3 Apr, 2014 @ 15:11
1 min read

British ambassador to Spain summoned by Spanish government over Gibraltar water troubles

THE Spanish Ministry for Foreign Affairs will summon Britain’s ambassador to Spain, Simon Manley, following the latest incursion by a Spanish ship into British territorial waters off Gibraltar.

They have announced they will complain that British vessels had obstructed the Spanish research ship Angeles Alvariño in ‘Spanish waters’ just off Gibraltar.

This follows yesterday’s news that the Spanish ambassador to the UK, Federico Trillo, has been summoned to the Foreign Office over the same dispute.

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.


Tom Powell

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  1. One must cast our minds back to pre-GSLP/Liberal government coming into power to pinpoint when the, up to then, good neighbourly relations started to suffer, and its not the sinking of the blocks to make the artificial reef. Just before the Spanish General Elections the briefly held PP incumbent of the mayor’s chair in La Linea placed what was to be the markers for a lane on the road coming out of the Frontier with the intention that anybody coming out of Gibraltar into Spain should pay a Toll (unspecified amount) after much toing and froing as to who was to pay and who was not. Obviously the Spanish workers coming into and out of Gibraltar were going to be exempt, with everybody else having to fork out for the privilege of driving into Spain and back into Gibraltar or vice versa. This caused an uproar in Gibraltar and also from some Spanish quarters saying that this was completely illegal. It was only when the current incumbent of the post of Mayor of La Linea came into power that the markers cemented to the ground for the toll road were removed. After this came the Spanish General elections and the start off of what was the latest Gibraltar nightmare, with the Spanish foreign affairs minister’s Gibraltar Español “jest” remark to his British counterpart as soon as he took up his post signalling what was to be the policy of the PP Government as to relationships with Gibraltar. Since then it has been one thing after another. This latest incursion is just one more building block placed in that seemingly impenetrable wall of non-dialogue that Gibraltar’s Chief Minister is trying to reach through. The laying of the reef was just a good excuse to carry on as intended, even though there was one fishing boat from La Linea affected.

    Let us see where it all goes from here. Hopefully good sense will prevail and dialogue will be resumed sooner rather than later, not only for the sake of the many thousands of workers who have no other option but to cross the frontier into Gibraltar on a daily basis but for the sake of good neighbourly relations and with the hope that somebody isn’t killed accidentally at sea in the process of what to all, except Spain it seems, should be settled in an International Court of Justice.

  2. Anselmo, the Vienna Convention applies to ALL correspondence between embassies and is respected, or at least should be respected by all countries. Gibraltar is no exception, even though the present Spanish government would like to obliterate us from every single one.

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

    Not a mention of course at the time that very similar blocks have lowered into the sea at Spanish fishing areas because the very same fishermen have destroyed the area by their fishing techniques.

  4. Disable, capture and prosecute all spanish pirates that cross the line of BGTW and sink their dinghys to creat a new reef….should do the trick…..anyway must go i have 2million person march to attend regarding the birth of our new nation…. #catalunya2014 we support gibraltar and vice versa

  5. @Ted

    The so called ‘reef’ has been illegally established by the British colonists living in Gibraltar off the isthmus connecting Gibraltar to Spain.

    The isthmus was never ceded by Spain to the U.K. It follows that those waters remain under Spanish sovereignty, irrespective of the status of UN mandated decolonisation of the colony of Gibraltar.

  6. The Reef has been legally placed by the Government of Gibraltar in its waters, waters which are legally of its British Gibraltar jurisdiction. If anyone is not happy with that please place a “denuncia” before the International Courts of Justice with a copy of UNCLOS/CONVEMAR in hand and copies of the various documents signed post the first Utrecht 1713. Any other jingoistic arguments are just that. Spain does not seem too keen in going to any international courts of justice with this, and one begs the question Why?

  7. Further Beyond

    Spain ceded the Isthmus in 1975 when it signed the Helsinki Accord. There were 10 points to the Accord. Here are the three interesting ones- (iii) inviolability of frontiers (vi) non-intervention on internal affairs (viii) Equal rights and self-determination.

    After Canada, Ireland, Spain and other States made objections the wording of the final act stated, ‘frontiers in Europe should be stable but change by peaceful internal means and BY AGREEMENT.’

    If the subject of the Isthmus ever went to the ICJ they would merely point out that ‘Spain has signed the Helsinki Accord’.

