeciras Port Authority, and include top officials of the Authority.

The Algeciras Port Authority has extended an invitation to Gibraltar to participate in an initiative aimed at bringing together the ports of Algeciras, Ceuta, Tangier and Gibraltar, under the umbrella of the Algeciras Port centenary celebrations in 2006.

This first meeting will be held at the offices of the Port Authority in Algeciras.

The draft programme for this event will also be discussed at the meeting. A further meeting with officials from the Port of Algeciras, which will take place in Gibraltar, is planned for the future.”

Algeciras Container Port Study

Algeciras port has also made public an economic impact study for the year 2003 by the University of Cadiz which says that the container business generates 5,000 jobs – half of which is direct employment— and 417 million euros in sales.

The report states that the port’s magnificent geographic location, its modern port facilities and the competitive nature of its activities ensured that it reached its economic objectives.

A total of 45 companies and institutions were analysed in the report.

Interestingly the container port accounts for 6.5% of the total employment in the area, and 1.4% in the entire province.

Meanwhile a spokesman for the port of Algeciras has declared that 500 direct jobs will be created in the Campo as a result of the construction of a huge floating platform for petrol company Exxon Mobil that will operate in the Adriatic Sea off the coast of Italy.

The Government of Qatar through the company Qatar Petroleum is the other major shareholder in the project.

The investment for the two-year project is close to 1,000 million euros.

Commission proposes new resources for combating pollution

The European Commission has proposed a financial package of Euros 154 million over a period of seven years for the European Maritime Safety Agency to allow it to combat pollution caused by ships.

The funds will enable the Agency to make specialised anti-pollution vessels available to Member States to recover pollutants and develop satellite images to detect pollution in good time.

Jacques Barrot, Vice-President responsible for Transport said:

“We must have a European system to combat pollution at sea in order to protect our coasts. The Maritime Safety Agency needs adequate funding to help it combat pollution at sea”.

The EU funding for the Agency should cover a seven-year period corresponding to that of the new financial perspective (2007-2013).

The funds are intended to strengthen the capability of the Member States to respond to pollution caused by oil and other substances using specialised anti-pollution vessels.

Member States affected by oil slicks with which they cannot deal themselves will be able to call on the Agency to increase their capability for dealing with pollution by using additional resources for the recovery of oil at sea.

This system of “reserve vessels” which the Agency will place at the disposal of Member States affected will have equipment for recovering pollutants from the sea.

These resources will also help in the development of satellite imaging to enable pollution to be detected in good time and will underpin efforts by the Member States to prevent illegal discharges and accidental spillages of oil.

EU awaits Gibraltar's carbon dioxide emission reduction plans

Emissions trading

Firms covered by the EU Emissions Trading Scheme will be able to open their UK carbon accounts this week, the British Government announced yesterday.

But Britain has been told that Gibraltar’s National Allocation Plan still has to be provided.

This scheme is one of the main components in the fight against climate change. The scheme is designed to help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by around 65 million tonnes (around 8 per cent) below projected emissions of the installations covered by it over the next three years.

The Emissions Trading Registry is web-based, and records CO2 allowances held in firms accounts. The Registry allows allowances to be transferred to other accounts both within the UK and in other participating countries.

Emissions trading is a key component of UK and wider European action to tackle climate change. It gives industry a clear incentive to reduce carbon emissions, whilst enabling it to do so at least cost.

The opening of the UK Registry means that UK companies can start to participate fully in the scheme and provides London’s emerging carbon market with the opportunity to fulfil its potential as an international centre for carbon trading.

MoD Medal Presentation

Nine retired Gibraltarian employees of the Ministry of Defence were presented with the Imperial Service Medal at a formal reception in Rooke yesterday.

Between them, they had clocked up a grand total of 326 years’ service for the MoD.

At the shorter end of the spectrum was a woman who had worked for the British military for 26 years.

At the other end were three men who had each served for a remarkable 44 years.

The Imperial Service Medal was instituted in 1902 by King Edward VII and is described by the MoD as “a mark of Royal Favour” in recognition of long service of at least 25 years.

Commander British Forces Commodore Allan Adair presented the medals during a short ceremony attended by friends and family of the employees.

“Each of you here today has made a unique and valuable contribution to the important task performed by the Armed Forces,” Commodore Adair told the recipients.

The wealth and breadth of their combined experience quickly became evident as individual heads of section read out biographies peppered with lively and colourful anecdotes.

The recipients were:

Angela Aguilera, administrative officer, 26 years of service
Alexander Pisharello, administrative officer, 38 years of service
William Bear, administrative officer, 44 years of service
Carlos Chini, senior craft mechanical fitter, 44 years of service
Alonso Gonzalez, slinger, 44 years of service
Henry Mauro, industrial technician, 34 years of service
Anthony Holmes, senior craft telecom mechanic, 30 years of service
Julio Pons, telecommunications mechanic, 27 years of service
Lillian Warr, administrative officer, 39 years of service.

Three more MoD employees – Andrew Candeas, Mari Carmen Chichon and Yvette Gonzalez – have also been awarded the Imperial Service Medal but were unable to attend yesterday’s reception. They will be presented with their medals at a later time.

