Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Caruana accuses Partido Andalucista of “blatant double standards”

Eastside Development row

Chief Minister Peter Caruana has been drawn into the public debate regarding the Eastside Development and responded to objections raised by the Spanish regional opposition group Partido Andalucista.

Speaking to the Chronicle yesterday, Mr Caruana in a stern tone said that local and Campo public opinion will not allow itself “to be misled by blatant double standards,” and rejected any notion that land reclamation for economic advancement “are fine” when they occur in Spain, “but terrible when they happen in Gibraltar.”

Meanwhile Mr Caruana has also advised Spanish politicians against attempting “to play international politics” with this, saying that in carrying out its own numerous reclamation projects in recent years, Spain has not complied with these same EU cross-border notification obligations.

Mr Caruana also expresses surprise at remarks by both the PA and by local pressure group Environmental Safety Group (ESG) regarding the need for an environmental impact assessment of the project.

“This is precisely the stage the project is at,” said Mr Caruana.

A Convent Place spokesman said:

“The Gibraltar Government notes, with some surprise, the demands by a Spanish regional political party, and by the Gibraltar Environmental Safety Group, for an environmental impact assessment to be carried out in relation to the Eastside Project.

This is already the case, as has been announced publicly by the Government on several occasions (see press release dated 25th January 2005 and 16th June 2005). This is precisely the stage at which the project is.

The laws of Gibraltar fully reflect EU requirements in relation to both public and private projects that are deemed to have a significant effect on the environment and thus require an environmental impact assessment before they can be approved.

These provisions are set out in the Town Planning (Environmental Impact Assessment) Regulations 2000. These regulation regulate how such projects must be dealt with both domestically, and internationally with any neighbouring country whose environment may be affected by the project.

Gibraltar (as always) fully intends to honour and comply with all its EU obligations including those in this case, namely, cross-border notification of environmentally sensitive projects. However, those Spanish politicians who may be thinking of falling into the temptation to play international politics with this issue should be aware that in not a single one of the many huge land reclamation projects carried out in recent years on the Spanish side of the Bay of Gibraltar or on La Linea’s Mediterranean coast, has the appropriate planning authority in Spain complied or even tried to comply with these very same EU cross-border notification obligations.

Neither Gibraltar (as required by the EU Directive) nor even the UK has been notified of a single one of these reclamation projects prior to their approval and execution. Some of them have been hard up against the land border, for example the La Linea pier and port in the Bay.

Accordingly, it seems unlikely that Campo or Gibraltar public opinion will allow itself to be misled by blatant double standards, into thinking that land reclamation projects are fine when they occur on a wholesale basis across the border in Spain for the benefit of its economic and social development, but are terrible and must be stopped when they happen in Gibraltar for our economic and social benefit.

Those same politicians in Spain may also wish to ponder on the appropriateness of publicly demanding compliance by Gibraltar with a law (with which we are in any case complying), but with which they themselves systematically do not comply in relation to Gibraltar.

Those same politicians in Spain may also wish to ponder on the appropriateness of publicly demanding compliance by Gibraltar with a law (with which we are in any case complying), but with which they themselves systematically do not comply in relation to Gibraltar.”

A Gibraltar Government spokesman added that the bill that sets out legal requirements for cross border notification requirements in cases of significant transboundary environmental effects, is the Gibraltar Town Planning Regulations, 2000.

The amendment to the Pollution Prevention and Control Ordinance that is currently before the House of Assembly, deals with a different set of EU obligations relating to transboundary notifications in respect of installations that cause environmental pollution, but is not concerned with land reclamation or real estate development as envisaged for the Eastside Project.

Related Articles and Links:

UNECE Protocol on SEA

European Union (EU) Directive on SEA (2001/42/EC) - transboundary consultations

26 July 2005 - Government responds to environmental impact assessment demands for Eastside Projects

26 July 2005 - Partido Andalucista voice objections to Eastside Development

27 January 2005 - Reactions in Spain - Juarez calls for environmental study into Eastside Project

26 January 2005 - Eastside Development first step taken for £1 Billion project


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