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September 19, 2006
Spain Gets Realistic About Gibraltar

The Spanish government has lifted travel and communication restrictions on the 28,000 residents on the British enclave of Gibraltar, effectively retreating from its efforts to impose its sovereignty on the Rock:

In an agreement the Foreign Office described as "historic," many of the day-to-day restrictions Spain had imposed on the 28,000 inhabitants of the rock will be lifted.

While the central issue of sovereignty remains untouched under the agreement, diplomats pointed out that talks held in the Spanish city of Cordoba are the first time the Spanish government has agreed to talk directly to Gibraltar's political leadership.

"For the first time, all three parties have negotiated together and have reached agreement together. This is ground-breaking in itself. And it demonstrates that constructive dialogue and co-operation is possible," said Geoff Hoon, the Europe minister.

The restrictions on travel and communication left only the sea as Gibraltar's reliable access. Francisco Franco sealed the land border in 1969, forcing residents and workers to run a labyrinth of security checks to get into or out of Gibraltar. Gibraltar's phones would not connect to the Spanish network, and airplanes had to avoid Spanish airspace to fly into and out of Gibraltar -- a dangerous trick.

The Socialist government that took over after the Madrid bombings has apparently decided to quit while behind. Gibraltar has staged two plebescites, and both affirmed the residents' desire to remain under British control. The Spaniards may regret the concessions offered by the government to Gibraltar, but in the end, they had little choice -- and their insistence on retaining sovereignty of their own enclave on the Moroccan side of Gibraltar doesn't give Spain much moral authority to continue its efforts to take back the Rock.

Sphere It Digg! View blog reactions
Posted by Ed Morrissey at September 19, 2006 5:22 AM

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