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.

82 COMMENTS

  1. The Spanish claim that Gibraltar has no territorial waters because the Treaty of Utrecht did not specify any. Spain made statements and declarations to this effect when signing UNCLOS.
    However, the following UN ICJ judgment is relevant – The ICJ Delimitation Judgment between Romania and Ukraine of 3 February 2009. On page 78, para 42, the ICJ stated, ‘Finally regarding Romania’s declaration, quoted in para 35 above, the Court observes that under 310 of UNCLOS, a State is not precluded from making statements and declarations when signing, ratifying or acceding to the Convention, provided that these do not purport to exclude or modify the legal effect of the provisions of UNCLOS as interpreted in its jurisprudence. Romania’s declaration as such has no bearing on the Court’s interpretation.’ (Romania had made declarations on signature and ratifying UNCLOS in respect of fishing, security and uninhabited islands).

  2. Britain is letting in planeloads of persecuted Nigerian and Ugandans with their wives and children.

    Gibraltarians are going bananas about a boatload of scientists (that like too go home in the evening) entering their waters.

    Grow up Gibraltar.

  3. In December 2010, Jose Antonis de Yturriga, the former Spanish Ambassador of Iraq, Ireland and Russia said, ‘The Spanish position on the issue of Gibraltar’s territorial waters was weak and lacked any legal basis.’

  4. The upping of the tempo once again suggests that “all is not well in the Kingdom of Denmark”.
    We will have to wait and see in the next few days why Gibraltar has once again become this focus of attention.
    Surely Spanish politicians have greater problems to worry about than this little rock.
    At one time, I suppose, it could be regarded as a unifying factor but divisions are now so wide within Spain that not even the Gibraltar issue will unite its people as they have greater, more pressing problems facing them. Still, the failing PP, I suppose still have to try

  5. Reading leading articles in the popular Spanish press, “el caso Barcenas” has ,once again, reared its head.
    Question is, how, in a modern democracy, can a political party govern when it is so obviously implicated in a huge corruption case?
    This surpasses Italy and Berluscione. At least he enjoyed himself in his “bunga bunga” parties.

  6. The scientists on the vessel in question were trying to determine the levels of contamination in the waters around the rock. They were following the mandate given to them by the European Union which will be to the benefit of all communities, including Gibraltar.

    Thankfully, the Guardia Civil was standing by to provide much needed security.

  7. @BritBob

    Gibraltar is not a State it is a British colony which according to the UN is in the process of decolonisation.

    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.

  8. When Rajoy and his francophiles get removed from power, and a more moderate government is returned to power, then, perhaps, tripartite talks will recommence, and we will see an end to this ridiculous state of affairs.

  9. FurtherBeyond, once again writing pure nonsense.

    The UK is a state and is recognised as the Administering Power for Gibraltar by the UN. The UK is totally within its rights to claim a territorial sea for Gibraltar under UNCLOS. Other non-British territories on the UN list of NSGTs have the right to territorial seas and Gibraltar is not specifically excluded.

    As anyone who cares to read through the entirety of UNCLOS will know, reservations entered upon ratification do not alter the terms of UNCLOS. The Spanish reservation has not legal effect.

    The ECJ’s findings were not significant because firstly the ECJ does not have jurisdiction in matters of sovereignty, only the ICJ does, the ECJ simply dismissed as inadmissable the British request to partially annul the directive bringing the Spanish SCI into being. The ECJ heard no case and made no judgement about the sovereignty of the waters.

  10. The sad thing for me is that the Spanish people and their supporters actually believe the propaganda. Checking water pollution, scientists, Spanish waters….oh dear!
    I really thought in this day and age that brainwashing in supposed non-third World countries like sPAIN would be a thing of the past.
    The main thing though is that virtually the only people getting really hurt by this are their own. But then again they probably don’t call the Linenses their own as they are not majority Francoists.
    When a populous are frightened or even banned from demonstrating it’s time to call a spade a spade and stop pretending you are a democracy.
    Worse still they haven’t the balls to invade like the Russians. Instead they just lie on the floor kicking their legs in the air shouting that its not fair. Pathetic excuse for a people.

  11. According to article 15 of UNCLOS the “historic title” of Spain to all the waters outside those of the Gibraltar port itself (art. 10 Utrecht) implies a variance to the general rule.

    “http://www.un.org/depts/los/convention_agreements/texts/unclos/part2.htm”

    The British ambassador in Madrid, Simon Manley, has been summoned this morning to the Spanish Foreign Affairs Ministry to be rapped on the knuckles because of this serious incident which, anyway, happened 3,5 miles South of Europa Point, outside of the limits of the waters which, without any right, Britain claims as their own.

