THE SPANISH ambassador to the UK, Federico Trillo, has been summoned to the Foreign Office following the latest incursion by a Spanish ship into British territorial waters off Gibraltar.

Europe Minister David Lidington said the activities of the Spanish state research ship – Angeles Alvariño – and its accompanying Guardia Civil vessel yesterday were not only “unlawful” but also dangerous.

Mr Lidington said: “According to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, the waters around Gibraltar are indisputably British territorial waters, under United Kingdom sovereignty, in which only the United Kingdom has the right to exercise jurisdiction.

“Her Majesty’s Government takes a grave view of any attempt by Spain to exert authority or control within British Gibraltar territorial waters and considers such incursions as a violation of our sovereignty.

“I strongly condemn this provocative incursion and urge the Spanish government to ensure that it is not repeated.

“Her Majesty’s Government will continue to take whatever action we consider necessary to uphold British sovereignty and the interests of Gibraltar, its people, its security and economy.”

This latest development adds to the already complicated relationship between Britain and Spain, after the sinking of concrete blocks last year for Gibraltar’s artificial reef project.

Spain complained that these blocks would cause problems for their fishing industry, and shortly afterwards imposed strict controls at the border with Gibraltar.

Britain and Gibraltar argued that these checks were politically motivated but the European Commission ruled that the border checks had not infringed any European law.

Britain lodged a previous formal complaint to Spanish authorities in November last year, after a diplomatic bag was opened by police at the border with Gibraltar.

The British Foreign Office said at the time that diplomatic bags were ‘inviolable’, and to open one was a ‘serious infringement’ of the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations.


  1. @Iestyn ap Robert.

    Wrong again, sir. Utrecht only ceded the port, obviously with its inner waters, without any territorial jurisdiction, as underlined by Jenner. It means “the sovereign jurisdiction that a state has over the land within its boundary limits, over its inland and TERRITORIAL WATERS”.

    @ Britbob

    We have discussed this issue in other forum, and I only will quote, for the sake of the readers of this one that (a) Britain has a well known record of rejecting the decisions of international courts which it does not like, as the ruling in 2004 of the European Court of Justice about the civil rights of its prisoners, which ten years after is still rejected by HMG. And (b) as a country with veto power in the Security Council it can achieve that an international ruling is disobeyed, as the United States did in 1984 with the ICJ ruling which backed Nicaragua.

    One of your sources, by the way, uses to publish texts whith sentences like “Nuke Madrid”. Good for you.

  2. Olisipo. Putting it simply, Gibraltar has territorial waters as defined by UNCLOS. The UK and Spain have both signed UNCLOS. IF Spain wants to use any ‘historic title’ argument to delimit Gibraltar’s waters it has to take the matter to arbitration.

  3. Olisipo, Utrecht is totally silent about waters, so stop rewriting the treaty according to yor imagination. No waters were mentioned, inside or outside the port, waters were not specifically ceded and nor were they denied. Not exactly surprising as the concept of territorial waters did not exist then – not a single treaty from that era mentions territorial waters. The treaty ceding Ceuta to Spain, for example, does not even mention a port yet Spain claims waters for Ceuta under UNCLOS. Face it, Gibraltar has territorial waters under UNCLOS. Jenner’s opinion was over 100 years before the first UNCLOS treaty, it is irrelevant.

  4. The 98% refers to Gibraltar…and yes we will be free of your colonialism sooner or later… #fallingapartattheseams. That fake democratic mask is slipping sPain…. not much longer now until the celebrations in catalunya. Gibraltar/Catalunya are not, and will not be part of Spain. Keep holding on though your passion is admirable but ours is never ending.

  5. @ Britbob: How disingenuous of you. Spain may consider a proposal of arbitration the day when Britain gives up its nasty habit of rejecting the international decisions which it doesn’t like as the ruling of 2004 by the European Court of Human Rights about the rights of people in British prisons

  6. olisipo

    Like it or not, under the terms of UNCLOS, Gibraltar has its own territorial waters. If Spain wants to delimit these under the terms of ‘historic title’ they need to go to the ICJ or the Permanent Court of Arbitration. But you should note that in the case between Guyana & Suriname of 24 Feb 2004 the PCA stated:

    Para 296 ‘Thus, Article 15 of the Convention places ‘primacy’ on the median line as the delimitation line between the territorial seas of opposite or adjacent states.’

    Para 297 ‘There is no evidence before the Tribunal to suggest that some form of historic title to the territorial waters, nor are there any geographical features that the Tribunal would have to consider in delimiting the territorial sea.’

