18 June 2008
General Assembly
GA/COL/3179

Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York

Special Committee on

Decolonization

9th Meeting (AM)


AS SPECIAL COMMITTEE ON DECOLONIZATION CONSIDERS QUESTION OF GIBRALTAR,


TERRITORY’S CHIEF MINISTER SAYS ITS DECOLONIZATION ‘NO LONGER PENDING’


“As far as we are concerned, the decolonization of Gibraltar is no longer a pending issue,” Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Peter Caruana, told the Special Committee on Decolonization this morning, during that body’s resumed session.


He said that the Territory no longer regarded its presence on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories as signifying that it was a colony pending decolonization, and that the administering Power, the United Kingdom -– in a report that had been prepared by the Gibraltar Government -– had said Gibraltar should not remain on the list.


Referring to Gibraltar’s new Constitution, which had entered into force last year, he said the Territory’s relationship with the United Kingdom, accepted in an act of self-determination (a referendum), was understood by the Governments of both the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to be a modern, non-colonial relationship, which resulted in Gibraltar no longer being a colony.


The representative of Spain insisted, however, that the full mandate of the United Nations in carrying out Gibraltar’s decolonization must be effected through negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain, taking into account the interests of the people of Gibraltar.


He said the Territory was not only the subject of a sovereignty dispute, to which the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht applied, but there was also a dispute over its geographic boundaries, thus making it even more evident that the issue affected the territorial unity of Spain.  He hoped Spain could count on the United Kingdom to resume the negotiations that had unfortunately come to a standstill in 2002.


Contesting those arguments, Joseph John Bossano, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said: “Gibraltar will never, ever, be a part of Spain again.”  In relation to the Spanish position, the United Kingdom had stated that it did not accept that the concept of territorial integrity applied to Gibraltar’s decolonization.  It had also stated that it would not participate in any sovereignty discussions with Spain.


“Why on earth should Gibraltar and its people ever be content to see their sovereignty discussed with Spain by their administering Power, or their former administering Power, depending on whether we are already decolonized or not?  As far as we are concerned, the decision on that question was taken by the 2002 Referendum, and is now closed,” he said.


He urged the Committee to not simply record the fact that it had the information on Gibraltar from the United Kingdom, but express a view on the relevance of the United Kingdom’s claim that Gibraltar’s new Constitution provided for a modern relationship between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom that was non-colonial in nature.  The Committee had the duty to say why that relationship still fell short of the level of self-government required to make the relationship non-colonial, if that was indeed its view.


The Committee will meet again tomorrow, 19 June, to take up the report of the Pacific Regional Seminar and other issues.


Background


The Special Committee on the Situation with Regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to consider the questions of New Caledonia and Gibraltar.


A working paper prepared by the Secretariat on Gibraltar (document A/AC.109/2008/8 and Corr.1) outlines, among other things, the political developments, economic and social conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territory and the role of the Special Committee and the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), as well as the positions of the administering Power (the United Kingdom), the territorial Government and the Government of Spain on the Territory’s future status.


The working paper notes that, according to the United Kingdom’s Permanent Representative, the Gibraltar Constitution that came into force in 2007 provided for a modern relationship between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom that was non-colonial in nature.  It was regrettable that the outdated approach of the Special Committee seemed not to have allowed for that to be recognized.  The new Constitution confirmed the right to self-determination, which was not constrained by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht except insofar as it gave Spain the right of refusal should Britain ever renounce sovereignty.  The United Kingdom Government had never accepted that the principle of territorial integrity had ever been applicable to the decolonization of Gibraltar.  The United Kingdom would never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another State against their wishes.