    It seems that Britain is looking for a fight in order to distract its people of things like the referendum in Scotland.

  12. One looks on in amazement and wonders. What a load of codswallop “and yes I have looked it up and all it means in nonsense” so no need to ruffle any old Dodo’s feathers – or didn’t it have any feathers in the first place?”) Anyway, it is clear, from reading the Spanish Press and listening to non-PP party communicators – that the Popular Party is not at all Popular as its name implies and every day one hears of more and more unrest from the unfortunate citizens of this beautiful country who are not to blame for the shortcomings of those that are supposed to govern them as per their manifesto and then forgot the minute they got in. When a supposed diplomat, Mayor of Algeciras, opposite Gib, apparently in a private capacity, goes off to twin his town to the place in Argentina from whence the invasion of the Falklands was launched, without having made it official, or having consulted his own constituents, or the opposition, knowing full well that this is a provocation to UK , Gibraltar and to those families who lost sons and daughters. brothers, husbands and fathers in recovering those British Islands, then one has to realise that indeed all is not as it should be in the Kingdom of Spain. Add to that revelations, new or not, of some murky goings on during the attempted coup d’état, which have been unveiled in a book published today by a Spanish journalist and which is further destabilising the country, and one could then begin to envisage the reasons why Gibraltar and its British Territorial waters may have suddenly become the raison d’etre of this Spanish government. No longer are the few blocks laid to protect the scarred seabed of a small part of Gibraltar’s waters from the continuous raking of one fisherman the issue, now its sample taking, as if they did not have enough sea water around their own shores to sample. Anything to divert attention from the real pus in the growing boil of civil unrest in Spain.

  13. @olisipo
    Oh dear. Can’t you have a personal thought?
    Are you suggesting Britain asked Spain to send the boat in so it could protest thereby distracting from the Scottish independence “problem”. Really?
    You are either blinkered or stupid and I don’t think it’s the latter. Maybe stupidly blinkered?

  14. @Lunablue

    Are you suggesting that the continuous aggressions of the Royal Navy to Spanish ships are a mere coincidence?

    Poor Cameron needs this kind of tactics to divert his people’s attention from things so important as Scotland, the upsurge of UKIP, etc.

    Please try to use a polite vocabulary henceforward.

  15. Olisipo
    As you can see its taken up all of the UK’s press, all the headlines I think Not. On the other hand it has swamped the Spanish Press.
    UK ships do not go into Spanish territorial waters to pick up samples, they do not go into Spanish waters to rake or net with illegal nets.

    UK does not complain how many nuclear powered ships go into ROTA or anywhere else in Spain.

    UK is, if not the oldest democracy in the world certainly one of the oldest and knows full well how to convince its citizens without threats of force or trying to curb their rights to be what they want to be.

    The basis on which democracy was laid was Dialogue, Dialogue, Dialogue. If you cannot convince then you may be in the wrong, but don’t use us as a diversionary tool every time you have need for one. Your attempt at the childish “Y tu mas” when you have no other arguments does not convince anyone.

  16. @ Iestyn ap Robert

    The historic title of Art. 10 of Utrecht, which did not cede to Britain but the waters inside the old port. According to Britain’s Advocate General Sir Herbert Jenner, the territorial waters “beyond the limits of the port are not amenable to British jurisdiction”.

    @ Inthename. So, sorry, I don’t understand your reasoning. British complaints about Rota?

  17. @olisipo The Treaty of Utrecht does not mention waters at all. It does not cede them, but nor does it deny them. Anyway, territorial waters are a very modern concept, the first multilateral treaties covering the sea were signed in 1958. Gibraltar clearly has a right to territorial waters and Jenner’s opinion is irrelevant in the face of this.

  18. ‘No maritime delimitation between 2 states whose coasts are adjacent or opposite each other may be taken unilaterally by either one of these states.’ ICJ Case Concerning Gulf of Maine, 1984, para 83

    If you want old treaties, the Cartagena Agreement of 1907 recognises the rights of the British crown ‘over its insular and maritime possessions in those regions’ – Gibraltar. Warships in the harbour and in the bay.

  19. @ Iestyn ap Robert.

    I see. When Britain’s Advocate General, asked by HMG to elaborate a deep report on the legal status of Gibraltar, says what you don’t like, this is “irrelevant”.

    I suggest you to read art. 15 of UNCLOS about the territorial waters in “adjoining areas” and what it says about the survival of “historic titles” previous to the signing of UNCLOS.