    Utrecht doesn’t mention Spanish waters, so any historical title claim would get laughed out of Court.

  7. @Iestyng ap Robert

    I am not rewriting the treaty, but quoting it. It enumerates the parts of Gibraltar which were ceded, which in the matter that we are analyzing, only speaks about the port. It adds that Britain has not “any territorial jurisdiction”.

    Asked by HMG to present a legal report on the status of Gibraltar, the King’s Advocate General wrote: “This Treaty [of Utrecht]… expressly withholds the right of exercising territorial jurisdiction… His Majesty, thus… possess supreme and exclusive authority… within the Town and Fortress, and the Port of Gibraltar, but beyond those Limits, he does not possess the right of sovereignty; and thar foreign ships lying in the Bay and in the Anchorage Ground beyond the limits of the port, are not amenable to British jurisdiction”.

    Asked in harsh terms to rewrite this report, he answered: “I cannot change what I had the Honour of expressing to your Lordships in my former report” (National Archives, CO, 91/123). It is not a “comment”. It is a legal report asked by Britain to its King’s Advocate General.

  8. @ Britbob Everybody has the right to his own opinions, but not his own facts. Each case is different, you know?

    It looks that you still have a full-time job explaining your theories about Gibraltar in about fifty fora all over the world, including the theocratic Iranian Press TV, the Saudi Gazette and one used as source by you where anybody can read threats of nuclear attacks against Spain. I don’t share your way of choicing the places to disseminate your views, many of them repeated ad infinitum.

  9. Olisipo, you don’t need to rewrite the treaty. It is completely silent about waters, does not cede them or deny them, so is irrelevent with respect to waters. It doesn’t make the slightest difference that the port is mentioned.

    Gibraltar was ceded to be “held and enjoyed absolutely in all manner of right”.

    I’m struggling to understand why you cannot grasp that a British official’s opinion does not outweigh a multilateral treaty signed and ratified by both Spain and the UK well over a 100 years later. In fact, Jenner’s opinion is completely irrelevant in the face of UNCLOS

  10. Olisipo. You have failed to produce anything of relevance that contradicts UNCLOS and its application to Gibraltar. Spain’s ‘historic title’ argument is also pitifully weak as Utrecht doesn’t mention Spain’s waters either. Under UNCLOS demarcation lines between states is given ‘primacy’ over historic title.

  11. @ Britbob

    I am worried about you. Almost every aspect of the Suriname vs. Guyana that you have quoted as basis of the alleged “primacy” of the median line is wrong, even the date! (17 Sept. 2007, not 24 Feb. 2004). As a matter of fact, the PCA “DECIDED TO DEVIATE FROM THE MEDIAN LINE” in the maritime boundary between both countries”. With reasonings like yours, Britain’s case is lost.

    @ Iestyn ap Robert.

    I am struggling to understand why you cannot grasp that more than two thirds of Art. 10 contradict the first clause about “iure omnimodo”. For instance: (a) “without any territorial jurisdiction”; (b) “without any open communication by land”; (c) “no refuge or shelter shall be allowed to any Moorish ship of war”; or (d) the last clause which foresees the return to Spain. HMG has used this clause to explain that “INDEPENDENCE WOULD BE ONLY AN OPTION FOR GIBRALTAR WITH SPAIN’S CONSENT” in the despatch at the end of the Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006. Another “irrelevant comment”?

  12. Olisipo

    Your evidence is pitifully weak and lacks any substance.

    (i) The Gulf of Maine case confirmed that one State cannot unilaterally delimit another’s territorial sea.
    (ii)The Black Sea case confirmed that statements and declarations made have no impact on UNCLOS.
    (iii)The Guyana Suriname case confirmed that the ‘median line’ has primacy over any historic title.

    And UNCLOS confirms in Section (I) ‘The sovereignty of a coastal State extends beyond its land territory’ and III ‘Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles.’

    If Spain feels the need to delimit Gibraltar’s territorial waters then they have to ‘attempt’ this via arbitration.

    Even Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo isn’t sure that a Spanish legal challenge would succeed.

  13. Olisipo, the Treaty of Utrecht was abrogated centuries ago, but even if you believe it was not, it has been overtaken by the UN Charter and everything which flows from that anyway.

    HMG wrote in the Despatch to the 2006 constitution that it was their position independence for Gibraltar was limited by Spain’s consent. The Despatch has no legal effect, it’s effectively a covering note. That was just a sop to the Spanish by the FCO, and one HMG openly acknowledged to be unacceptable to Gibraltar. It would never stand up at the ICJ anyway. The right to self determination for the Gibraltarians has never been limited by the UN.