Man charged with Eastern beach stabbing

In Court

Following the incident on April 17, in Eastern Beach Road, where a young local man was stabbed in the leg as a result of a fight, police have charged another local man David Da Palma Costa, 18, of 21 Med View terrace.

A search was carried out for Da Palma Costa at the time of the incident but this proved fruitless.

RGP (Royal Gibraltar Police) said yesterday that information was received that Da Palma Costa had left Gibraltar.

The victim of the assault suffered a wound to his left thigh area and after being treated in hospital he was allowed to leave.

Yesterday Da Palma Costa was arrested for the offence of wounding and interviewed. He was subsequently charged with one count of wounding and bailed out pending his court appearance tomorrow.

Prison for Jewel Thief

Spanish national José Antonio Higuera Aguilera, 44, was sentenced to two and a half years in prison, after being convicted of two charges of burglary and one charge of attempted burglary.

The burglaries were committed in dwelling houses during July and August 2004.

Higuera Aguilera stole approximately £35,000 worth of jewellery from one of the said dwellings. He has been in custody since his arrest last year.

Arrests in Burglary case

Police reported that early yesterday a burglary was committed at a local take away in the area of Water Gardens.

The alleged culprits are said to have broken the front door and allegedly attempted to steal monies from one of the poker machines from within the establishment. Nothing was stolen as RGP officers were alerted of the burglary in progress.

Meanwhile, three men namely Jason Gordon, 27, of 7 Goole House, Anthony Mauro, 17 of 11 Sommerset Court, and Zaide Attou Dob 19 of 11/1 Paradise Ramp, were subsequently interviewed and charged with a count of burglary and have been bailed out to appear at the Magistrates Court today.

No change in firemen dispute

The dispute between the Gibraltar Government and the firemen of the City Fire Brigade remains deadlocked despite further contacts held yesterday between both sides.

A TGWU spokesman said failure to reach an agreement means “things remain as they were,” while the selective industrial action continues.

The talks with the Gibraltar Government were held to explain to the firemen the various permutations on offer by the administration which have been rejected by the TGWU.

The issue of pay differentials with fire contol operators and maintaining these, remains the point of contention, added the Union spokesman.

MoD Contractorisation hearing set for June

Legal battle-lines are drawn

The Ministry of Defence will try to block the trades unions’ legal case against local privatisation plans at a two-day hearing in June, the Chronicle has learned.

In the opening session of what could prove to be a lengthy and complex case, MoD lawyers are first expected to question whether or not the legal challenge can actually be heard in a Gibraltar court.

The issue of jurisdiction seems set to be a crucial point of conflict.

In a related development, the Chronicle has also learned from a senior British source that no Spanish companies have expressed any interest in the privatisation contract. Among many other concerns over the privatisation, workers had feared that they might end up employed by a company from Spain.

Lawyers from both sides in the dispute will meet tomorrow with the Chief Justice, Derek Schofield, to discuss practical procedures ahead of the hearing, which is set for June 20 and 21.

Lawyers acting for the Transport and General Workers’ Union/ACTS and Prospect served the legal claim on the MoD earlier this month. They are calling on the court to halt the privatisation process and oblige the ministry to review its plans.

TGWU/Acts and Prospect are represented locally in this joint action by law firms Hassans and Attias & Levy respectively. The MoD is represented locally by Isola & Isola, though British Government lawyers in the UK are also closely involved.

Up to 300 local civilian jobs could be hit by the controversial proposal announced by the MoD earlier this year, though the unions fear the total will be higher within the broader programme of MoD cuts.

A number of private companies have already sent ‘expressions of interest’ to the ministry, which will now have to assess those documents before inviting selected companies to submit bids. But that procedure, though not formally on hold, is moving at a very slow pace while the legal challenge by the unions is resolved.

One source with intimate knowledge of the process said “a healthy number” of companies – none of them from Spain - had expressed interest in the contract.

Related Links:

Gibraltar News Online Contractorisation Poll

12 May 2005 Unions escalate MoD dispute

19 April 2005 Unions declare a united front on MoD Contractorisation

15 April 2005 No progress in Union-MoD Contractorisation talks

12 April 2005 MPs urge Hoon to halt ‘Done Deal’

05 April 2005 MoD rejects Union lawsuit threat

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Juarez attacks Caruana as Pensions Row deepens

Cross-border differences

Chief Minister Peter Caruana is using the Spanish pensions issue to prop-up his anti-Spanish credentials in Gibraltar in order to overturn the unfavourable results of a recent opinion poll, Mayor of La Linea Juan Carlos Juarez declared yesterday.

This is the latest clash in an on-going war of words between two dignitaries that have become cross-border political sworn enemies.

Sr Juarez has called on the Spanish ruling party PSOE to halt “all negotiations, agreements, dialogue and forums” related to Gibraltar until “the money owed to the Spanish pensioners is paid out.”

Meanwhile the row over the Spanish pensions issue shows no sign of abating, and took a new turn yesterday when Sr Juarez rejected Mr Caruana’s earlier criticisms that he was “playing with the feelings of pensioners.”

In a statement, Sr Juarez attacked what he described as the unconventional method used by the Gibraltar authorities to revalue pensions for Gibraltarians through the Community Care payments.

