Spanish Elections 2019
“Relations with Gibraltar made only a timid appearance in the recent Spanish national elections debates.”
Discussion on the consequences of the withdrawal from the European Union of the United Kingdom, and with it Gibraltar, was temporarily parked to one side, and issues regarding the Rock did not feature large in the Spanish general election campaign.
To the extent that they did reflected the ideology of each of the parties. No party was willing to renounce the supposed historic “rights” on sovereignty but the approaches ranged widely between respect of the Gibraltarians’ right to decide on the future of their own country to those who exhibit open contempt and harsh measures against the small neighbouring community.
This is what the political parties had to say about Gibraltar during the recent election campaign.
Whilst it is true to say that Pedro Sanchez’ administration has bragged of Spain achieving a “position of strength” following the agreements reached with the UK regarding the Rock in the Brexit negotiations, this was by no means a stellar issue in the campaign.
Even so, the socialists clearly favour the maintenance of cordial relations with the Gibraltarian authorities, the strengthening of links among peoples and the avoidance of using the frontier fence as a weapon with which to exert pressure to the detriment of the 10,000 Spaniards who work in Gibraltar or impede smooth transit.
This was the basis upon which “Memoranda of Understanding” were signed in the expectation of a Brexit which has not happened, at least for now.
The current leadership of the PP is closer to the coercive notions of ex Foreign Minister Margallo than the policy of easing tensions favoured by his PP successor in office Alfonso Dastis who represented the more moderate but now less influential wing of their party.
Even then, the PP has not been too voluble on the question of Gibraltar barring a statement by its secretary general Teodoro García Egea to the effect that his party wishes to make advances on the “Spanishness of Gibraltar”. For his part, presidential hopeful and leader of the PP Pablo Casado rolled out his policies at a recent visit to the Campo de Gibraltar.
These included investments in the county, joint sovereignty over the Rock and the offer of dual nationality to Gibraltarians.
Veering towards the PP line and in contrast to his claim to espouse liberal values, Albert Rivera called for joint sovereignty of Gibraltar should the UK exit the EU; a stance similar to that advocated by ex PP Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo.
Ciudadanos’ statements have always been in support of attracting investments to the Campo de Gibraltar which it believes has traditionally been forgotten by successive governments.
Podemos MP Pablo Bustinduy has been the clearest, most consistent spokesman of his party’s position on Gibraltar both in parliament and in his tours of the Campo de Gibraltar.
The party which is led by Pablo Iglesias expressed a “conditional and critical support for the (socialist) government in its negotiations on Gibraltar”.
“Advocating for sovereignty is a hollow formula if it does not defend the people who live in our land. Any accord must serve to protect the quality of life of the 13,000 people who each day go to work on the Rock from the surrounding area”, said Bustinduy who proposes an economic development plan and the social and territorial strengthening of the Campo de Gibraltar.
For his part Pablo Iglesias was clear in an interview which he gave to Cadena SER radio: “The working people in Gibraltar can count on our support but not for weird expressions of patriotism”.
The far right party has, without a doubt, been the most crude and discourteous when it comes to Gibraltar. During the campaign it called for “intense and determined diplomatic action for the return of Gibraltar”.
Vox’s secretary general Javier Ortega Smith said on Cope local radio that Vox wants “the frontier to be closed and light and water supplies disconnected” In a similarly belligerent tone, retired marine general and candidate for Cadiz Province Agustín Rosety Fernández de Castro said that Vox would make “Gibraltarians (who reside in Spain) pay taxes in Spain or go and live with the apes”. Both these vintage theatrical excesses ignore the facts that Gibraltarians who reside in Spain do pay taxes and that Gibraltar is completely self-sufficient in terms of electricity and water production.
Spanish Elections 2019