Fishing for money …
For the second night, on Thursday Spanish fishermen supported by armed Guardia Civil vessels entered Gibraltar waters in order to provoke an incident. Despite being told to leave by the Royal Navy patrol ship they pretended to fish but according to reports by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation reporters who filmed all activity from a vessel at sea, they did not catch enough fish to cover their fuel costs.
Spain has systematically fished its own and the seas of others to extinction and is now demanding the right to do the same in Gibraltar waters – a place where the fish enjoy legal protection.
As well as confrontation at sea, last Sunday the Spanish authorities have imposed three hour vehicle queues at the frontier with Gibraltar, and later in the week, partially closed the pedestrian entrance causing a tailback of around half an hour for people entering Spain.
This focus on Gibraltar is seen as a tactic by the incoming Partido Popular (PP) government as a distraction from its failed economic policies and the current collapse of the domestic banking sector, where this week the subsidies to Bankia, have effectively nationalised the country’s third-largest bank.
Worries about Spain’s banks, saddled with billions in toxic real-estate loans, have heightened in recent weeks as Greece’s political crisis has intensified and investors contemplate the potential knock-on effects of a Greek exit from the euro.
On Tuesday the Spanish Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo is meeting with his UK counterpart William Hague presumably with the hope of trading the removal of restrictions against the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar for financial assistance or other help.
The future looks grim with Standard & Poor’s cut in its ratings of the creditworthiness of Bankia and four other Spanish banks along with the probability of the country entering double-dip recession.
In 2006, under the Córdoba Agreement Spain agreed to remove restrictions on flights and telecommunications to Gibraltar in exchange for the UK settling a dubious pension claim worth over a hundred million pounds for former workers in the Naval Base. Today they are trying a repeat of the process by creating new problems with The Rock.
Unemployment is currently over 21% in Spain with the neighbouring province to Gibraltar, Cadiz, being particularly affected with figures of over 31%. By contrast Gibraltar enjoys full employment and an economy based on Internet and professional services shipping, and tourism
So are the latest round of restrictions and confrontation at sea designed to promote the lost cause of ‘Gibraltar Espanol’, one which William Hague is on the record saying he is not interested in talking about, or is Sr Garcia-Margallo fishing for financial assistance using Gibraltar as bait ?
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