  8. @BritBob

    As usual you have no idea what you are talking about. Spain has never ceded or accepted UK sovereignty over the isthmus. The Helsinki Accord is totally irrelevant.

    Moreover, 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 that otherwise covers the totality of the so called British Gibraltar Territorial Waters which were unilaterally declared by the UK.

    It follows from the forgoing that Spanish authorities will continue to ignore all attempts by the UK and its colony in Gibraltar to unilaterally assert sovereignty over the Bay of Algeciras.

  9. @Inthename

    Your argument cuts both ways I’m afraid. Why doesn’t the UK take its case to the ICJ?

    Spain has never recognised UK sovereignty over anything other than the waters of the port of Gibraltar. Spanish authorities will continue to ignore all attempts by the UK and its colony in Gibraltar to unilaterally assert sovereignty over the Bay of Algeciras.

  10. @FurtherBeyond, how can it cut both ways? The UK has sovereignty over Gibraltar, something even the UN accepts. Spain has the claim, if Spain thinks its claim has any merit it is up to Spain to test this at the ICJ. Whatever Spain has or has not unilaterally accepted is irrelevant in the face of international law and multilateral treaties Spain has ratified.

  11. Read PART III of the Helsinki Accord. Both Spain and the UK have both signed ‘this agreement’ that states, ‘borders in Europe will only change by ‘peaceful means and by AGREEMENT.’ The ICJ would merely refer Spain to the Accord.

    While your studying take a look at the Guyana v Suriname PCJ case of 17th September 2007, particularly paragraph 296 that confirms that the median line as delimitation between opposite or adjacent States takes ‘primacy’ over ‘historical title.’

  12. @BritBob

    Spain has never accepted UK jurisdiction over 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 peacefully 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.

    The problem with your UNCLOS arguments, is the fact that Gibraltar is not a ‘State’. Neither is it part of a ‘State’. Thus 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.

    It follows from the foregoing that the UNCLOS cases you cite are totally irrelevant.

    Significantly, 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.

  13. FurtherBeyond. The UK has signed UNCLOS on behalf of Gibraltar and therefore Gibraltar has sovereign territorial waters. IF Spain wants to claim any ‘historical tittle’ to delimit what has been awarded to Gibraltar then it is up to Spain to ‘try’ and achieve this via arbitration. You comments are irrelevant and relevant UNCLOS cases ARE applicable.

  14. @BritBob

    You’re flogging a dead horse I’m afraid. Spain has never accepted UK jurisdiction over the UK unilaterally declared ‘British Gibraltar Territorial Waters’ apart from the waters of the port itself.

    If your assertions that UNCLOS applies to the British colony of Gibraltar were correct then you would expect that the UK would be seeking to legally enforce those ‘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 do so, Spain will continue to completely ignore British attempts to assert jurisdiction in the Bay of Algeciras.

  15. FurtherBeyond. For your comments to have ANY relevance you need to show that UNCLOS does not apply to Gibraltar. Of course, when signing UNCLOS Spain made declarations and statements in respect of Utrecht and Gibraltar so therefore the Spanish government obviously knows that UNCLOS applies to Gibraltar, just like all of the ICJ rules regarding ‘ANY’ delimitation. In the 1960s the UK offered to go to the ICJ with Spain to seek a judgment on the legal status of the Bay of Gibraltar and Spain declined to take up the offer. The chances of Spain going to the ICJ over Gibraltar’s waters today, because of the introduction of UNCLOS are therefore zero. Your comments are not backed up by facts and as usual irrelevant.

  16. Gibraltar does not have any territorial waters under the Treaty of Utrecht. The only waters that they have territorial rights over are those inside the old port. All this was ratified by the United nations in 1967.

  17. Wrong Pedro, Gibraltar has territorial waters under the UNCLOS treaty, which is a UN organized multilateral treaty and was ratified by Spain. Utrecht is irrelevant and does not even mention waters anyway.

  18. Pedro – when signing UNCLOS Spain made declarations and statements in respect of Utrecht and Gibraltar. The UK signed on behalf of Gibraltar. The UN ICJ has already determined that sovereign waters cannot be delimited unilaterally by one State. IF Spain wants to delimit Gibraltar’s territorial waters then Spain must take the matter to the UN ICJ and state ‘why this is necessary.’ In 1968 the UK Government invited Spain to go the UN ICJ with them over sovereignty of Gibraltar Bay. They declined. A already weak Spanish case has been made ‘pathetically weak’ by UNCLOS.

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