SEVERAL European Union envoys travelled to the Spain-Gibraltar border to find out how much progress has been made, if any, on crossing delays.
The officials wanted to verify whether Spain and Gibraltar have actually implemented the recommendations made by Brussels which seek to solve recent delays for both vehicles and people crossing between the territories.
The current visit follows up on a mission of EU observers sent to the frontier on September 25, 2013 following protests on both sides. Madrid complained of an abrupt increase in illegal tax activities and smuggling on the Rock, while Gibraltar authorities denounced long lines at the border resulting from beefed-up checks put in place by Spanish police.
After a thorough investigation, Brussels came to the conclusion that the increased border checks from Spanish law enforcement officials could not be construed as a violation of European Union regulations. Their conclusions notwithstanding, Brussels recommended more traffic lanes and risk analysis-based border checks.
Gibraltar complained that the additional controls were meant to punish it for creating an artificial reef in its territorial waters which aimed at protecting marine life – a measure that increased tensions between Spain and Britain over Gibraltar’s sovereignty.
Spanish authorities claimed the reef was detrimental to the livelihood of Spanish fishermen.
Mariano Rajoy blamed the escalation in tensions on Gibraltarians and accused them of having unilaterally broken fishing agreements. He was also quoted as saying the reef represented an environmental attack.
Britain later challenged the European Union investigation which cleared Spain of non compliance with European rules.
The British Parliament has asked the government to adopt a tougher stance on Spain due to the Spanish Prime Minister’s conduct over Gibraltar.
Back in 2013, Mariano Rajoy warned Spain would take proportionate steps to protect Spain’s national interests, when it was rumoured that British warships could visit the territory’s waters.
“I will take measures that are proportional and that do not discriminate against anyone. But naturally I will take the necessary measures to defend the interests of Spanish citizens,” he said. “I hope that this goes no further,” he added.
The House of Commons recently requested legal action against Madrid due to its “unacceptable behaviour.”