Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Caruana to meet De Leon today ahead of full Ministerial talks

Trilateral forum

Chief Minister Peter Caruana, is likely to be holding talks with Miguel Angel Moratinos, Spanish Foreign Minister and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary in the coming weeks.

This emerged yesterday as No. 6 announced that Mr Caruana will have a working dinner this evening with Bernardino de Leon, Secretary of State at the Spanish Foreign Ministry (Ministerio de Asuntos Exteriores MAE).

The meeting was announced yesterday in a statement from No. 6 which said this is “to prepare for the full ministerial round of the Trilateral Forum envisaged in the autumn”.

At tonight’s session, which the Chronicle believes is likely to be held in Malaga, the Chief Minister will be accompanied by Chief Secretary, Ernest Montado and Sr de Leon will be accompanied by Jose Pons, Director General for Europe at the Spanish Foreign Ministry.

The outcome of this evening’s encounter is likely to provide an indicator of how the process is developing, especially given the increased focus on finding a workable agreement on the airport that would open out new routes including with Spain itself.

Madrid has worked on improving the climate for dialogue but an article this summer in the Chronicle by Sr Pons, who will be at tonight’s encounter, fuelled growing comment from political observers that a decision point has been reached in the process in which Spain wants to see if Gibraltar is prepared to embark on what could be a difficult or politically demanding process.

Diplomats have previously indicated that neither Sr Moratinos nor Mr Straw are likely to be called into direct participation in the process unless the heads of agreement are reasonably advanced.

In his article last month Sr Pons described an improved climate in relations following Sr Moratinos having written a tercentenary article in El Pais, August 2003, seeking a new way forward.

Sr Pons last month stressed that the new process not only comes with a better climate but also direct Gibraltarian participation and described Mr Caruana’s approach as “serious and constructive.”

Pointing to issues such as the Spanish pensioners, the airport and telecommunications, Sr Pons said that more than just a will is needed.

“The issues are very complex but we must face them looking ahead to the future,” he said also arguing that many seemed to prefer to remain anchored in the past. In particular he argued the case for a presence or access for Spanish officials in the
day to day running of the airport.

He also appealed for politics to move on from 1969, though accepting that it did much damage.

“Gibraltarians should lift off that dark victims’ complex of needing redress for being the fruit of an unresolved dispute between two nation states.

The Spanish should accept that today Gibraltar is not Spanish (except the isthmus) and that perhaps it might be one day and that no accord will be possible if the Gibraltarians do not wish it.

The British should understand that we are in the 21st century, that Gibraltar is not some remote island in the ocean and that, for this reason, especially in relation to the military base, it cannot have an arrogant or colonial attitude,” he wrote.

But he also warned that this moment affords an historic opportunity which will not repeat itself easily if not taken up and that this moment demands “vision and leadership to defeat resistance and to tackle the difficult issues.”

Related Article:

04 August 2005 - Pons calls for a new future of “open doors” in cross-border relations

11 July 2005 - Tripartite talks move for an airport agreement by the end of 2005

10 July 2005 - Faro Tripartite Talks - Joint Statement

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