According to the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, the paper states, the new Constitution gave Gibraltar complete self-government except in matters relating to foreign affairs and defence.  The people of Gibraltar did not believe that independence was the best option for their Territory.  The United Kingdom had neither the power nor the ability to act as an administering Power in Gibraltar, nor did it demonstrate any wish to do so.  Gibraltar, therefore, should be removed from the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Spain’s representative, according to the paper, had said that the continuation of the colonial situation in Gibraltar was not in conformity with the United Nations Charter, because it undermined the territorial integrity of Spain.  In the process of decolonizing Gibraltar, it would be necessary to address and definitively settle the related sovereignty issue.  His Government regretted that, despite its expressions of willingness to resume negotiations with the United Kingdom on the sovereignty issue, no progress had been made.  The principle of self-determination did not apply to Gibraltar since decolonization of that Territory could only result from bilateral negotiations between Spain and the United Kingdom.


The paper goes on to say that, since the establishment in 2004 of the tripartite Forum of Dialogue on Gibraltar, there had been several rounds of discussions that led to the 2006 Cordoba agreements, which covered such areas as pension for Spanish workers in Gibraltar, the Gibraltar airport and telecommunications.  During the Forum’s latest meeting, in 2007, the participants acknowledged the satisfactory implementation of all the agreements and had preliminary discussions on the Forum’s forward agenda, namely cooperation on environment, financial services and taxation, judicial and police issues, education, maritime communications and visa-related issues.


Statements


JUAN ANTONIO YÁŃEZ-BARNUEVO ( Spain) said the full mandate of the United Nations in carrying out the decolonization of Gibraltar must be effected through negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain, taking into account the interests of the people of Gibraltar.  The Territory was not only the subject of a sovereignty dispute, to which the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht applied, but there was also a dispute over its geographic boundaries, thus making it even more evident that the issue affected the territorial unity of Spain and, in that regard, the principle of territorial integrity was also applicable.


He said that, in the case of Gibraltar, the consolidated doctrine of the United Nations had inextricably joined decolonization and the sovereignty dispute.  The actual authorities of Gibraltar had acknowledged that the future of the sovereignty of Gibraltar could only lay with the United Kingdom or with Spain.  “All in all, Spain is utmost interested in advancing the negotiations over sovereignty, and thus, in the decolonization of Gibraltar.”


Spain remained committed to the Forum of Dialogue on Gibraltar established in 2004, he said.  Although the Forum was already providing a climate that should allow for the evolution of a negotiation regarding sovereignty issues, it was not designed, in its current conception, to discuss those issues.  In order for the Forum to prosper as a framework of local cooperation, some people should desist from imaginative procedures to attempt to bring to a close, even falsely, the decolonization process of Gibraltar.  The administering Power could not pretend that the modernization of the Gibraltar Constitutional Order must be accepted by the United Nations as the culmination of the decolonization process.  There were no short-cuts; there was no “de facto custom-made” decolonization.


He stressed that there was only one way, namely that the administering Power needed to work within the parameters of the options enshrined in the General Assembly resolutions.  He trusted that the Committee would continue working in the discharge of its mandate in order to achieve the eradication of colonialism, while applying the entire United Nations doctrine.  He hoped Spain could count on the United Kingdom, Gibraltar’s administering Power, to resume the negotiations that had unfortunately been at a standstill since 2002.


PETER R. CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, noting that it was his thirteenth successive annual address to the Committee, said he had failed to recruit the Committee’s support of the Territory’s decolonization, based on the application of the principle of self-determination.  There was no rule or principle that required decolonization to be other than by self-determination in cases where there was a sovereignty dispute.  There was no United Nations doctrine to that effect.  “Yet [the Committee’s] acts do not reflect these clear principles,” he said, adding: “Instead, you have allowed the principles applicable to a colonial peoples’ decolonization to be contaminated by the anachronistic and competing territorial sovereignty claims of neighbours.”   That was because of the “machinations and disproportionate influence on the work of this Committee of sovereignty claimants and other countries that are their diplomatic friends”.


He said that had been clear during the regional seminars, which submitted reports to the Special Committee stating that certain principles had been adopted by the participants, which, in fact, had never even been discussed.  Participants from the Territories had not been allowed in the drafting Committee, which had issued a final statement.  The Government of Gibraltar, therefore, would no longer participate in the regional seminars, although its presence might have added legitimacy and credibility to those “shocking practices”.  The reports of the seminar had then been adopted by the Special Committee, thus pronouncing that listed Territories that had the misfortune to be the subject of a sovereignty dispute were not entitled to decolonization by self-determination, despite that then being described as a fundamental human right.


