Friday, May 06, 2005

Frontier will flow, says Madrid

Dominique Searle reports

Exclusive • Red and green channels confirmed

A high level technical and political meeting in Madrid yesterday concluded with a decision to give the go ahead for a radical improvement at the frontier.

The move is tied in with the major 1 million euro investment in infrastructure revealed by the Chronicle this week.

Green and red channels will be introduced and manpower increased.

Bernardino Leon, the Spanish Spanish Foreign Ministry's (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores MAE) Secretary of State, chaired a half-day session attended by both Madrid and Campo officials including Interior Ministry representatives, police, Civil Guard officials and Customs authorities.

Well placed senior sources in the Ministry said last night that the move followed an undertaking by Spain made at the last Malaga reunion attended by Chief Minister Peter Caruana, Jose Pons, Spanish Foreign Ministry and Dominick Chilcott F&CO.

Mr Caruana, under the open agenda rule, had raised the concerns in Gibraltar at frontier delays and Madrid had undertaken to study this issue.

The new building works will begin at the frontier next week and are expected to be completed within six to eight months including improved facilities for dealing with commercial traffic.

The red and green channels are to be introduced and Madrid will be seeking to discuss systems to facilitate the frontier flow with Gibraltar officials.

The discussion yesterday also saw agreement on providing the increase in personnel required to put the decision into effect.

Reliable Spanish Foreign Ministry sources said that the commitment to increase manpower would allow Spain to retain the controls it is obliged to effect but more efficiently. The issue is expected to be on the agenda for the next high level tripartite talks and Madrid officials will be taking a detailed report of their plans to the meeting. They will also be seeking discussion with Gibraltar as to how the gates may be "widened".

The move came ahead of the result of the UK election which had put the process in suspense. Madrid is also known to be sensitive to the fact that the MoD cuts in Gibraltar have cast a cloud over the political climate on the Rock.

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