The mayor said this “underhand” system had been dismantled through their office in Brussels and by passing on the appropriate information to the European Commission.

Sr Juarez said he was defending the legitimate rights of Spanish pensioners and it was “grotesque” for Mr Caruana to accuse him of “fanning the flames of cross-border tension.”

The mayor said Mr Caruana was suggesting that the way to avoid raising tensions was to continue accepting “a discriminatory situation” and for the Spanish pensioners “not to get paid what they are owed.”

Sr Juarez went on to criticise what he described as “Mr Caruana’s delaying tactics to take the matter to court in Luxembourg,” which the mayor continued, “will result in these old people not seeing a solution to the problem during their lifetime.”
The mayor added:

“It has been our Brussels office that has won over support from the EU Commission for the Spanish pensioners who worked in Gibraltar. They have no doubt that the treatment afforded to these former workers is discriminatory.”

Meanwhile Sr Juarez has also called on the PSOE opposition in the Ayuntamiento to join them, ALPEG and other associations in La Linea, in whatever protest action or demonstration that is carried out to defend the pensioners “and end discrimination for the mere fact of being Spanish workers.”

CEPSA emissions within the Law - Confirmed

Benzene levels dispute

• The objective is zero, says Euro directorate

Benzene emission levels from the Cepsa complex in the Campo de Gibraltar may be damaging to the health, yet they are perfectly legal under European Union rules.

A recent study by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) (Spanish council for scientific research) had pointed to high emissions of this toxic substance in Puente Mayorga and led scientists, environmentalists and politicians alike to conclude that Cepsa was breaking the law. But two weeks into this latest controversy over pollution, it seems that the initial assumption – in legal terms at least - was premature.

Cepsa had dismissed the CSIC’s findings as “alarmist” and maintained that it complied fully with current limits for Benzene emissions.

In the ensuing crossfire of accusations and political flack, there was widespread confusion as to what the law actually stated.

But yesterday, in response to questions from this newspaper, a European Commission environment spokesman agreed with the company’s interpretation of the European Union directive that sets those limits.

The unavoidable conclusion is that, based on the CSIC data, Cepsa meets the legal requirements on Benzene emissions.

And yet underlying concerns remain.

The high emission levels recorded by the CSIC were isolated peaks, meaning that the Cepsa plant complied with current legislation only once these had been averaged out over a year, as the law requires.

The EU directive, while allowing for some emissions, also recognises that there is no safe threshold for exposure to Benzene, which is known to cause cancer. Any amount, no matter how small, is potentially bad for human health.

For anyone in Puente Mayorga exposed to one of those isolated peaks, the fact that Cepsa meets the annual legal limits is of little comfort.

Tit for Tat

The issue at the heart of this row is extremely complex but hinges on the question of how much Benzene can be released into the air without breaking the rules.

The CSIC, in a statement issued on May 12, suggested that Benzene emissions in Puente Mayorga had, under certain weather conditions, occasionally exceeded the regulated limit.

At the time it said that current EU legislation, as transposed into national law, set that limit at 5µg/m3 [micrograms per cubic metre of air] averaged over a year.

Cepsa quickly rebutted and described the statement as “alarmist”, adding that current legislation actually allowed for double that level, that is to say 10 µg/m3.

Environmental campaigners then stepped in to rubbish Cepsa’s argument and, echoing the CSIC, maintained that the EU directive set out a 5µg/m3 benchmark, one that had to be reduced to zero by 2010.

But then followed a bizarre twist.

Six days after its initial statement, the CSIC backtracked and issued a "clarification” that effectively agreed with Cepsa’s position.

The limit was 10µg/m3, as Cepsa had correctly argued, which meant the highest emission recorded by the CSIC at Puente Mayorga – 8.76µg/m3 over an 8-hour period - fell within the legal parameters.

The environmental lobby again cried foul and maintained its initial position that the legal limit in the directive was 5µg/m3 in 2005, to be reduced progressively to zero by 2010.

But in legal terms, the green campaigners were wrong this time.

Practical Realities

Yesterday, the European Commission confirmed Cepsa’s interpretation of the directive and the limits on Benzene that it sets out.

While the spirit of the legislation is to reduce emissions as far as possible by 2010, it also allows some leeway.

The legal maximum is currently set at 5µg/m3 but there is an additional “margin of tolerance” which this year allows for a further 5µg/m3 over the base limit, giving a total of 10µg/m3.

As from next year, it is this margin of tolerance, and not the base limit, that will have to be reduced by 1µg/m3 every year through to 2010.

The directive describes Benzene as a highly toxic carcinogen that is dangerous to humans at any levels, but it also reflects the practical realities of the petrochemical industry and its socio-economic role.

“The objective is zero emissions, but the absolute limit by 2010 will be 5 µg/m3,” Lone Mikkelsen, press spokesman at the EC’s environment directorate, told the Chronicle.

“It could be that there are some emissions that are unavoidable, so you need to have some margins.”

The EC will soon have to submit a report to the European Parliament on the application of the directive, which dates back to 2000, in European countries.

That may provide an insight into how countries have fared in keeping Benzene emissions within the law.

