AN EXPERT on international law at the university of Cadiz has suggested General Franco is to blame for Spain denying Gibraltar its own territorial waters.
University professor Jesus Verdu suggested in a Europa Sur newspaper article that ‘the dry coast principle’ used by Franco to limit Gibraltar control of its waters since 1971 is fundamentally flawed.
The opinion piece comes during a heated exchange between Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and the mayor of Algeciras across the bay, José Ignacio Landaluce.
Sparked off by Gibraltar police charging a local fisherman, it has led to an international incident between Spain and the UK.
The seasoned academic is a regular contributor to newspapers throughout Andalucia and at national level but his latest article has caused a few ripples in the bay.
In his opinion piece in Algeciras’ own Europa Sur newspaper, Verdu expressed how the ‘dry coast’ idea put forward by Spain as the principle for Gibraltar not having territorial waters is a non-starter.
This principle suggests that a territory’s waters end at the point where it meets the water, in Gibraltar’s case, on the edge of its port.
Successive Spanish governments have used it along with the Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht as a way to justify why Gibraltar has not coastal waters as defined by the United Nations Charter of the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“There are very few situations known as a “dry coast” in which a State is deprived of its access to the sea for historical and legal reasons,” he wrote.
He argues that the Treaty of Utrecht is worded ‘similar to dozens of territorial cession treaties, mainly from the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries’.
But, the academic wrote, it ‘did not imply the application of the principle of the dry coast’.
He pointed out that Spain always admitted Gibraltar had British waters during the 19th century, even drawing maps to show which parts were British and Spanish.
It was only Spanish dictator General Franco that went back to the dry coast principle in 1971.
“For easily understandable reasons, the young and fragile Spanish democracy did not have the opportunity to review this position,” Verdu wrote.
“Due to the complexity of reviewing a position on a subject strongly impregnated with a nationalist vision and which could be understood as a transfer to an opponent, the dry coast theory has survived to this day.”
But now, he has urged Spain to ‘update the starting position’ to help fight smuggling, protect the environment and provide sea safety.
However, he added he thinks it is ‘improbable’ in the current political climate that this would occur as all parties vie to take back the Rock.
With far-right party Vox whipping the conversation about Gibraltar to a nationalistic fervour and the Rock leaving the EU, Spanish politicians have felt they now have the upper hand in the debate.
Verdu has written 65 academic papers and three books during his career about Gibraltar, the Campo and environmental issues.
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