Annex 1 (f)
Letter from Hon Peter Caruana QC, Chief
Minister, Gibraltar, to Rt Hon Robin Cook MP, Secretary of State,
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, 8 December 1997
Thank you for you letter dated 3 December 1997,
for your invitation to attend the next Brussels Process meeting
and for the helpful reassurances that you give in your letter
I and my colleagues in the Gibraltar Government
have very carefully considered the position in the light of your
letter and my own letter, dated 29 October 1997, addressed to
Mr Reddaway of your Ministry. We have reluctantly concluded that
we cannot, in the present circumstances, accept your invitation
on this occasion. I can assure you that this is as much a disappointment
to us as I am sure it will be to you.
The present Gibraltar Government remains prepared
to participate in dialogue under the Brussels Agreement provided
that this can be done within the parameters of our Manifesto commitments.
In order to create the circumstances in which our own preference
to attend could be achieved, I wrote to Mr Reddaway on 20 October
setting out the points that needed to be satisfactorily addressed.
These reflected an imaginative formula to enable us to comply
with our own electoral promises without requiring undeliverable
agreements from the Spaniards.
There has been no discussion of our requests
in this respect, nor have I been offered any reasons why HMG is
unable to give us comfort on some of the points that we raised,
which are crucial in the local political context.
Although it will make this letter longer than
it should be, I would like to comment on some of these points.
Gibraltar public opinion will not permit participation in a process
of dialogue which is structurally purely bilateral between London
and Madrid, hence my attempt to recreate the essential features
of "non-bilateralism" albeit within a single British
delegation so that it should not be unacceptable to Spain. The
reason for this position is that we believe that to participate
in purely bilateral dialogue supports and sustains the fundamental
Spanish position (maintained for that reason) that the people
of Gibraltar have no rights in and to the territory of Gibraltar,
nor a right to have their wishes respected. Furthermore, given
that Spain insists that Brussels talks are about a transfer of
sovereignty to Spain, our attendance at such talks on the basis
that they are exclusively bilateral in structure between London
and Madrid, would be totally inconsistent with our assertion of
a right to self determination (even if that right is, in HMG's
view, curtailed by the Treaty of Utrecht).
For this same reason it is important to us in
Gibraltar that I should be present throughout the talks and that
there should be no "bilaterals" between Foreign Ministers
in my absence, as part of the Brussels Process.
I have never doubted the reliability of HMG's
often repeated assurances about sovereignty, hence our willingness
to participate in dialogue.
I have heard the view expressed by some officials
in the Foreign Office that our position would mortgage and fetter
future British Government policy and that it holds the Brussels
Process to ransom if we should discontinue our attendance. Neither
of these is either intended or the case.
Obviously I understand that you would continue
to meet with your Spanish counterpart, even about Gibraltar, on
many other occasions and fora, including ordinary bilateral meetings
between the British and Spanish Government. I have also made it
clear that I understand that if our requirements were accommodated,
any such arrangements would persist only while we were participating
in talks under the process.
Because Gibraltar has not participated in talks
under the Brussels Process since 1988, our participation in it
now, even once, would, as far as Spain is concerned, validate
the process as she sees it. That is why it is important to us
that the understanding as to the basis for our participation should
be enduring while we participate in it and that nothing should
be agreed under the Process without our agreement. This in no
way fetters HMG's freedom of policy outside the Brussels Process,
which is conditioned only by our stated fundamental guarantees
and assurances to the people of Gibraltar.
I am sure that your officials will have briefed
you fully about the controversial nature of this issue in Gibraltar
and the intensity with which it is felt. Hence our need for a
formula that we are confident of being able to defend. Our policy
has always been, and remains, one of attendance at talks even
under the discredited (in Gibraltar) Brussels Agreement. You should
therefore not doubt our willingness to defend locally a decision
to participate, but it must be on the basis of a formula that
we can defend.
Of course, the recent intemperate rantings of
Sr Matutes has created the worst possible climate, from Gibraltar's
point of view, in the run up to these talks. It is almost as if
he has wished to ensure that we would decide not to attend. His
unashamed threats of "turning the screws" on Gibraltar
would not have made a decision to attend seem any more dignified
that it might otherwise have been.
Finally, it has been indicated to me that I
would have the opportunity of a lengthy meeting with you in London
on the morning of 10 December, the day of the Brussels Process
talks. Your officials are aware that I have been very anxious
to meet with you for some time now and that I had offered to travel
anywhere at any time to do so. Unfortunately, your very busy schedule
has not made it possible. However, the Gibraltar Government has
with extreme reluctance decided that a meeting with you on the
day of the Brussels Process itself and just hours before the Brussels
meeting, would, having decided not to attend this round of Brussels
Process talks, create a major presentational problem for us. Furthermore,
the inevitable confusion as to whether in those circumstances
we had attended the Brussels Process talks is bound to be abused
by the Spaniards. You will have seen yourself how adept they are
at distorting facts to present a triumphalist scenario.
I know that this decision will particularly
disappoint you, if not irritate you. I hope that it will not do
so excessively and that you will understand and empathise with
the local political considerations that underlie it. I very much
hope that you will be able and willing to make time for me in
your schedule in the not too distant future.
I know that we can count on you batting strongly
for Gibraltar on Wednesday. Gibraltar has recently occupied much
of your time and we appreciate your effort and commitment on our
8 December 1997