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.”

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