Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Spanish Senate, Antonio Gutiérrez Limones, visited Gibraltar and the Campo de Gibraltar to get a first-hand understanding of the sensitivities and aspirations on either side of the frontier in relation to the treaty being negotiated following the “in principle” New Year’s agreement.
Antonio Gutiérrez Limones (PSOE), who is the chairman of the Foreign Affairs Commission in the Spanish Senate as well as president of the Spanish delegation of the Council of Europe, made a 2-day visit to the area to get a first-hand understanding of what the demands and aspirations are on each side of the frontier following the in principle New Year’s Eve agreement and treaty which is being negotiated in relation to Gibraltar.
Limones began with a courtesy visit to the Rock, where he met with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, a “gesture” which he said was to make clear that Gibraltar must be heard during the negotiation process. “My presence here says it all”, he told the media.
After meeting with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, he advocated for collaboration to create an area of shared prosperity in the post-Brexit era, as proposed by the Spanish government: “I hope that the future holds good things for all of us; that we can advance the negotiations and that the future is positive for every one of us, because we must give this region a chance”, he said.
Fabian Picardo said that he was pleased to welcome Senator Limones to Gibraltar and “for having the opportunity to discuss issues which are relevant to the reality of day-to-day life of Gibraltarians and the region around us”.
“Dialogue is needed in order to break down the prejudices about Gibraltar that exist in Spain”, he said, although he made it clear that the meeting was a discussion on relevant issues rather than a negotiation.
The roadmap in relation to the negotiation process of the Gibraltar Treaty was also discussed at No. 6 Convent Place. Picardo expressed his desire for the current negotiations to culminate with a treaty between the EU and the UK on Gibraltar, which he said was the “seed for shared prosperity for the entire region”.
After departing the Rock, Gutiérrez Limones held an “informal meeting” with the Mayor of La Línea, Juan Franco, after which he assured that he was visiting the region to listen and learn about the realities faced by the citizens of the Camp de Gibraltar and Gibraltar, and to “transmit” these concerns in the Senate or from the Council of Europe.
He acknowledged that in Madrid, “sometimes we are a bit far off from realities, so when I come to the region, I have the opportunity to learn about the concerns that people have in this area through their representatives”.
Both Limones and the Mayor of La Línea held that the current situation is unique and must be taken advantage of: “With the in principle New Year’s Eve agreement, the Campo de Gibraltar’s Comprehensive Plan and European Funding, we have a great historical opportunity at our disposal”.
He then listened to the Transfrontier Group, a body which he said has managed to bring the common interests of businessmen and unions from both sides together, something which is unusual these days.
On Wednesday, the Senator met with the president of the Campo de Gibraltar Commonwealth of the Municipalities, Juan Lozano, who shared in his opinion on the needs of the region and the historic opportunity which Brexit presents.
“The meeting dealt with the current situation in the Campo de Gibraltar; its needs and demands, and the future outlook for the region, which rely on the implementation of the Campo de Gibraltar Comprehensive Plan and European Funding”, Lozano explained. Lozano highlighted the need to move in the same direction to “take advantage of the opportunity that Brexit offers, because we cannot wait any longer. Unemployment is growing in an area with many opportunities, and we must seize the moment”.
Letter to Von der Leyen
Lozano also said that he has sent a letter to the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, which he signed together with the eight mayors of the Campo de Gibraltar, in which they insist upon the need for haste for the welfare of over 300,000 citizens in the Campo de Gibraltar.
Gutiérrez Limones also advocated for the in principle New Year’s Eve agreement to be transformed into “a treaty in which the last frontier in Europe is pulled down. Everyone agrees that this preliminary agreement was a historic milestone, and after the Brexit storm it represents a rainbow of opportunities that we must make the most of and that is what we are trying to do together with local representatives. We must ensure the free movement of people and goods”.