ReachExtra interviewed the Mayor of Algeciras this week: Landaluce concedes that Gibraltar has shown a strong sense of social commitment with cross frontier workers, but claims that they are captives who weaken Madrid’s negotiating position on sovereignty.
José Ignacio Landaluce is a veteran politician in the Campo de Gibraltar: A senator for the Partido Popular (Popular Party / ‘PP’) and is currently serving his third term as the mayor of Algeciras. He is a medical doctor by profession and has personally overcome the coronavirus. His career has been marked by a staunch belief and repeated claim that the Campo de Gibraltar deserves better, and for contracting its many strengths and advantages in the face of its weaknesses and perennial problems.
Landaluce gave ReachExtra an interview this week; at a time when the news is dominated by the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs, Arancha González Laya’s debut visit to the Campo de Gibraltar. The Minister of Foreign Affairs will be in La Línea this Wednesday, and on Thursday she will be meeting with the local mayors from the region at the ‘Mancomunidad de Municipios’ (Association of Municipalities).
Landaluce stated that he expects “clarity, information and commitment” from González Laya’s visit. “I ask for clarity on the discussion being had with Morocco in relation to “Operation Crossing the Strait” (OPE) ”, which this year seems doomed not to take place due to the neighbouring country closing its borders, and which last summer saw the transit of over three million people across the Strait of Gibraltar, mainly from the ports of Algeciras and Tarifa.
“I will also ask for information as to where the EU negotiations are headed in relation to Brexit, as well as a commitment, not only in relation to her own ministry’s powers, but also of her entire Government, because of the moral obligations that it has with the Campo de Gibraltar to talk about infrastructure, industrialization, training, employment and to equip us with the tools that we need to improve our economic, labour and social situation. She cannot avoid those obligations”, he pointed out.
And, of course, he cried out for the modernization of the Campo de Gibraltar’s railway system and denounced the continuous breakdowns on the Madrid line, a situation that he describes as “una auténtica vergüenza” (“a real disgrace”).
He is clear about the importance of making the Foreign Minister understand the potential of this region “and that she sees the vastness of the port of Algeciras and its capacity, and the industries that we have here. We are world leaders, but it is important that she recognises the needs that we have and the lack of infrastructures which we have to endure.”
In this respect, he warned that “no more excuses” about lack of funding are acceptable: “I am not going to swallow the old chestnut that they are working within limited budgets because they are investing in other parts of Spain: €400 million in railway infrastructure in Teruel and hundreds of millions in the East of Spain. Moreover, all the infrastructure that we need in the Campo de Gibraltar have already been included in the 2018 Budget where annual payments have already been provided for.
A Comprehensive Plan for the Campo de Gibraltar
At this point, he recalled that two years ago, the Government had announced a “Comprehensive Plan” for the Campo de Gibraltar, costed at €1,000 million, and criticized the fact that nothing has been done to date, save for the Security Plan to combat drug trafficking and smuggling: “In these two years they have not executed any other of commitments in that Plan. Those €1,000 million, therefore, were false”.
In his policies is also included a desire to end the Campo de Gibraltar’s dependency on Gibraltar: “Unfortunately, we depend on Gibraltar. Our cross-border workers are held captive which weakens our negotiating powers.”
“I want us to get along on both sides of the frontier, like any neighbour, but it cannot be that we are awaiting decisions from our supposedly weaker neighbour, so that many families from Campo de Gibraltar can eat. We must develop the entire area, including Gibraltar, but maintaining the aspiration to our historical claim to co-sovereignty”.
Shared Prosperity Zone
Regarding the concept promoted by the Foreign Minister of creating a zone of shared prosperity in the area after Brexit, the mayor of Algeciras and senator of the PP assures that it must be: “You can hardly attract anyone if you say that you are going to harm them. I therefore applaud this area of shared prosperity, although without abandoning the legitimate aspirations of claiming our sovereignty over a territory that is ours, i.e. Spanish”.
He maintains that any agreement on Gibraltar between Spain and the United Kingdom “must necessarily include that safeguard clause. When you stop claiming something that is yours, you somehow accept that it is no longer yours but your neighbour’s.”
Landaluce calls for plans for employment, training, a special fiscal area and infrastructure and wants this area of shared prosperity to include not only Gibraltar and Campo de Gibraltar, but also Ceuta: “We are in a very special area and Morocco is somehow putting pressure on Ceuta. Therefore, we also need that commitment to develop an area on both sides of the Straits where we act in a synergy that benefits everyone.”
And how do you see relations with Gibraltar once Brexit is done? To this question, he replies that with “greater dialogue, commitment and knowledge. There is a lot of mistrust on the part of Gibraltar, but they must understand that our aspirations are legitimate”.
“La Línea must have preferential treatment”
Regarding the role of La Línea de la Concepción in this new scenario, and the measures that the Government of Spain may articulate after Brexit, he acknowledges that it should have “preferential treatment, although without the rest of Campo de Gibraltar falling into oblivion. We have to develop everything in a homogeneous way.”.
When asked how he estimates that the Government of Gibraltar has allocated more than £11.4 million in paying a minimum wage to cross-frontier workers, among whom there are more than 9,000 Spaniards, his answer was positive.
“In this matter, the Government of Gibraltar has demonstrated an important social commitment. It has opted for workers who produce a lot and are very committed to the development of the Rock, but they also come out very cheaply, because they live on the other side of the frontier, their children go to schools in Campo de Gibraltar and they are cared for by the Andalusian Health Service”.
Railways, Roads and Ports
Landaluce insists that 2020 is the year of the Campo de Gibraltar despite the pandemic, even if at least it is in respect of some of its requirements, especially in infrastructure: “Without infrastructure we cannot move forward. The train and the highways are basic needs, in the same way as our investments in the port.
When asked how he sees the Campo de Gibraltar in a few years or what he would like it to be, he answers bluntly: “We should be the jewel in the crown. What is produced in the Campo de Gibraltar would be of enormous benefit throughout Andalusia and the rest of Spain”.
He added that, if the governments were “fair and intelligent, they would give us what we deserve and they would invest here, because public investment in this region generates much more wealth socially and in terms of competitivity than what occurs in any other area of Spain. The time of Campo de Gibraltar should have come a long time ago, because this region can no longer wait a single minute longer”.
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