It will also offer an opportunity for Euro-MPs to further reduce the legal limits if they so see fit.

Related Articles:

24 May 2005 - BBB responds to confusion on Benzene level limits

24 May 2005 - Scientists create confusion over Benzene legal limit

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

What is the Bay Bucket Brigade?

Jan 2005 - Bay Bucket Brigade hits 2500!

Gibraltar Art Student takes top prize

Chris-Anne Alcantara has won this year’s Gibraltar Spring Festival Art Exhibition.

A Reading University art student this is the third time this young artist has achieved success at the festival having won the Best Young Artist on two consecutive years.

The painting in acrylics is a portrait of a face of an older woman with a veil.

Second prize (£500) went to well known local artist John Dalmedo for his painting Nebula (No. 35), and the third prize went to Peter Vasquez for his work entitled The Morning After (No. 124).

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Scientists create confusion over Benzene legal limit

Campo environmental row

The Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)(Spanish council for scientific research), Spain’s leading scientific research body, has moved to “clarify” previous statements on the level of Benzene emissions from the Campo de Gibraltar industrial complex.

Twelve days ago, the CSIC had warned in a report that Benzene levels in the area of Puente Mayorga occasionally exceeded legal limits, depending on weather conditions.
It had recommended closer analysis of Benzene levels, a review of the installations in question and an epidemiological study to assess the impact – if any – on the health of residents in the area.

But last Friday, the CSIC issued an unequivocal “clarification” stating that emissions of this highly toxic substance complied fully with current legislation.
There was no breach of the rules when it came to Benzene levels in the Campo de Gibraltar area, it said.

The statement has shocked environmental campaigners in the Campo de Gibraltar, who had believed the CSIC’s initial findings vindicated their persistent warnings about pollution levels in the area.

Last year, the Bay Bucket Brigade had used a primitive, yet scientifically proved sampling method to show extremely high levels of Benzene in the immediate area of Puente Mayorga.

Local members of the Bucket Brigade met last night to assess the latest statement from the Spanish research body and decide on a course of action.

“This is a complete about turn by the CSIC,” said Janet Howitt, local spokeswoman for the group.

Among other concerns, they raised questions about the CSIC’s interpretation of the European Union directive, that sets out the limits on Benzene emissions.

What IS the Limit?

On May 12, the CSIC issued a report that, amongst other issues, pointed to Benzene levels in the area of Puente Mayorga next to the Cepsa refinery that appeared to exceed the legal limit, which it noted was currently fixed at 5 mg/m3 [micrograms per cubic metre].

“Preliminary analyses in Puente Mayorga indicate that the limit of 5 mg/m3 is clearly surpassed in the Cepsa neighbourhood under easterly wind conditions, with maximum values having been detected that exceed this level by a factor of five to six times over an eight-hour average,” it said at the time.

But on Friday, the CSIC appeared to contradict this by arguing that the current legal limit for Benzene emissions was in fact 10 mg/m3.

According to its interpretation of EU law, as transposed into Spanish law, the 5mg/m3 limit it referred to on May 12 does not come into force until 2010.

The CSIC added that existing legislation also allowed for a 5mg/m3 “margin of tolerance”.

In simple terms, the current limit was not 5mg/m3 as maintained on May 12, but rather 10 mg/m3, if the “margin of tolerance” was also taken into consideration.

Using those parameters, the benzene emission recorded by the CSIC in Puente Mayorga complied with the law.

Despite repeated efforts by the Chronicle, no one from the CSIC was available yesterday to comment on the clarifications to the May 12 report.

Zero Tolerance

Environmental campaigners believe that the Spanish body may have misinterpreted the EU directive in question.

According to them, the directive sets out a programme that aims to achieve zero Benzene emissions by 2010.

Whatever the correct interpretation of the European legislation, one thing remains clear about Benzene: it is a highly toxic substance that is known to cause cancer.

According to the EU directive, “…there is no identifiable threshold below which there is no risk to human health.”

In other words, whatever the wrangling over micrograms and emission levels, the fact is that exposure to Benzene – at any level – is potentially dangerous.

It must be stressed, however, that the data on Benzene emissions in the CSIC report refers to specific locations in Puente Mayorga close to the refinery.

In other urban areas in the Campo de Gibraltar where samples were taken – including Los Barrios and La Linea – levels of Benzene were negligible.

Related Articles:

Bucket Brigade challenge CEPSA reply

Scientific study reveals high levels of toxic substances

Related links:

Bay Bucket Brigade Press Release - 19 May 2005

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

What is the Bay Bucket Brigade?

Jan 2005 - Bay Bucket Brigade hits 2500!

Gibraltar not yet a 'Talks' venue - Madrid

Madrid does not believe that the conditions exist at present for Gibraltar to host a session of the tri-partite talks currently in process between Gibraltar, Spain and Britain.

According to Spanish press reports at the weekend Spain feels there should be progress before such an eventuality and it says that there are still discussions as to exactly when and where the next talks, due to be held in UK, will be held.

Chief Minister Peter Caruana, is quoted as saying that he hopes Gibraltar will be accepted as a venue by Spain but that it might be too soon at present. He says it is recognised by all three that Gibraltar should host talks at some stage.

