Thursday, October 06, 2005

Joint sovereignty “dead and buried,” says Chief Minister

Caruana on Sky News


Peter Caruana - Chief Minister of Gibraltar - Leader of the Gibraltar Social Democrats Party (GSD)
Peter Caruana, the Chief Minister, gave a lengthy interview to Sky News yesterday morning in which he offered an upbeat assessment of Gibraltar’s current political and economic situation.

He said the UK and Spain’s joint sovereignty initiative was “dead and buried for all practical purposes” and described the new tripartite forum as “the way forward”, highlighting that the issue of sovereignty was not on the agenda for discussion.

Mr Caruana said his party, during nearly 10 years in government, had improved Gibraltar’s international reputation and “repositioned” the way that it is perceived by the rest of the world.

But even on UK television, the Chief Minister was pursued by one of the trickiest issues in local politics after a viewer in Gibraltar emailed Sky with a question about housing. There were, the viewer said, too many luxury houses and not enough affordable homes for the Gibraltarian community. Mr Caruana appeared unfazed as he linked the housing issue to economic growth and said luxury homes were vital in order to sustain an already “hugely successful” economy.

“[Inward investment] is what keeps the economy afloat, that is what keeps the government in money to pay for public services, health and education, and it’s what keeps our young and old in employment,” he said.

“So inward investment is very important and providing high-value properties for inward investors is an essential part of the economic model of Gibraltar.

But of course it’s also important that there be housing of a price which is affordable for local residents.”

He referred to the homes already being developed as part of the Waterport Terrace project and added that “we’re about to announce another 1000 very soon.”

“This is an issue in Gibraltar as it is in the rest of Europe, but I’m confident that we are going to deal with it very quickly,” he concluded.

Much of the interview focused on the changing relationship between the UK, Spain and Gibraltar. The Chief Minister said that UK support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination – both from politicians on either side of political spectrum and, crucially, from the wider public – had been a critical element alongside the steadfastness of the local community.

“Happily the joint sovereignty policy is dead and buried for all practical purposes,” Mr Caruana said.

“The British government is no longer pursuing it.

I think they’ve seen the strength of feeling that there is and I think Gibraltar has made a good case and the British government has been persuaded that perhaps that’s not the best way forward after all.

The way forward is the one that we are embarked on now, which is a process of three-sided dialogue, not the UK and Spain talking between themselves about our affairs, but the three of us. And not about sovereignty.

They now realise that any dialogue about Gibraltar has to involve, primarily and as a principal player…the democratically elected representatives of the Gibraltarians.”

Asked about his nearly 10 years in office, Mr Caruana set out a positive view of the local economy and the way Gibraltar had evolved over the past decade. He described Gibraltar was a well-regulated financial centre and said investor confidence in the Rock was good.

“Gibraltar’s reputation, both politically and in terms of international financial services, is hugely repositioned and improved,” he summed up.

Asked about his own political legacy, he noted that “…all political careers come to an end.” And he added:

“I like to think that when the people of Gibraltar decide that it’s time for a change – which hopefully won’t be too soon – that they will think that my passage through office has been, on balance, positive for Gibraltar.”

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