  20. Even that tiny dictator, General Francisco Franco, the ultimate exponent of Spanish nationalism, laid down a system of buoys along the meridian dividing The Bay of Gibraltar so that British warships would not venture onto the Spanish side of the bay. It is this same line that aircraft must follow in order to land in Gibraltar making it far more hazardous.
    Now, if our “dear little friend” accepted this all those years ago, why does there have to be a dispute now?
    As an aside, why are the most “successful” dictators so small?

  21. @ Britbob You know perfectly well what many legal experts say about that ICJ ruling, which has been ignored by the United States and Canada in issues as the Machias Island.

    As for the Cartagena agreements, they were systematically violated by Britain. Read Sebastian Balfour and Paul Preston in “Spain and the Great Powers in the Twentieth Century”, Rutledge, London 1999. It would be funny if not was so cheeky to invoke them.

    Old horses and new tricks…

  22. Historic Title,

    ‘If the claimant State exercises sovereignty as over internal waters, the area claimed would be internal waters, and if the sovereignty exercised was sovereignty over the territorial sea the area would be territorial sea. For instance, IF THE CLAIMANT STATE ALLOWED INNOCENT PASSAGE OF FOREIGN SHIPS THROUGH WATERS CLAIMED IT COULD NOT ACQUIRE AN HISTORIC TITLE TO THESE WATERS AS INTERNAL WATERS, ONLY AS TERRITORIAL SEA.’

    International Law Commission Yearbook 1962, para 164

  23. @ Britbob

    Who is talking about innocent passage? It has nothing to do with the fact that according the Treaty of Utrecht Britain did not get but the waters inside the old port of Gibraltar. Please read the entire legal study on this issue of Sir Herbert Jensen (National Archives, PRO, CO 91-93). This historic title is exactly what art. 15 of UNCLOS speaks about.

    I don’t wish to be unpolite, but it looks that you are very, very lost in this issue.

  24. Gibraltar is not a nation, it is never going to become a nation, it does not have territorial waters and sooner or later it will be handed back to Spain.

    Does anybody know where I can buy tickets for the handover? Any website up and running?

    I wish you all a good weekend!

  25. Ciudadanos
    You once tried to argue logically but lately you are coming up with very flippant remarks.
    The only tickets I can buy you is for the next GFA match.
    By the way, have you read the news that the King of Spain(in capital letters of course, as a sign of respect) might have been involved in the failed 23F coup.
    Of course, this is denied by Zarzuela. He might have gone hunting elephants with his female consort while being the president of Spain’s WWF but to actually being involved in a coup, God forbid!
    I often wonder how he really broke his hip!
    Don Quijote, keep on dreaming as I really feel for you.

  26. @Iestyn ap Robert

    As usual you’re completely missing the point. Of course, the UK is both a State and the Administering Power for its colony of Gibraltar. At no point did I remotely suggest that UNCLOS does not apply to the UK or any other State or part thereof.

    However, Gibraltar is not part of the State of the UK, neither is it an independent State. It is therefore beside the point to speak of the colony of Gibraltar as if it were part of the UK or independent of the UK. It is a non-self-governing territory that the UN has mandated the UK must decolonise.

    It follows from the foregoing that Resolution III of the Third United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea does not apply to the Colony of Gibraltar.

  27. @Iestyn ap Robert

    The fact remains that the European Court of Justice has 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.

  28. International law is quite clear, when shipping is given innocent passage through an area of sea a state cannot claim historical title to the waters but can only claim them as territorial sea. In that respect, when shared, they can only be delimited ‘with consent’ and Spain’s UNCLOS statements and declarations are irrelevant.

  29. @olisipo. Herbert Jenner died in 1852. There was no law of the sea at that time, the first UNCLOS treaty was not signed until over 100 years later!

    @FurtherBeyond. According to UNCLOS, all maritime territories, whether they are states or not have a right to territorial sea. There is no such thing as a “dry” coast under UNCLOS. The UK is the relevant authority for Gibraltar in that respect and has properly and legally claimed waters for Gibraltar.

    The ECJ has dismissed one challenge and one appeal to have an particular EU directive partially annulled, nothing more and nothing less. The ECJ has never considered whether the waters around Gibraltar are British or Spanish. And lets not forget that the EU accepted a British SCI for those waters well before it accepted the Spanish one.

  30. @ lestyn ap Robert

    Wrong, sir. The notion and the international use of territorial waters precedes almost a century the legal study by Jenner. It proves how relevant is this text, asked to him by HMG, which when received it tried to coerce him to redraw it in a different way. After two years, he presented the same conclusions. A courageous man, indeed.

    @ Britbob

    Article 15 of UNCLOS is not a Spanish “statement and declaration”, but part of a binding United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Still at loss?

