Monday, May 28, 2012
Bring back Force H...?
If Argentina's behavior on the Falklands wasn't enough of a nuissance already, Spain, despite its very serious economical and internal issues (or perhaps exactly because of them...?) is stepping up its provocations and pressure about the Gibraltar non-issue. Apart from illegal fishing escorted by the Guardia Civil (a real and cheeky challenge), Spain's Royal Family even deserted the celebrations for Queen Elizabeth II's jubilee.
Immaturity on state-level which would be amusing if it wasn't dangerous and uselessly expensive. Confrontations at sea between police boats do not come for free, nor do they come without risks.
The UK government's correct (and inevitable) answer is that there won't be any sovereignty negotiations over Gibraltar so long as Gibraltar itself does not asks for them. And it is extremely unlikely that Gibraltar will ever want them. The constant harassing coming from Spain is likely to only further reinforce the Rock's hostility to their annoying neighboor, especially considering that in 2002, when offered the chance to vote on the issue, the people of Gibraltar voted 99% in favor of British sovereignty and put a clause in the Constitution that says the british government should never accept negotiating on sovereignty unless asked by Gibraltar itself. This clause was accepted by the UK's government in 2006.
In 2004, Spain itself officially agreed that the Gibraltarians should have a say in the matter, even if their actions do not really seem to go in the same direction as their promises. The "say in the matter" does not quite go as far as implying recognition of the right to self-determination, in any case.
Gibraltar has been british ever since it was given to Britain with the Utrecht Treaty in 1713.
In 1964 the UN adopted a resolution, connected to the "termination of colonialism" initiatives, that said that Gibraltar should be returned to Spain.
A first referendum held in 1967 however saw Gibraltarians vote 12,138 in favor and 44 against staying British, a clearly one-sided result, even though Spain's position is that the population's wishes are worthless of consideration.
In 1969 Gibraltar adopted a new constitution inclusive of greater self-government, but with emphasis confirmed on UK allegiance. A further referendum was again a total win for UK sovereignty arguments, 17900 to 187.
Gibraltar defends itself and its waters mainly through the Royal Gibraltar Police, but there is also a military presence in the form of the Royal Gibraltar Regiment and a Royal Navy presence in the form of the Gibraltar Squadron, which lines the patrol boats HMS Sabre and HMS Scimitar plus a number of RHIBs and an handful of men.
They provide force protection to visiting warships, mostly Royal Navy ones, but they also intervene in support of the RGP when necessary, as during the latest confrontations with fishing boats and trawlers coming in to fish illegally in british waters, escorted by Spain's Guardia Civil boats.
Tomorrow, Foreign Secretary William Hague will have talks in London with Spain's Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo, and Gibraltar will be an hot topic.
But one has to semi-seriously wonder if, instead of today's little Gibraltar Squadron and ministerial talks, the return of a sizeable Royal Navy Force H isn't what Spain needs to calm down for once.