  14. Some very messed up interpretations of democracy here….. end of the day… the colonialist days are behind for both countries amd democracy is now supported by all….and i doubt there will be any change soon to eithers borders, all except Catalunya which will finally be be given theirs back. Anyone can see that sPAINS democratic mask is slipping and its a matter of time before they show the world. I suspect it will ne shortly after the second week of november #catfight2014 #born2014

  15. @Inthename
    @Iestyn ap Robert

    Your arguments cut both ways. Why doesn’t the UK take its case to the ICJ then?

    Maybe it will have better luck with the ICJ than it has had with the UN or the European Court of Justice.

  16. Olisipo You have failed to produce any relevant evidence that refutes the judgments already made by tribunals dealing with UNCLOS cases. This underlines the weakness of the Spanish position regarding Gibraltar’s territorial waters.

  17. @Iestyn ap Robert

    The right to self-determination for the current occupants of Gibraltar has not been accepted by the UN.

    The UN has consistently confirmed that the principle of territorial integrity COMPLEMENTS and CONSTRAINS the right to self-determination in cases such as the British colony of Gibraltar. UN Resolution 1514 (XV) (1960) specifically states that ‘any attempt aimed at the partial or total disruption of the national unity and the territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations.’

    The crucial UN decision with reference to Gibraltar was the adoption of UN General Assembly Resolution 2353 in December 1967 which specifically gave primacy to Spain’s claim to the restoration of its territorial integrity over Gibraltar’s claim to the right to self-determination.

    UN General Assembly resolutions or decisions on Gibraltar have consistently omitted ANY reference to the Gibraltarians right to self-determination. This position is re-enforced by the United Nation’s consistent call upon Britain and Spain to settle the issue of Gibraltar’s sovereignty through bilateral negotiation that specifically excludes mention of the inhabitants of Gibraltar.

    Even after the establishment in 2004 of the tripartite Forum of Dialogue, UN decisions continue to refer to the Brussels agreement as the only forum for negotiation. This agreement includes an explicit commitment requiring both Britain and Spain, and ONLY Britain and Spain, to discuss the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

    The consistent reference to the Brussels agreement in all decisions and resolutions post 1984 means that the UN supports Spain’s argument that only Britain and Spain can discuss the question of Gibraltar’s sovereignty and that self-determination continues to have no bearing on the status of Gibraltar.

    As recently as last year the UN Fourth Committee issued a resolution that yet again repeated its previous calls, urging both the UK and Spain to reach a definitive solution over Gibraltar, under the 1984 Brussels Declaration. This agreement expressly excludes any role for the occupants of Gibraltar in determining the sovereignty of Gibraltar.

    Indeed, the latest resolution, yet again, completely ignored calls by the colony’s Chief Minister that the UN should ignore the Brussels agreement and instead recognise the colonists alleged right to self-determination.

    According to the latest UK white paper on Gibraltar ‘…The British Government…supports the principle of right of self-determination, but this must be exercised in accordance with the other principles or rights in the UN Charter as well as other treaty obligations. In Gibraltar’s case, because of the Treaty of Utrecht, this means that Gibraltar could become independent only with Spanish consent’.

  18. @BritBob

    You need to look more carefully at your references. For example, you quote from UNCLOS that ‘… Every State has the right to establish the breadth of its territorial sea up to a limit not exceeding 12 nautical miles.’

    The problem with your arguments, however, is the fact that Gibraltar is not a ‘State’. Neither is it part of ‘State’. References in UNCLOS to ‘States’ do not apply to Gibraltar.

    This is because, according to the UN, Gibraltar is a non-self-governing territory that the UN has mandated the UK must decolonise.

    The European Court of Justice has recently dismissed two separate challenges by the UK to the establishment of the Spanish administered nature site that covers the entirety of the so called British Gibraltar Territorial Waters which were unilaterally declared by the UK. This is an outcome which significantly supports Spain’s long standing position on the sovereignty dispute with the UK over the Bay of Algeciras.

    If the UK believes that this is not the case then it should try its luck before the ICJ or through international arbitration.

  19. FurtherBeyond, it’s not the UK which has a claim, so there is no need for the UK to test its claim at the ICJ.

    The UN has never limited the right to self determination for the peoples of NSTGs, and this has been confirmed on several occasions by the ICJ. Only the UN can limit this right. Clearly, you have never read the Brussels Agreement, because it does not in any way limit the right to self determination for the Gibraltarians.