It was a complete misconception to mix up and confuse decolonization and sovereignty disputes in that way, he went on.  If the Committee thought Gibraltar was a colonial case, it was obliged to apply the principle of self-determination.  If the Committee thought that Gibraltar was not really a colony, but a sovereignty dispute, then it had no jurisdiction and should ask the General Assembly to relieve it of its responsibility by removing Gibraltar from its list.  Furthermore, he said: “The principle of territorial integrity is not a principle that is applicable to the decolonization of a Territory on your list, since such a Territory is not part of a State that would be disintegrated by such decolonization. It is axiomatic.”


He explained that the new constitutional relationship with the United Kingdom, accepted in an act of self-determination, namely a referendum, was understood by the Governments of both the United Kingdom and Gibraltar to be a modern, non-colonial relationship that resulted in Gibraltar no longer being a colony.  “As far as we are concerned, the decolonization of Gibraltar is no longer a pending issue,” he added. Gibraltar no longer regarded its presence on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories as signifying that it was a colony pending decolonization.  In its annual report on Gibraltar to the Committee, the United Kingdom indicated that Gibraltar should not remain on the list.  The Committee should be aware that the report, in fact, had been prepared by the Gibraltar Government.


The dispute between the United Kingdom and Spain related to the sovereignty of Gibraltar, and not to its decolonization, he said.  The text of the annual consensus resolution was now a fiction, because there had been no bilateral negotiations, as referred to in that resolution, since 2002.  The United Kingdom had stated that it would not enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar was not content.  “In other words, the Brussels Process is dead because Gibraltar is opposed to it and the UK will not participate in it if Gibraltar is opposed to it.”  The only process of dialogue that now existed was the trilateral Forum of Dialogue between the Governments of Spain, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom.  That Forum had a completely open agenda, thus allowing any and all issues to be raised for discussion.


Concluding, he said that, although there was no longer any need for Gibraltar to look to the Committee for help in its decolonization, Gibraltar remained willing to cooperate with the Special Committee on any matter that it wished, not least on its delisting criteria and how Gibraltar could now be removed from the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.


Petitioner


JOSEPH JOHN BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said that the proposed wording of the statement attributed to participants of this year’s regional seminar in Bandung had appeared to limit the decolonization process to Territories where there was no sovereignty dispute.  He had suggested alternative wording to correct that totally unacceptable proposition, which the representatives of Argentina and Spain supported.  He hoped that would be reflected in the final version of the seminar report.  “If the existence of a sovereignty dispute were to preclude our country’s decolonization, the Committee should have told us that in 1964, when it first considered the matter,” he said. Instead, it had said the Decolonization Declaration was fully applicable to Gibraltar.


Regarding concerns expressed by Spain over the British military base in Gibraltar, he said the argument was “a hairy old chestnut, if ever [there] was one”.  He wanted to put things into perspective: on two occasions, a sovereignty deal with Spain had been rejected by 99 per cent of the people of Gibraltar in a vote.  On both occasions, the deal under negotiation guaranteed the British sovereign military base facilities, and only the sovereignty of the indigenous, Gibraltarian, colonial people was to be the subject of the settlement.


Participants in Bandung had been very concerned that the end of the Second Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism was approaching “without the faintest glimmer of light that this eradication will take place”, he said.  As someone fully supportive of the work of the Special Committee, he had to say that its credibility had been seriously “dented” in the eyes of many colonial peoples it was charged with defending.  Declaring a third decade and doing nothing for the next 10 years would only further damage that credibility.  Recent seminars had all identified the need for the Committee to play a more proactive role.  It was not as if the template for action had to be invented; it was already there, except that nothing was being done about it.


