Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Gibraltar - Ever growing friction between the UK and Spain


Countries with domestic grievances will often try to focus their attention on foreign entities.



Gibraltar is a key strategic location in the Mediterranean and has been for centuries. The strait of Gibraltar was instrumental in the expansion of the Islamic Umayyad caliphate in the 8th century. When the Caliphate  of C√≥rdoba fell from an internal struggle; the Spanish empire in the 14th/15th centuries threaded by Catholicism relied on Gibraltar for its geographic position to explore new worlds of the colonial era.

The control of seas were inevitably the source of military and economic power. In 1704, British and Dutch forces captured Gibraltar and under the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht and ever since has been a key strategic location for the British Royal Navy. The location of this rock was amplified greater with the opening of the Suez Canal which allowed trans-Atlantic and European trade through the Mediterranean, laying the sea route to Asia. Ever since, it has been a disputed British Overseas territory where approximately 30,000 people live.

Bilateral tensions came to surface after the Spanish government announce a few measures over Gibraltar. Namely, these include the limit of the use of its airspace using Gibraltar's airport, investigation of potential cases of tax fraud and evasion by Gibraltarians who live in Spain and the much contested border tax.

Measures to agitate tensions of the rock are not a new phenomenon between these two maritime nations. In the 1950s, Spanish dictator Francisco Franco restricted the freedom of movement between the Gibraltar and Spain. In 1967, Gibraltarians voted to in a referendum to remain under British sovereignty and in 2002 rejected a proposal to share sovereignty between the United Kingdom and Spain.

There are two things to consider here. Firstly, is the issue of national geopolitical strategic imperatives and the EU. While the EU tries to unify and promote political harmony between the European nations, it cannot ignore that nation's have long-term interests predate the EU. Secondly, foreign policy and the attention of these strategic locations are a device to promote national unity when a nation undergoes instances of political instability.

Geopolitical Snapshot briefly analyzed yesterday, the Spanish government is facing a social stability problem. It must be seen to be acting in the interests of the public and by unifying the public against a common goal, it provides the agility to maneuver the political storm. Allegations of corruption of persons in positions of government rarely leave the public domain quietly. It is only logical Madrid focuses on a traditional claim to the territory to divert attention.

As the trends goes, it is unlikely Madrid-London relations are to be severed over the matter. Agitation and frustration are perhaps the most likely short-term peaks of this episode. But in the long-term, the bilateral friction over the rock will continue as it has traditionally for more than half a decade without any satisfactory agreement.






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