Gibraltar profile

Gibraltar profile

The British overseas territory of Gibraltar, a limestone outcrop on the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, occupies a commanding position at the western gateway to the Mediterranean Sea.

Spain continues to claim sovereignty over the territory, which has been ruled by Britain since 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht.


Named in Arabic “Jabal Tariq”, after the Muslim commander Tariq Ibn-Ziyad, who turned “the Rock” into a fortress in 711, Gibraltar has been an important naval base for more than 1,000 years.

Summit of Rock of Gibraltar

Gibraltar: Seafaring traditions span the centuries

This long maritime history has resulted in a diverse population. Most Gibraltarians are bilingual in English and Spanish, and are of mixed Genoese, British, Spanish, Maltese and Portuguese descent. Recent arrivals have included migrant workers from Morocco.

Gibraltarians are British citizens. They elect their own representatives to the territory’s House of Assembly; the British monarch appoints a governor. Gibraltar is self-governing in all areas except defence and foreign policy. It is home to a British military garrison and naval base.

The EU has pressured Spain and Britain to resolve the issue of Gibraltar’s status. Both sides, under the Brussels Process launched in 1984, have attempted to reach an agreement.

But Spain’s insistence on eventually acquiring full sovereignty, and Britain’s determination to retain full control of Gibraltar’s military base, have been among the stumbling blocks.

Gibraltar’s 1969 constitution states that there can be no transfer of sovereignty to Spain against the wishes of locals. In a 2002 referendum Gibraltarians resoundingly rejected the idea of joint sovereignty. Spain and Britain were said to have reached “broad agreement” on the concept.

Spanish Iberia jet lands at Gibraltar airport, 16 December 2006

Passenger flights between Spain and Gibraltar were blocked for nearly 30 years

Free travel between Spain and Gibraltar was fully restored in 1985, but travellers continued to suffer delays at the border. In late 2006, passenger flights between Spain and Gibraltar resumed for the first time in nearly 30 years.

The air link was restored after Gibraltar, Spain and Britain signed agreements aimed at improving living conditions on the Rock. The three-way talks did not cover the issue of sovereignty.

With no large-scale agricultural or industrial activity, much of Gibraltar’s income comes from customs duties, offshore finance, internet gaming, tourism and the provisioning of ships.

In January 2011, however, the government was set to end tax-free offshore status for UK companies based in Gibraltar, as part of efforts to move away from its tax haven status.


  • Territory: Gibraltar
  • Status: Self-governing part of United Kingdom, claimed by Spain
  • Population: 28,750
  • Capital: Gibraltar town
  • Area: 5.8 sq km (2.25 sq miles)
  • Major languages: English, Spanish
  • Major religion: Christianity
  • Life expectancy: 76 years (men), 82 years (women)
  • Monetary unit: Pound Sterling (Gibraltar pound also circulates)
  • Main exports: Petroleum (re-exports), manufactured goods
  • GNI per capita: n/a
  • Internet domain: .gi
  • International dialling code: +350


Head of state: Queen Elizabeth II, represented by Governor Sir Adrian Johns

Chief minister: Fabian Picardo

Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo

Fabian Picardo succeeded veteran Gibraltar politician Peter Caruana as Chief Minister

Fabian Picardo was elected as Chief Minister in December 2011. Eight months earlier, he had taken over the leadership of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party, replacing long-term leader Joe Bossano.

Mr Picardo was born in Gibraltar and studied law at Oxford University. After graduating from Oxford, he attended the Inns of Court School of Law at Gray’s Inn in London.

Mr Picardo’s predecessor as Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, held the post for more than 15 years, from 1996 to 2011.

Gibraltar chief minister

Former Chief Minister Peter Caruana

The leader of the Gibraltar Social Democrats, Mr Caruana strongly opposes the idea of shared sovereignty with Spain and oversaw a 2002 referendum that roundly rejected the concept.

He has been credited with helping to develop Gibraltar’s offshore financial industry. In 2010, he said his government was transforming the economy from a European tax haven to a financial services hub.

Peter Caruana is of Maltese and Italian descent.


Television and radio services on the Rock are operated by the Gibraltar Broadcasting Corporation (GBC). GBC operations are overseen by a board, said to be modelled on the BBC’s Board of Governors.

Radio and TV stations based in Spain, and broadcasts for British forces in the territory, can be received.

The press




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