  20. FurtherBeyond

    The UK has signed UNCLOS in respect of Gibraltar and the rules regarding any delimitation apply in much the same way as Spain has signed UNCLOS in respect of the Canary Islands and its North African enclaves. In the Guyana -v- Suriname case it was stated by the PCA that the median line between two opposite or adjacent States takes ‘primacy’ over any ‘historical title.’

    Gibraltar has territorial waters in the bay and IF Spain wants to delimit ‘what has been awarded by UNCLOS’ using ‘historic title’ THEN Spain needs to take its case to the ICJ or PCA. Simple. But in doing so, Spain must prove that ‘it is necessary by reason of historic title’ to delimit Gibraltar’s waters.

    Even Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Magallo implied that ‘he was not sure in legal challenge of Gibraltar’s waters’ quoted in MercoPress 13 Dec 2013.

  21. @BritBob

    You’re wrong once again. You really should try doing some basic research before making your outrageous pronouncements.

    Unlike Gibraltar, neither the Canary Islands nor Ceuta or Melilla are listed by the UN as non-self-governing territories.

    Gibraltar is a colony not a State or part of a State. According to the UN it is awaiting decolonisation by the UK and is therefore not covered by UNCLOS.

    Spain has never recognised UK sovereignty over anything other than the waters of the port of Gibraltar.

    This is the reason why the waters of the port are specifically excluded from the European Commission approved Spanish nature site which otherwise covers the entirety of the so called British Gibraltar Territorial Waters.

    Significantly, the European Court of Justice has dismissed two separate challenges by the UK to the establishment of the Spanish administered nature site.

    Spain made the following reservation on signing the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea in 1984:

    ‘The Spanish Government, upon signing this Convention, declares that this act cannot be interpreted as recognition of any rights or situations relating to the maritime spaces of Gibraltar which are not included in article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht of 13 July 1713 between the Spanish and British Crowns. The Spanish Government also considers that Resolution III of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea is not applicable in the case of the Colony of Gibraltar, which is undergoing a decolonization process in which only the relevant resolutions adopted by the United Nations General Assembly apply’.

  22. @Iestyn ap Robert

    While you may not wish to countenance reality, the fact remains that there is a dispute between the UK and Spain over sovereignty of the UK unilaterally declared ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’.

    Spain accepts that because of the Treaty of Utrecht, the UK has sovereignty over the waters of the port, but no further.

    That’s why, on an almost daily basis, it completely ignores attempts by the UK to assert sovereignty in the Bay of Algeciras.

    Given the long standing nature of the sovereignty dispute it is open for either party to seek international arbitration or adjudication by the the ICJ.

    You can muse why Spain chooses not to do so, but it’s equally valid to question why the UK, as the other party to the dispute, also chooses not to do so.

  23. FurtherBeyond. Only the ICJ or the PCA can determine UNCLOS cases. Gibraltar has been awarded territorial waters under the terms of UNCLOS just as everywhere else on planet earth. IF Spain wants to delimit what Gibraltar has been awarded under the argument of ‘historic title’ then it is up to Spain to take the matter to the ICJ or PCA but in doing so they must prove ‘why it is necessary to delimit Gibraltar’s territorial waters.’ As usual you have failed to come up with any reasonable argument.

  24. FurtherBeyond,

    Nobody denies a dispute exists between Spain and the UK with respect to Gibraltar. At the heart of the dispute is the Spanish claim to Gibraltar and subclaims to the waters and the isthmus.

    The vast majority of executive action taken in British Gibraltar Territorial Waters is by British or Gibraltarian agencies. Although there are many Spanish incursions which clearly do not constitute innocent passage, there are relatively few attempts by Spanish state vessels to take executive action in BGTW and almost every one of them is thwarted.

    Of course any party can start proceedings at the ICJ, but why should the UK institute proceedings? It’s not like the UK and Spain are both claimants. The UK has sovereignty and Spain is the claimant. If Spain really thinks her claim has merit, what is stopping her from instituting legal action? She has nothing to lose and everything to gain – if her case is as strong has she makes out… I think it says a lot that Spain scrupulously avoids taking her claim and subclaims any where near the relevant courts.

    Oh, and just because Spain’s claim is longstanding does not make it any more valid.

