Thursday, June 02, 2005

Bay median line demarcates British and Spanish sovereignty

Port cooperation talks

GSLP/Liberals has declared that following the cooperation talks between the ports of Gibraltar and Algeciras, it should be clearly established that there is “shared jurisdiction over the bay.”

In a statement issued yesterday Opposition spokesman on Trade and Industry Joseph Garcia has declared that any vessels “in our waters should be subject to our laws and jurisdiction.”

An Opposition spokesman said:

“We note that there has been an initial meeting on cooperation between our Port and the Port of Algeciras. In a recent statement to the media Sr Moron, stated that we share the waters of the Bay. As is well known, the Bay historically was known as the Bay of Gibraltar, until the Spanish authorities decided that they would start calling it the Bay of Algeciras.

Given that they now acknowledge that the waters of the bay is something that we share, the Opposition consider that it should be clearly established in the forum which discusses cooperation that there is shared jurisdiction over the Bay. This means that the median line demarcates the waters under Spanish sovereignty from the waters under British sovereignty something which Spain in the past has refused to recognise.

Moreover, in the new spirit of cooperation, they can call their half the Bay of Algeciras and we should continue to call ours the Bay of Gibraltar as long as they understand that any vessels in our waters should be subject to our laws and jurisdiction. That is the sort of cooperation we should be looking for.

It is important to note that notwithstanding the conciliatory noises being made in the vicinity, it appears that thinking in Madrid is regressing in relation to issues connected to the Bay.

At the same time as cooperation is under discussion locally, it has been made public that Madrid has entered a reservation in an international Convention whereby it assumes sole jurisdiction over the entire Bay, on the basis that Gibraltar only enjoys the waters of the port which were ceded under Utrecht.

The Convention in question is the 1960 Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy. Although signed in 1961 by Spain, neither then, before the border closed, nor during the closed border years did Spain enter such a reservation which claims Spanish sovereignty and jurisdiction over the entire Bay.

The declaration says that Spain: “does not recognise any rights or situation in relation to the sea area of Gibraltar which is not contained in Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht, of 13 July 1713, agreed between the Crowns of Spain and the UK.”

It adds that what it calls the Bay of Algeciras (which on 13 July 1713 was still called the Bay of Gibraltar) will be subject to Spanish jurisdiction “without any recognition of the competence of British or Gibraltarian courts on this matter in the said maritime area.”

Commenting on the matter, Opposition spokesman for Trade and Industry Joseph Garcia said:

“It will be recalled that in 1713 the waters of the port did not include the dry docks, the north and south mole and the detached mole.

In practice this means that anything happening in British territorial waters would, as far as Madrid is concerned, be treated as an incident happening within Spain and subject to the Spanish courts.

This development shows that it would be dangerous for Gibraltar to drop its guard as a result of what is being said locally, without keeping an eye on what Madrid is up to at the same time.

While it is not clear whether the Convention has been extended to Gibraltar as a British Overseas Territory, the plain fact is that this whole episode exposes the attitude of Madrid. Indeed, even if it has not been extended, Gibraltar would be treated as a non-signatory state and the Spanish position on the status of the waters in the Bay would remain relevant.”

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