  31. Olisipo, yes, the international conventions and thus law did develop over time, but what you fail to grasp Gibraltar’s right to territorial sea from the latest UNCLOS treaty and anything before that is thus interesting, but irrelevant.

  32. I wonder what UNCLOS/CONVEMAR would say in the case of Morocco v Spain re the “black gold” deposits being claimed by both parties in the waters off the Canary Islands AND Morocco. I hear the inhabitants of the Canary Islands are very unhappy that any of the parties should succumb to the “black gold” rush and contaminate the otherwise crystalline waters of those seas with oil slicks therefore destroying its primordial touristic allure. I understand there are already Spanish oil rigs in the place. Any excuse that Morocco did not exist and is therefore a non claimant to waters of its jurisdiction is not valid in this case, as the UNCLOS/CONVEMAR overrides any pre agreements/treaties, as it does in the case of Gibraltar. IN any case I would invite, in the claim Morocco has on the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, the Canary Islands etc., on and off the African continent, to look at ancient maps of the area where all these territories came under the Fez sultans umbrella, present day Morocco. Could this be why the King of Spain said he was not interested in the claim to Gibraltar some years back?

  33. Olisipo and Anselmo and Bruji

    Repeating something does not make it true, or make it come true as if by magic. All it does is create confusion.
    UNCLOS clearly states that it supersedes any other treaty, agreement, or arrangement prior to its signing. Spain signed and any note it added is superfluous. All you have to ask yourself is this. Why does Spain not agree to take this to court?” And you have your answer. The United Kingdom and Gibraltar are willing to do so, but not Spain. Curious isn’t it? Maybe because it does not want to end up with egg on its face and be made to look ridiculous, so while the confusion remains within their own people, the game can continue. The problem is that one of these days someone will get hurt with these games. We care. Does Spain care?

  34. Olisipo

    Yes, Treaties signed before 1982 – like Utrecht. When did Utrecht state Spanish waters. Historic title is merely another way of ‘considering’ whether to apply delimiting.

    ‘The problem inherent with the Spanish Utrecht argument is that in the 18th century inclusion of the waters was implicit in any treaty over land. If Spain had intended to exclude the waters, then legally they were obliged to mention that in the treaty and didn’t.’ – Jesus Verdu, law professor, University of Cadiz.

    Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo implied that ‘he was not sure in legal challenge of Gibraltar’s waters,’ Quoted by MercoPress 13 December 2013.

    Spain’s case is particularly weak.

  35. Gibraltar is not Spain….Catalunya is not Spain…… accept the fact, your fascist days are over and sooner or later the Spanish undemocratic nation will realise and fall…. two million people march in Catalunya march for independence…sooner or later Spain will fall…. over 98% of a population vote to remain British. I think the fascists on here all actually realise…..sooner or later Spain will fall …. i dont see them recovering from this. You dont see clear indepemdence marches like this and carry on much longer. #fallingapartattheseams the only ones in denial are the fascist…your days are number.

  36. @Fabregas

    Are you implying that a vote has taken place in Cataluña with a result of 98% of the population wanting to remain British? Oriol Junqueras won’t be too happy ! As the leader of ERC ( Esquerra Republicana de Cataluña ) with a plan to turn Cataluña into a “Pol Pot” style communist work camp, the idea of the Catalan people wanting to remain part of one the oldest European democracies, must have made him feel sick.

    Gibraltarian political leaders of all parties are “saints” when compared to the political commissars of ERC.

  37. @ Iestyn ap Robert

    Any reading comprehension difficulties? You are putting the same question once and again in spite of being answered.

    @ Britbob

    Try to read the lengthy legal paper of Sir Herbert Jensen about the lack of territorial waters of Gibraltar outside its old port. You can find it in your National Archives. Its address is Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 4DU.

  38. You have to laugh at the persistence! Anything appertaining to control of waters before UNCLOS is invalid. It says so in black and white if you care to read it carefully. How many times do we have to repeat to you that the only laws reference jurisdiction of territorial seas to which any country has to keep to are those in UNCLOS, including Spain? You may continue with your infantile tantrums till eternity if that makes you happy but that wont get you the toy you gave away and which Britain retained by Treaty 300 years ago! Step into the 21st Century once and for all!

  39. Olisipo

    Any comment made by Sir Herbert Jensen 100 years ago is irrelevant. Spain and the UK have signed UNCLOS. Gibraltar has territorial waters under the terms of UNCLOS. If Spain wants to use the ‘historical title’ argument to delimit or restrict Gibraltar’s territorial waters then Spain has to take the matter to arbitration.

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