The third round could be hosted by Gibraltar in another EU venue.

MoD letter to TGWU defends contractorisation

MoD UK admitted that it acted out of character in the question of the announcement of MOD cuts but says it acted within the law.

In a letter that predates the UK election but received by TGWU in May, Geoff Hoon, then Defence Secretary, tells Jack Dromey, a TGWU chief, that MOD remains fully committed to Gibraltar.

GBC (Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation) yesterday said it had seen the letter and quoted it as saying that it did not accept that the TUPE agreement on transfer of undertakings had been breached.

Mr Hoon said that MOD had fully met its obligations to inform nor were they prohibited from deciding to outsource.

The letter is also quoted as acknowledging the obligation to consult but says this can only take place after the bidder’s proposals have been seen or evaluated.

Mr Hoon defended as a recognition of the sensitivity to political and economic implications for Gibraltar the fact that Adam Ingram, Armed Forces Minister, had briefed the Chief Minister personally.

But the letter argued that Mr Caruana anticipated the MOD’s own announcement to staff by briefing the unions himself. The formal announcement was thus brought forward.

Mr Hoon also says that he understands that the union will seek to defend members interests through industrial action but says that management too will seek to ensure that business continues. It will also seek a way forward through dialogue on the detail of implementation, it said.

Spanish Police smash Costa drugs ring

• Gibraltar registered company named in investigation

Spanish Police have smashed a large-scale drugs ring operating from Ceuta and laundering its proceeds in the Costa del Sol.

According to a spokesman for the Spanish Spanish Ministry of the Interior (Ministerio del Interior), police arrested three men – two Moroccans and a Spaniard – involved in trafficking cannabis into the mainland and other criminal activities.

Meanwhile the Spanish authorities have identified a Gibraltar registered company that is allegedly linked to the three arrested men.

Property belonging to the money laundering network worth over ten million euros and various bank account deposits totalling almost half a million euros, has also been seized by police.

Spanish police say that the criminal networks dismantled in 2005 are responsible for laundering over 500 million euros.

Meanwhile reacting to the news, Izquierda Unida Malaga MP Antonio Romero has declared that the Madrid central Government “should not tolerate the existence of a fiscal paradise in Gibraltar until 2010.”

Sr Romero further alleged that “Gibraltar is a key location for money laundering and drug trafficking activities in the Costa del Sol.”

Sr Romero further described Gibraltar as “ a washing machine of illegal money.”

Dead Shark washed up at Catalan Bay

Early strollers in Catalan Bay got an unpleasant surprise this weekend as they came across the rotten remains of a seven-metre Basking shark that had washed up next to ‘La Mamela’.

The carcass of the shark was in an advanced state of decay and witnesses at the scene said the stench was overpowering. Officials were faced with a potential health hazard which had to be removed - and swiftly.

In the early hours of Saturday morning, the Royal Gibraltar Police had contacted Eric Shaw, head of the marine section of the Gibraltar Ornithological and Natural History Society (GONHS) and concluded that there were three options open.

Firstly, the shark could have been towed out to sea and released in deep water, an option that was ruled out because of weather conditions and the condition of the carcass.

Alternatively, it could have been buried on site, an option that was also ruled out given that the beach is in constant and heavy use by the public.

Finally, officials opted to remove the shark from the beach using a mechanical digger.

By 8am on Saturday, an environmental health officer had alerted the Gibraltar Tourist Board (GTB) to the shark’s presence and the removal operation was put into motion.

Within two and a half hours, the dead shark was loaded onto a mechanical digger owned by Monteverde & Sons and taken away for disposal.

“Without the assistance of the Master Service beach crew and Monteverde & Sons, who brought a large digger, it would have been impossible to remove the shark,” the GTB said.

Because it was so badly decomposed, identifying the dead shark proved something of a tricky task.

Using a series of clues – or “points” – including size, the absence of teeth in an otherwise intact mouth, the shape of the tail, the remains of the gills and the position of the eyes within the structure of the head, Mr Shaw surmised that it was a Basking shark.

This type of shark, rarely seen in waters off Gibraltar, feeds on plankton and is completely harmless.

Given its condition, the shark must have been dead for a number of days before it washed up on Gibraltar, though there was no indication as to the cause of death.

Union to consider Government offer today

CFB dispute

Gibraltar Government has rejected the latest Union proposal to break the impasse affecting the firefighters ambulance dispute, but has stated that it is willing to accept one of a combination of options as long as it is cost neutral to Government and value neutral to staff.

Speaking to the Chronicle last night TGWU Branch Officer Charlie Sisarello said they would be studying the Government’s latest reply at a meeting of firemen this morning.

A Convent Place spokesman said:

“The Government has already made it clear that it is not willing to increase its final offer to staff, which is full and generous.

However on 18th May the Government said publicly and privately to the Union that a possible solution was to redistribute the Government’s final offer, by reducing the pension upgrade element and increasing the cash element, in a way that is cost neutral to Government and value neutral to staff, compared to the Government’s final offer.

Late last week the union made a proposal to Government along these lines, but this has been rejected by Government because it does not meet the above criteria.

