Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Technical talks to be resumed on Thursday, says Europa Press

Spanish pensions issue

Technical discussions on the Spanish pensions issue involving officials from UK, Spain and Gibraltar – along the lines of the tripartite forum – are planned to take place in London tomorrow according to a report by Europa Press aency.

This was subsequently separately confirmed by both The Convent and Convent Place yesterday.

The local delegation will be represented by Chief Secretary Ernest Montado and official Mario Gomila.

Meanwhile Spain is believed to be keen to clinch a pensions deal before the next round of ministerial talks within the Tripartite Forum scheduled for the autumn.

London is expected to be the final technical opportunity for progress on the pensions before the Forum meets. And Spain’s objective according to diplomatic sources in Madrid, is for a three-way political agreement on pensions before the autumn reunion, to end years of conflict over this issue.

In 2004 the contentious pensions bill was reportedly estimated at 36 million euros. ALPEG the former Spanish workers pressure group, claim approximately 6,000 euros in arrears for each of their 5-6,000 surviving members. Additionally their demand is for payment of updated pensions. Aged between 70 and 80 it is believed that at least 1,700 pensioners have already passed away.

President Manuel García Bado argued that although the responsibility for paying was Britain’s, the Spanish Government would also have to sign the agreement and contribute a part of the money that is owed to them. This would be part recognition that it had been the Spanish Government at the time of General Franco, who had withdrawn the labour force after closing the frontier with Gibraltar in 1969.

Similar remarks about a symbolic financial contribution by Spain toward a solution to the problem have been mooted by PSOE Senator Jose Carracao. “Such a gesture would be decisive for UK to assume its responsibility,” he said. Sr Carracao further estimates the total pensions bill at 25-30 million euros.

Europa Press Report

The Europa Press report quoting UK diplomatic sources said:

“The Governments of Spain, UK and Gibraltar intend to tackle the issue of the discrimination suffered by Spanish pensioners in Gibraltar during technical talks to be held in London on Thursday.

The tripartite forum set up in 2004 has concentrated on Gibraltar related issues and has carried out negotiations on the airport, the isthmus, frontier flow, the Spanish pensions and Gibraltar telecommunications. All three sides recognised at their meeting in Portugal last July, that the pensions issue was very important and highly sensitive given the advanced age of those affected.

All sides are conscious of their own positions and the distance that separates them especially after UK had rejected in June, the European Commission’s arguments on March 16th at the opening of infraction proceedings of the case.

Gibraltar provides its pensioners an additional financial support on retirement for women over 60 and men over 65, through a private charity institution funded by the local authorities. But, as Brussels was able to confirm, this assistance is only given to former workers who are permanently resident in Gibraltar, as a supplement to their pension.”

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