13 Dec, 2023 @ 15:00
2 mins read

EU TREATY: Negotiators meet in London as Spain asks for joint use of Gibraltar airport

Gib Airport
Gibraltar Airport. Photo: creative commons licence.

A 14th round of talks to try to break the deadlock on Gibraltar’s EU treaty started Wednesday in London as Spain pushed for use of the British territory’s airport.

Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares said Sunday in an interview it would be ‘absurd’ not to have access to Gibraltar’s airport as part of any EU treaty on its post-Brexit future.

And UK Minister for Europe Leo Docherty said earlier in the week he was ‘prepared to explore practical and technical options to facilitate flights between Gibraltar and the EU’.

EU negotiator in the talks Maros Sefcovic said he was expecting ‘big progress’ in the ‘final push’ for an EU treaty in the 14th round of talks on December 13-14.

Albares told Spanish national daily El Pais he was ‘optimistic’ and that ‘Spain is doing everything it can’ to sign a deal.

But his comments on the airport drive dangerously close to Gibraltar’s red lines on sovereignty concerns.

“What sense would it make to leave out an element as beneficial for the population as the airport?” Manuel Albares asked.

“To me, it seems like progress that flights can come from Spanish airports and from other European countries, promoting tourism and relationships.

“The airport has to be in the agreement, of course.”

And despite Docherty’s enthusiasm he said Gibraltar had to be ‘content’ with the final deal and that the UK would not do anything that ‘compromises sovereignty’ on the Rock.

Chief Minister Fabian Picardo focused on the ‘rainbow of opportunities that will bring prosperity for the whole region’ as part of the EU treaty.

“The use of the airport for European flights in that equation would be good, but it is not essential,” Picardo added.

Urgency

Albares has already called the European Parliament elections in June 2024 ‘a cut-off point’ for treaty talks.

And the UK general election in April or May next year could further stall talks, adding to their current urgency.

Picardo said he is hoping the ‘good will’ of Christmas can help push EU treaty talks ‘forward in some way, if we can’.

He echoed the words of Gibraltar Governor Sir David Steel who said he wanted to see an ‘in principle agreement’ during the festive season.

The comments came in interviews with GBC after Picardo returned from the latest talks in Malaga.

He had travelled to the city with Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia to continue trying to establish an EU treaty.

“The people around the table have all become at a personal level quite friendly, but we’re sick of seeing each other to talk,” he said.

“We want to see each other to sign!” he exclaimed.

But he said he did not want to put a ‘timeline on the table’ adding that ‘objective criteria’ could push the negotiations towards agreement or not.

Picardo did not comment on Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares and the Governor’s claims that the airport was a sticking point.

“I have to keep it to myself at this time because I think it is in the interests of the people of Gibraltar that I do,” he told GBC.

Instead, he promised to leave the talks with an agreement that was ‘safe and secure’ but also ‘beneficial’.

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