However, the Government yesterday afternoon wrote to the Union setting out five cost and value neutral options, any or all of which would be acceptable to Government.”

NATO Exercise

Exercise Allied Action commences at Dusk
Spain, Morocco UK and 11 NATO members will be involved a major NATO exercise in the Strait area over the coming fortnight.

10,000 troops and 47 vessels are involved including aircraft carriers.

Related Links:

Exercise Allied Action 17 May - 1 June 2005 - NATO to test Sea-Based Headquarters Capabilities

Jewellery Theft case opens

A Spanish man accused of burglary appeared before a jury at the Supreme Court yesterday in what is expected to be a three day trial.

Jose Antonio Higuera Aguilar is alleged to have stolen a sizeable amount of jewellery from a residence at Engineer Road in July 2004.

Gibraltar represented at Commonwealth Foundation

Cecilia Baldachino, who is Chairman of the Royal Commonwealth Society (Gibraltar) will be attending a meeting of the Board of Governors to be held in Marlborough House, London, to mark the 40th anniversary of the Foundation.

She will be there as an observer on behalf of the Government of Gibraltar and as a guest of the Commonwealth Foundation.

Gibraltar gained Associate Membership of the Foundation in November 2004 when Dr Bernard Linares as Minister for Education, Employment and Training presented Gibraltar’s application for membership before a full meeting of the Foundation’s Executive Committee.

Gibraltar’s membership will enable relevant representatives from Gibraltar to participate in the many and varied programmes and activities organised by the Foundation and to be considered for funding for specific projects, said a Government spokesman.

Business Network hosts International get-together

Gibraltar Business Network will be holding its annual reception at the Mount tomorrow Wednesday.

Dignitaries from Morocco, Portugal and Spain will be attending together with local dignitaries and members of the business community.

This reception is held to celebrate the achievement of women and in order to continue to ferment the links and opportunities for women within the business and professional field in Morocco, Spain and Gibraltar.

The Network has been instrumental since 1972 in fostering these links.

“We believe that women can contribute positively to the economic life of Gibraltar and we have been successful in creating many business ventures involving women in Gibraltar and the surrounding area. The Gibraltar Business Network is always happy to hear from business and professional women in Gibraltar,” said a spokeswoman.

Talk on Gibraltar 1918 Flu Epidemic

The Gibraltar Museum has announced the third in its programme of heritage talks for 2005.

Professor Larry Sawchuk“The 1918 Flu in Gibraltar: Can we learn anything from the past about the next influenza pandemic?” by Professor Larry Sawchuk, will take place on Thursday May 26th at 20.30 hours at the John Mackintosh Hall.

A museum spokesman said:

“In 1918, Gibraltar was struck by a series of influenza epidemics.

The first epidemic was relatively mild and raised little alarm.

In the late summer, a much more virulent strain of the virus struck the Rock. Over 3000 inhabitants suffered flu symptoms and life expectancy at birth for both males and females fell by at least six years.

While influenza mortality was modest, overall mortality increased dramatically particularly among males aged twenty to thirty nine.

Furthermore, areas in the town proper with high levels of household crowding demonstrated strong positive association with increased overall mortality relative to the post-epidemic period.

To further the study the Gibraltar epidemics of influenza over a thirty year period is also compared to the experience both in Spain and Malta.

The talk will conclude with some thoughts regarding the next deadly global epidemic of influenza that, according to Professor Sawchuk, will likely emerge this century.

Larry Sawchuk is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology and Health Studies at the University of Toronto, Canada. He has published a number of scientific articles on the people of Gibraltar and a book dealing with a series of epidemics of cholera and more recently, a book on yellow fever in Gibraltar co-authored with Dr Sam Benady.

He first visited Gibraltar in 1974 and considers the Rock to be his second home and regards many Gibraltarians among his dearest friends.”

The lectures in the series are open to all who wish to attend and are free of charge.

Theatrical Auditions

Anouilh Players will be holding auditions for a full length production to be staged publicly and without admission charge during National Week 2005.

A spokesman said:

“We are looking to cast 19 males and 5 females. Ages 18-60.

Prospective candidates must be committed to the rehearsal schedule which will start on 8th June 2005 and continue throughout the summer.

Auditions will take place at the Gibraltar Amateur Drama Association GADA premises at the Old Key and Anchor complex, 310 Main Street (next to Ince’s Hall Theatre) over a period of three days. On Wednesday 1st, Thursday 2nd, and Friday 3rd June, from 6pm to 8pm.

It is the policy of Anouilh Players to accept newcomers in every production, so even if you have not acted before why not give it a go.

Further information may be obtained by calling the Director (Joe Gomez) on 76037 (late evenings), 42237 GADA (answer-phone) or by e-mail to nouilhplayers@yahoo.co.uk

Monday, May 23, 2005

Date set for Spanish challenge to Gibraltar EU Vote

Dominique Searle reports

Spain’s challenge to UK legislation that allows Gibraltar to vote in the European elections is set down for hearing by the European Court of Justice, Luxembourg for July 5.

Electoral rights in elections to the European Parliament were extended to Gibraltar, when the United Kingdom adopted national legislation enabling the Gibraltar electorate to take part in these elections in May 2003, following the 'Matthews v United Kingdom’ case.