  25. Something that our Spanish neighbours and commentators seem to forget is that there was NO counterclaim to the territorial waters surrounding Gibraltar prior to the PP having landed at Moncloa. There were buoys which demarcated them and during the Franco era when he closed the frontier there was a rust bucket called Dedalo, which everyone in Gibraltar called Smokey Joe because of the amount of smoke that came out of its chimney as it sailed up and down their side of the buoys. It was a done thing, nobody questioned each other’s jurisdiction. The buoys disappeared one day, and one wonders now whether it was because Algeciras had extended their land reclamation over two miles outwards onto the Bay of Gibraltar to accommodate their new Container Port plus now storage tanks etc., and that would have made their available sea lane rather narrower than it had been previously. It was at around this time that they started to call the bay, Bay of Algeciras, although every ancient map I have come across both in French, Dutch, English and Spanish have it down as of Gibraltar. As if changing the name would make them the sole proprietors of the Bay which we all share. What makes this even more absurd is that they have no other option but to show a picture of the Rock, its iconic silhouette overpowering the Bay when promoting their Port in Algeciras precisely because it is recognized worldwide and was probably why it was so called in the first place and not of Algeciras or of La Linea. The fact that it has now been included in the Encyclopaedia Britannica does not really make any difference to its proper name. They are now mostly calling the Straits of Gibraltar, the Straits. Another misnomer.

  26. @Iestyn ap Robert

    The loud and incessant beatings from the UK and its colony in Gibraltar every time they are presented with the reality that Spain does not accept British jurisdiction in those waters belie your assertions I’m afraid.

    Given the hysteria that accompanies every so called ‘incursion’ by Spain, one would expect that the UK would be keen as mustard to try to legally enforce its alleged ‘rights’ through international processes.

    The fact that it studiously chooses not speaks volumes about the alleged ‘legitimacy’ of its unilateral claims.

    Until the UK is able to enforce its alleged ‘rights’ through legitimate international processes, Spain will continue to completely ignore British attempts to assert jurisdiction in the Bay of Algeciras.

  27. @FurtherBeyond

    The only party acting unilaterally is Spain, and that’s after ratifying a multilateral treaty – which says a lot about Spain’s attitude towards agreements signed in the UN age…

    I’d hardly call British and Gibraltarian reactions to illegal Spanish incursions hysterical. If anything they are completely the opposite, measured and appropriate.

    The number of Spanish illegal incursions and attempts at executive action are a drop in the ocean compared to the number of legitimate British executive actions in BGTW. British executive actions in BGTW happen day in and day out. British rights are successfully and regularly enforced all day and every day. British sovereignty in BGTW is a fact. The sooner you get over that the better for you.

  28. FurtherBeyond. In the 1960s, before the introduction of UNCLOS, the UK offered to go to the ICJ with Spain regarding the legal status of the Bay of Gibraltar. Spain declined to take up the offer. In signing and ratifying UNCLOS along with the UK, Spain has signed up to the Treaty. The judgments made by the ICJ regarding ‘any’ historic title’ and ‘any delimitation’ therefore apply. The chances of Spain going to the ICJ with the UK over Gibraltar’s territorial waters are ‘today’ zero. As usual, you have produced nothing factual and your comments are irrelevant.

  29. Utrech, UNCLOS, …these treaties don’t serve. Gibraltar is Spanish and England seized it by force. Next step:


    Europe Minister David Lidington said the British Government remained firmly committed to standing by Gibraltar and protecting the wishes and rights of its people.

    But he said that upping the ante in the dispute with Spain could have serious negative consequences for the Rock

    “What is happening in respect of both incursions and border checks is wrong and illegal and unacceptable, but it is not by any means as bad as what some previous administrations in Spain have done in the past in respect of Gibraltar,” Mr Lidington said.

    And the best thing is…:

    But he also highlighted that UK national interests had to be factored into the equations and that escalation would benefit no one.

    “It is important that we seek to avoid a situation in which Gibraltar ends up being worse off than it is at the moment,” Mr Lidington countered.

    “We went through a period, looking right back to the late 70s and early 80s, when the border was closed entirely. That would be worse for Gibraltar than the situation that we have at the moment.”

    “The fact of geography means that it is relatively easy for Spain, if she were to be that maliciously intended, to squeeze Gibraltar more tightly.”

    Yes, geography. Gibraltar is in…Spain and London is 1,700 miles away.

    That’s all folks!…enjoy it.

  30. Espanol

    Gibraltar, like everywhere else in the planet has sovereign territorial waters as per UNCLOS. IF Spain wants to use ‘historic title’ to delimit Gibraltar’s waters then Spain needs to take its case to the UN ICJ. The ICJ has already determined that sovereign waters cannot be delimited unilaterally.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.