In Bandung, the United Kingdom, as the administering Power for 10 of the 16 Territories, had set out in its report many details about the political and constitutional development of each of its Territories, he continued.  Having made clear that none of its overseas Territories were colonies anymore, the United Kingdom, nonetheless, had addressed the options that the United Nations provided for decolonization.  For the first time, it had acknowledged that there were, indeed, four options, and not just three.  Given that, in 1976, the United Kingdom had rejected all three options provided in General Assembly resolution 1541 -– independence, free association and integration -– Gibraltar had adopted as the obvious choice what had not been rejected, seeing option four as a form of association, which differed from free association in that it could not be converted unilaterally into independence.


That option provided the possibility of tailor-made constitutions for the remaining 16 Territories, for which none of the three options might be suitable.  He urged the Committee to look at the constitutional change in the remaining Territories in that light, in the context of the seminar’s recommendation to look for innovative solutions.  Any such solution would still have to pass the litmus test of providing for each Territory in question with a full measure of self-government, consistent with that Territory’s circumstances and capabilities.  In Bandung, the United Kingdom position had been that the Committee’s continued existence was outdated.


“Your Excellencies were all declared redundant,” he said.  “You are being asked to accept that all the 10 remaining British overseas Territories enjoy modern non-colonial relationships with United Kingdom and that none, therefore, should remain on the United Nations list.  That is if the list is not scrapped altogether.  Clearly, that view is not shared by us and has never been, in Opposition or in Government.”  The United Kingdom’s paper itself acknowledged that the purpose of the seminar was to assess the situation in the Territories and, in particular, their evolution towards self-government and self-determination.  That was absolutely correct, and it was the closest the Committee had ever got to being invited by the United Kingdom to assess the continuing evolution of its 10 Territories towards self-government on the basis of the changes that were taking place in their Constitutions.


That was the same request he had been making to the Committee in respect of Gibraltar for many years, he said.  In many respects, “the ball is very much in your Committee’s court”.  The Committee should not simply record the fact that it had the information about Gibraltar from the United Kingdom, but express its view on the relevance of the changes for the decolonization question.  The situation of Gibraltar was no different from any of the other 15 Territories in terms of its legal status, or the applicability of the United Nations Charter, the Human Rights Declaration and relevant conventions.   Gibraltar asked for no more than equal treatment with the rest.  The 73e report said the relationship with the United Kingdom in the new Constitution was modern and, thereby, non-colonial.  The Committee had the duty to say why it still fell short of the level of self-government required to make the relationship non-colonial, if that was indeed its view.


He recalled that the United Kingdom had told the Fourth Committee, in relation to the Spanish position, that it did not accept that the concept of territorial integrity applied to Gibraltar’s decolonization.  It had also stated that it would not participate in any sovereignty discussions with Spain, with which Gibraltar was not content.  “Why on earth should Gibraltar and its people ever be content to see their sovereignty discussed with Spain by their administering Power, or their former administering Power, depending on whether we are already decolonized or not?  As far as we are concerned the decision on that question was taken by the 2002 referendum and is now closed,” he said.


He added that the Assembly’s decisions urged the United Kingdom and Spain to find a definitive solution to the question of Gibraltar.  “What question is that?” he asked.  If it was neither the question of decolonization -- which United Kingdom claimed had already happened -- nor the question of the territorial integrity of Spain -- which the United Kingdom rejected as having no application to Gibraltar, but a question of a border dispute between a sovereign territory (Gibraltar) and its neighbouring State, then it was not within the remit of the agenda items on decolonization.  The reality was that Spain had lost the argument in the Special Committee and it knew it.  It should, therefore, come to its senses and accept the inevitability of its situation.  “Gibraltar will never, ever, be a part of Spain again,” he said.


Agreeing with a proposal by the Chairman, the Committee then decided that, in light of related developments, it would continue its consideration of the question of Gibraltar at its next session, subjected to any directives that the General Assembly might wish to give at its next session.  To facilitate the Fourth Committee’s consideration of the item, all relevant documentation should be transmitted to the Assembly’s sixty-third session.


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