Spain filed a complaint with the Commission against the United Kingdom under Article 227 of the EC Treaty in July 2003.

According to Spain, the new UK legislation violates Articles 17, 19, 189 and 190 of the EC Treaty and Annex II to the 1976 Act.

In October 2003, the Commission invited the parties to find an amicable solution but nonetheless Spain brought an action against the United Kingdom before the Court of Justice in March 2004.

Spain claims that the Court should:

    Declare that, by enacting the ‘European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003’, the United Kingdom has failed to fulfil its obligations under the EC Treaty, as well as the 1976 Act concerning the Election of the representatives of the European Parliament by Direct Universal Suffrage.

    Order the United Kingdom to pay the costs of these proceedings.

    Spain’s argument is that the European Parliament (Representation) Act 2003 recognises the right to vote in the elections to the European Parliament to persons who are not nationals of a Member State (i.e. the qualifying Commonwealth citizens residing in Gibraltar) and, therefore, says Spain, do not have the status of citizens of the Union.

In Spain’s view this is not acceptable and it asserts that there is a clear link between the citizenship of the Union and the right to vote and stand in European parliamentary elections.

It argues that the only persons who may exercise this right are the citizens of the Union and that granting the right to vote and stand in the elections to the European Parliament to persons who are not Union citizens implies a breach of the Union citizenship, as certain persons would enjoy the right to vote and stand for the European Parliament, but would not possess the other rights of Union citizenship.

In addition it argues that accepting 'Member States’ unilateral competence in conferring the right to vote and stand in European parliamentary elections would open the door to similar claims in other Member States.

Spain also objects to the fact that the UK legislation includes the territory of Gibraltar (not its electorate) in an existing electoral region in the United Kingdom.

Related Links:

Judgement in the case of Matthews v. The United Kingdom

Gibraltar hosts joint tourism workshop

The Campo Mancomunidad in conjunction with the local tourist office yesterday hosted a cross-border tourism workshop at the John Mackintosh Hall for businessmen in the trade.

This was the first event of its kind on the Rock. The event also saw the attendance of a number of local tourist representatives and the travel trade.

The Gibraltar Tourist Board (GTB) also helped the Mancomunidad with all its arrangements.

At the workshop, the seven municipalities in the Campo – La Linea, Jimena, Algeciras, Los Barrios, Sam Roque, Castellar, and Tarifa, were represented. Each presented information on local travel and industry in their particular areas.

“The aim was for the Municipios to present their own tourist information in the hope of doing some business with the travel industry locally, and to inform the general public what tourism possibilities exist for them in the Campo area,” said Gibraltar Tourist Board Chief Executive Peter Canessa.

Mancommunidad Presdident Juan Monte de Oca visited the displays together with Gibraltar’s Tourism Minister Joe Holliday.

Firement await No 6 response

All indications yesterday were that an end to the dispute the City Fire Brigade firemen have with Government could be close to ending.

The TGWU is awaiting a response from Government to recent proposals and this may come within the next day.

Meanwhile protests have been suspended pending the outcome of the current exchange.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Heated debate as Seminar notes distinct approach to disputed Territories

UN decolonization committee

Canouan Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines where the decolonisation seminar, organised by the UN Committee of 24 took place appears to have been the scene of heated exchanges this week.

Joe Bossano, Opposition Leader is known to have made a submission to the session but details of this have not emerged so far. However, Spain was represented there and it appears that the conclusions, not for the first time, make a distinction between the listed territories that have a sovereignty dispute and those that do not.

Official UN reports on the session state that participants concluded that “any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of a country’s national unity and territorial integrity was incompatible with the purposes of the United Nations Charter, noting the need to ensure the participation of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories in the development of work programmes for individual Territories in which there was no dispute over sovereignty.”

They also concluded that any work programme should include an information and education campaign “for the peoples of those Territories”, visiting missions of the Special Committee to ascertain the situation in them first hand, and a consultation process acceptable to those peoples leading to the exercise of their right to self-determination in accordance with United Nations resolutions.

The report said that after carrying out a major mid-term review of the Second International Decade for the eradication of colonialism, the 2005 Caribbean Regional Seminar affirmed the need for the Special Committee of 24 to embark on a public awareness campaign to foster an understanding among the peoples of the Non-Self-Governing Territories of the self-determination options included in the relevant United Nations resolutions on decolonisation, especially within the context of developing work programmes for specific territories.

Participants, it said, recommended that the Special Committee continue its active participation in monitoring the evolution of the Non-Self-Governing Territories towards self-determination.

It recommended further that the Special Committee, the administering Powers and the Non-Self-Governing Territories engage in constructive discussions and innovative ways to expedite the implementation of the Decade’s goals.

The seminar also reiterated that the Special Committee should continue to encourage the resumption of negotiations between the Governments of Argentina and the United Kingdom with the aim of finding a solution to the question of the Falklands Islands, taking into consideration the interests of that Territory’s people.

In his closing statement, Special Committee Chairman Julian Hunte (Saint Lucia) said the seminar had reaffirmed the importance of the wider United Nations system and regional institutions in assisting the territories to develop the capacities necessary to make a smooth transition to autonomy in some cases and to full independence or integration in others.

