Saturday, October 15, 2005

‘Concessions’ for Airport deal, but not on any fundamentals - Caruana

Chief Minister Peter Caruana last night declared that an airport deal will entail “concessions” to Spain although not of a sovereignty, jurisdictional or control nature.

Speaking to GBC (Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation), Mr Caruana said that one of the measures proposed by Gibraltar is that the airport terminal will be moved up to the frontier fence to avoid mixing passengers with the normal traffic at Winston Churchill Avenue. This would not necessarily be a new terminal although the current one needs to be improved on.

“One of the formulas we have put forward is that the airport remains exclusively Gibraltar airport, in Gibraltar, with all the airport functions done in Gibraltar, but that the terminal is physically connected up to the frontier to avoid the passengers having to mix with Winston Churchill Avenue”. This, he said, would have no sovereignty implications.

“It would be geographical and entirely acceptable to us.”

As he had said often previously, Government would be willing to allow Spanish commercial interests to participate in the commercial operation of the airport terminal contracted in the way Terminal Management is, just as happens with banks and other commerce. There is nothing in the negotiation relating to the airport which impacts on the political concerns in Gibraltar, he explained.

Mr Caruana said that inter-governmental negotiations cannot take place with detailed
blow by blow accounts otherwise there would be no agreements at international level. But he reiterated that nothing agreed will impact on exclusive British sovereignty, jurisdiction or control over the airport and there will be no Spanish officials of any kind such as police or customs based in Gibraltar.

“That is what concerns most Gibraltarians and that is not on the cards.”

Asked why the terminal should be moved Mr Caruana said he did not subscribe to that school of thought propagated by the GSLP (Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party) - now, “but not when they were in Government”. The GSLP, he said had, at the time of Kumagi Gumi wanted a deal for Gibraltar.

“Beware I say to the people of Gibraltar of people who say suddenly no need for deals which they spent three or four years unsuccessfully trying to do.”
“People in Gibraltar can take the view that we are fine as we are and that if Spain wants to use our airport, let them lower their pants to the ankles and abandon their long standing position. I think that is a perfectly reasonable position for people who think there is no need to change the status quo.”

But he continued, for anyone who “including the GSLP in government” who thinks that “an airport agreement on terms which are politically safe for Gibraltar and which do not give any sovereignty concessions or jurisdictional concessions is good for Gibraltar, because it will enhance our economic prospects”. Then, he said, the former would not be a very good analysis.

“There have got to be concessions to Spain – there won’t be concessions of a sovereignty, control, ownership or jurisdictional nature - but there will be concessions to Spain. There has to be an agreement.

Either there is an agreement which involves some non-sovereignty sort of concession to Spain or there are no agreements and “we spend the next 100 years excluded from EU liberalisation measures.

Just because Gibraltar is right does not mean that Spain and Britain would otherwise change the situation.

I am determined that there will be no airport agreement that prejudices exclusive British sovereignty ….just as I am convinced that it is hugely in Gibraltar’s political, social and economic interests that an airport agreement can be done without breaching what I have just said.”

Mr Caruana said he was very enthusiastic for such an arrangement and agreement is just one issue away – this relates to the nature of direct access. But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed, he reiterated.

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