Thursday, August 25, 2005

Caruana raises prospect of Airport deal before 2006

Campo welcomes signs of end to impasse

Chief Minister Peter Caruana, Chief Minister, and Bernardino Leon, Spain’s Minister for Europe, stepped out from a three hour dinner in Torremolinos, Malaga early yesterday to briefly talk to the press and declare that their continued commitment to make progress on the relationship between Gibraltar and Madrid will continue.

An airport agreement is possible before the year ends, Mr Caruana said. This emerged just after midnight that the bilateral session, ahead of a full ministerial in the autumn which would be the first to involve Miguel Angel Moratinos and Jack Straw the Spanish and British foreign ministers. Talks, they said, had been friendly and that they felt progress had been made.

“It has been little more than revisiting the agenda of the meetings of the forum in its first two sessions, seeing what progress has been made and what issues remain outstanding."

"For example, on the possibility of an airport agreement we have gone over the outstanding issues and have to make progress on resolving those and I think it is possible. It may be possible to have an agreement acceptable to both sides this year,” Mr Caruana told GBC.

He said there needs to be more work done before any such agreement could emerge in a full ministerial trilateral. He added that it is more important that the agreement be right rather than rushed.

An official described the mood as one of ‘moderate optimism’.

The issue of frontier queues was raised by Mr Caruana but there were reassurances that the current situation is the direct result of industrial action by Spanish police, ‘not politics’ and that the Spanish Foreign Ministry (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores MAE) is concerned at the negative effect this situation could have for current discussions.

Mr Caruana declined to go into detail but said that for an agreement to be acceptable it has to leave British sovereignty intact.

“Nothing prejudices that is on the cards. Not because we don’t want it, because we don’t, but because that is not what this process is about.

This process is about co-operation, finding ways of resolving problems in a way that doesn’t prejudice either side on the question of sovereignty.”

He said that there are some issues on which the parties have different views of whether sovereignty is relevant or not but he saw a will to resolve these issues and that will is shared by the Gibraltar side.

“I think the result will be agreement which will be within the parameters that the Gibraltar Government has said it is operating by and which we are not going to change. If an agreement emerges it will be because it leaves the issue of sovereignty unaffected.”

Other issues on which progress was reported included telecommunications.

Meanwhile, Mr Caruana said that the Gibraltar position on pensions remained that UK would have to fund any agreement on this.

Meanwhile Campo Mancomunidad president Juan Montedeoca welcomed the news that there were clear signs of a will to unblock the airport impasse. He described the meeting as positive and also urged that progress be made on resolving the pensions issue.

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