WEDNESDAY 28 NOVEMBER 2001|
Donald Anderson, in the Chair
|Mr David Chidgey||Mr John Maples
|Sir Patrick Cormack||Mr Bill Olner
|Mr Fabian Hamilton||Mr Greg Pope
|Mr Eric Illsley||Sir John Stanley
|Andrew Mackinlay||Ms Gisela Stuart
Letter to the Chairman from Rt Hon Peter Hain MP, Minister
of State for Europe
1. I write in response to the letter of 20 August from
the Committee's Clerk, seeking a note on developments since the
(dated July 2001) to the Committee's Sixth Report
(dated April 2001).
2. The Foreign Secretary and I held talks under the Brussels
Process, the first for some three and a half years, with Spanish
Foreign Minister Josep Piqueé in London on 26 July, thereby
re-establishing the dialogue on a range of issues concerning Gibraltar.
Jack Straw and I firmly believe that there currently exists an
opportunity, through this dialogue, to make progress on a wide
range of issues affecting Gibraltar. Our overall objective is
to establish a normal relationship between Spain and Gibraltar,
and a stable and prosperous future for all Gibraltarians.
3. Jack Straw drew the attention of the House to the
resumption of the Brussels Process during the debate on the Queen's
speech, underlining two key aspects of our approach:
that it was our firm intention that the Government
of Gibraltar should be fully engaged in this process; and
that the Government would continue to stand by
its obligations to the people of Gibraltar set out in the Preamble
to the Order in Council establishing the Gibraltar Constitution.
4. I sent you under cover of my letter of 30 July3
the joint statement issued by the Foreign Secretary and Senor
Piqué after the meeting on 26 July in which they confirmed
that they would warmly welcome the attendance of Chief Minister
Caruana at future meetings.
5. We have also reflected carefully on the views on the
Process expressed in the past by the Committee. I am also conscious
that many Gibraltarians view the Brussels Process with suspicion.
But we want Gibraltar to be able to play its full part in the
changing EU, and not to be left behind. When I visited Gibraltar
in September I encouraged what I believe to be a healthy debate
on Gibraltar's future. I enclose with this letter copies of the
article I wrote for the Gibraltar Chronicle at the time of my
visit and a subsequent interview with Dominique Searle, Editor
of the Chronicle, both of which will, I hope, be of interest to
the Committee4 . When
there I was at pains to stress the unequivocal nature of our constitutional
commitment to the people of Gibraltar. I explained that under
the Brussels Process we are committed to discussing sovereignty
issues, as well as issues of practical co-operation, but with
no predetermined outcome. Indeed, Jack Straw agreed with Senor
Piqué on 26 July that we would put aside the Matutes (1997)
proposals, which did have a predetermined outcome.
6. Since 26 July we have had intensive Ministerial and
official level contacts both with Spain and with the Government
of Gibraltar, one of the aims of which is to agree satisfactory
arrangements for Mr Caruana to attend the next Ministerial level
meeting which is scheduled to take place in later November. The
Foreign Secretary met the Chief Minister in London on 8 October
and the subsequent Gibraltar Government statement, of which I
enclose a copy, highlighted our joint wish to achieve this goal.
We expect to hold further discussions on this issue with the Chief
Minister in the near future.
7. The Committee will also wish to be brought up to date
on the "European Single Sky" issue. As you will be aware,
we have come to an agreement with Spain to allow this important
dossier to move ahead. We consider Single Sky essential for improving
the use and management of EU airspacewe believe it offers
the best way of reducing delays and improving safety. To break
the log-jam, we have therefore reluctantly agreed that Gibraltar
airport be suspended from the Framework Regulation, inserting
the standard suspension clauses when the proposal reaches the
8. While we fully understand the disappointment at this
outcome, expressed during the demonstration in Gibraltar on 4
October, we do not believe that suspension will have any practical
effect on the operation of Gibraltar airport. The focus of the
EC's Single Sky work, at least initially, will be on the organisation
and use of upper airspace and the management of Europe's air traffic
service providers. Neither of these issues will have any practical
impact on Gibraltar.
9. Because it is important that the Commission should
at all times recognise Gibraltar's Rights under the Treaty, we
made clear to both Spain and the Commission that our agreement
on Single Sky was conditional on the Commission itself bringing
forward a neutral proposal (ie without itself inserting the suspension
clauses). We also agreed with Spain (a) that suspension from Single
Sky was without prejudice to the application of future aviation
measures to Gibraltar and (b) on a minutes statement, making clear
that suspension does not in any way prejudice the application
of the EC Treaty to Gibraltar. This reinforces the point that
suspension does not carve Gibraltar airspace out of Community
airspacean issue about which the Chief Minister has expressed
10. We have agreed to a similar formula with regard to
the Commission's emergency proposal for a Regulation on Aviation
Security. This proposal is a crucially important part of the EU's
overall contribution to the international community's fight against
terrorism following the 11 September atrocities. The Spanish government
made clear that, without Gibraltar's suspension, they would not
let the measure go forward. The Spanish position is deeply disappointingit
is particularly surprising that Spain should insist on suspending
from a vital security measure a Community airport right on its
doorstep. But, given the crucial importance of this measure to
the wider EU anti-terrorism agenda, we were not prepared to see
11. Again, we are confident that suspension will have
no material impact on the operation of Gibraltar airport. The
main purpose of the proposal is to require Member States to enforce
ECAC standards of security. We, and the Government of Gibraltar,
can still do this without being required to do so in Community
law. We will therefore, together with the Gibraltar Government,
undertake to ensure that Gibraltar airport is subject to security
controls no less stringent, and monitoring procedures no less
effective, than at other Community airports.
12. In view of the Committee's close interest in the
question of the allocation of telephone numbers to Gibraltar,
you will wish to know that the Spanish Government have agreed
to more than triple the quantity of numbers available to Gibraltar.
This is a constructive first step which, will, when implemented,
help to alleviate the shortage which Gibraltar is currently experiencing.
But there are, however, other equally important issues relating
to telephone services in Gibraltar, including the "least
cost routing" problem and the lack of "roaming"
agreements between Gibraltar and Spanish mobile telephone operators.
The Spanish authorities are committed to making progress on these,
and we shall pursue detailed discussions with them. The Commission
is aware of our concerns, and has been kept fully informed of
13. We are looking for improvements in the unsatisfactory
situation concerning border delays, which I witnessed for myself
on 6 September. We shall continue to raise this issue with the
Spanish Government and with the Commission.
14. We shall be pursuing our discussions with the Spanish
Government and the Government of Gibraltar on all these issues
in the weeks ahead. The Foreign Secretary hopes to visit Gibraltar
later this month. We expect a further Ministerial level meeting
of the Brussels Process in November at which, as I have said,
we very much hope to welcome the Chief Minister.
15. The Clerk of the Committee has been in touch with
officials at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office with a view to
arranging a further evidence session on Gibraltar. I would very
much welcome such an opportunity to report back to the Committee
after the forthcoming round of events.
Rt Hon Peter Hain MP,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office
Cm 5231, Session 2000-01. Back
HC 319, Session 2000-01. Back
See Annex, pp 17-18. Back
Gibraltar Chronicle, 6th and 17th September. Not herewith