A related issue expressed had been the importance of the Territories’ participation in the programmes and activities of such bodies as regional commissions and specialised agencies, as well as in the work of the Economic and Social Council.

Noting that the regional seminars had their own dynamic, he said it was not often that representatives of United Nations Member States sat with non-State actors around the table of consultation, dialogue and discussion. Amid that scenario, it was perhaps inevitable that some heat might be generated, but heat could generate enlightenment, and all concerned were seeking clarity on complex issues. He said that from all indications, the seminar had been one of the most energetic in recent memory, following on nicely from the 2003 breakthrough event in Anguilla where the options of the political equality had been reintroduced to many of the territories. The issues involved were real, involving real people and requiring real situations. The United Nations must provide the self-determination road map so that they could successfully and safely reach the destination of decolonisation via the three legitimate routes of independence, free association or integration. It was difficult, if not inconceivable, to think that an arrangement that did not provide political equality would be acceptable to the peoples of the territories themselves, he said.

Friday, May 20, 2005

Action for Housing presses for definite reply from Chief Minister

Government's housing policy came under criticism from Action for Housing again yesterday after the Chief Minister responded publicly to their criticism of Government’s delay on announcing low cost housing and flats for rent.

But they welcomed the new points system, with reservations.

“His reply failed to give definite or even approximate dates for the construction of low-cost housing, the flats for the elderly and most importantly for the construction of the 150 dwellings for rental at Devil’s Tower Road,” said the lobby group.

Reacting to the initial statement Peter Caruana, Chief Minister, in an interview with GBC radio (Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation), stood by the Government’s commitment despite delay.

Mr Caruana, explaining the delays, said that the Government had found it was still carrying out repairs to Harbour Views and Brymptom Estate and Montagu.

“Things can be rushed through or we can hand the projects over to developers who make profits and charge higher prices and then cut corners. Or they can be done by the Government, as we are doing, at no profit and then at lower cost,” said Mr Caruana saying that he had said at the last election that he would concentrate on health and housing and it would be for the people at the next election to focus if he had honoured this. “That is the time to judge,” he said.

“The manifesto commitment is for a term, not a particular month.”

Challenged by the interviewer Christine Clifton saying that the Government had not done more than Bishop Canilla House and that there had been a lot of luxury developments he replied:

“We are not re-running the election campaign nor are you the Opposition spokesman on housing.”

Action for Housing did however welcome the new pointage system announced by the Government and said it thought that this will be fairer that the present one because it will take into account the length of time applicants have been on the waiting list.

“This will enhance the process of allocation of those already on the waiting lists who will not be adversely displaced from their positions by those applicants who enter the waiting lists from the pre-list.."

However the group adds that the new system “will be academic for as long as the availability of flats for allocation remains as scarce as they are today."

"As long as this remains the case the waiting time for the allocation of government housing will remain inordinately and regrettably long.”

Related Article:

19 May 2005 - Government announces a significant change to the Housing Allocation Scheme

Bucket Brigade challenge CEPSA reply

The Bay Bucket Brigade has harshly criticised Cepsa after a senior official at the local refinery rejected a scientific study that found high levels of toxic chemicals and heavy metals in the air.

The environmental group claimed Cepsa was denying the facts for fear that it could be left facing a hefty compensation bill by people whose health had suffered as a result of pollution.

Jesús Mota, head of environmental protection at the refinery, had described the study by the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) (Spanish council for scientific research - Spain's most senior scientific investigative body), as “alarmist.”

The data in the CSIC’s report, he said, had been taken out of context.

But the local Bucket Brigade said Cepsa’s response was predictable and typical of a polluter that had been “caught out and cornered”.

“Internationally, the Bucket Brigade is very familiar with this stance adopted by industries once they have been found out,” the group said in a statement.

Among other issues, the CSIC report noted excessive levels in Puente Mayorga of Benzene, a highly toxic substance known to cause cancer.

According to the report, Benzene levels in the area of Cepsa plant exceeded by up to six times the safety benchmarks set by the European Union.

Months before the CSIC report was published, the Bucket Brigade – using its own sampling methods – had also alerted the public as to the high levels of Benzene in Puente Mayorga.

Under European Union rules, the petrochemical industry must completely eliminate the presence of Benzene in the air by 2010, a move that is indicative of the dangers this substance poses.

In an interview with Europa Sur, Sr Mota had stressed that Cepsa complied fully with existing regulations and that annual averages of Benzene emissions were well within current parameters set by law.

But the Bucket Brigade described the statement as “folly.”

Annual averages, it suggested, hid significant peaks in emission levels of this highly carcinogenic substance.

“Whatever annual levels the refinery is claiming to comply with, the reality is that Benzene should not be found outside the plant and steps must be taken to do something about this now,” the Bucket Brigade statement said.

“The industry and Spanish authorities will ignore this at their peril.”

Related Links:

20 May 2005 -

13 May 2005 - CSIC report confirms high levels of pollutants in the Bay of Gibraltar

18 May 2005 - IU express concern in Andalusian Parliament

What is the Bay Bucket Brigade?

Jan 2005 - Bay Bucket Brigade hits 2500!