GIBRALTAR PETITIONERS TELL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SOVEREIGNTY DISPUTE BETWEEN SPAIN, UK SHOULD NOT DISPLACE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION

7 June 2005
GA/COL/3119

GIBRALTAR PETITIONERS TELL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SOVEREIGNTY DISPUTE BETWEEN SPAIN, UK SHOULD NOT DISPLACE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION

07/06/2005
Press ReleaseGA/COL/3119

Special Committee on

Decolonization

4th Meeting (AM)

GIBRALTAR PETITIONERS TELL DECOLONIZATION COMMITTEE SOVEREIGNTY DISPUTE

BETWEEN SPAIN, UK SHOULD NOT DISPLACE RIGHT TO SELF-DETERMINATION

Hears from Territory’s Chief Minister, Opposition Leader;

Spain’s Delegate Says Territorial Integrity Overriding Principle

The Special Committee on decolonization, taking up requests for hearing by petitioners from Non-Self-Governing Territories this morning, heard statements by the Chief Minister of Gibraltar and the Leader of the Opposition in that Territory.

Chief Minister Peter Caruana, questioning whether the Special Committee believed it was discharging its sacred trust in the case of Gibraltar, said his arguments were heard and then ignored, without answer or action, victim to the seemingly overriding and paralysing effect of the words “dispute about sovereignty”.  It was as if a sovereignty dispute displaced everything else, even the very applicability of fundamental human rights.  The Special Committee was not concerned with sovereignty disputes and had no mandate in such disputes, and its action should not genuflect to the existence of the sovereignty dispute.

Recalling that for years he had urged the Special Committee and the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) to stop calling for bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom, the colonial Power, and Spain, the claimant, to overcome their differences, he said Gibraltar would never agree to take part in dialogue structured bilaterally between the colonial Power and the sovereignty claimant, as such a structure intrinsically violated the political rights of the colonized people.  While Gibraltar would value dialogue with Spain, the principle of consent and the right of the people to decide their future was paramount.

He applauded Spain’s decision to facilitate the establishment of the new trilateral process of dialogue, as well as its declared wish to normalize relations with Gibraltar and its people.  Good progress had been made since the new process had been established, including Spain’s removal of restrictions on cruise ships sailing between Gibraltar and Spanish ports, as well as the removal of the ban on Gibraltar-bound civilian air flights diverting in the case of bad weather to nearby Spanish airports.  It was presumably the establishment of that new trilateral forum that explained the disappearance from the conclusions and recommendations of this year’s Caribbean Regional Seminar of support for the bilateral process between the United Kingdom and Spain.

Opposition leader Joseph John Bossano said it was about time the Special Committee unambiguously declared its unconditional support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination.  On many occasions in the last 10 years, members of the Special Committee had stated clearly that there was no alternative to self-determination.  The 2002 Pacific Regional Seminar in Fiji had stated that, in the process of decolonization, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental human right.  Regrettably, that had been amended at the 2004 seminar to read:  “In the process of decolonisation, and where there is no dispute over sovereignty, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right.”  How did the existence of a sovereignty dispute create an alternative to self-determination?

Gibraltar was not blind to the difficulties surrounding the Territories where such disputes existed, he said.  In Gibraltar’s case, the negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain had last taken place three years ago.  The proposed solution of shared sovereignty, which in any case would not have decolonized the Territory, had been totally rejected by Gibraltar in the 2002 referendum and, as far as it was concerned, that was the end of the matter, as well as the end of any further future sovereignty discussions between the United Kingdom and Spain.

Spain’s representative, outlining his country’s position, said the question of Gibraltar was about a sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom, as a colonial Power, and Spain, whose claim was based on the Treaty of Utrecht.  The existing doctrine at the United Nations regarding the dispute was that the colonial situation in Gibraltar was contrary to the United Nations Charter and destroyed the unity and territorial integrity of Spain.  For that reason, the decolonization process of the Territory must not be based on the principle of self-determination, but on that of territorial integrity.

He said that, in accordance with the mandate of the General Assembly, which urged Spain and the United Kingdom to begin a negotiating process in order to resolve all differences regarding Gibraltar, including issues of sovereignty, both Governments had begun what was known as the Brussels Process, which today continued in full force.  In his statement to the General Assembly on 21 September 2004, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had confirmed that Spain would maintain its negotiating will to reach a solution that would benefit the region in its totality, and would listen to the voice of the non-autonomous Territory.

The Special Committee also heard from the representative of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines.

In other business this morning, the Special Committee approved the hearing of petitioners on the questions of the Falkland Islands (Malvinas), New Caledonia and Puerto Rico.

The Special Committee will meet again at 10 a.m. Wednesday, 8 June, to hear a petitioner on the question of Western Sahara.

Background

The Special Committee on Decolonization on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence of Colonial Countries and Peoples met this morning to take up the question of Gibraltar.

For its consideration, the Special Committee had before it a working paper prepared by the Secretariat (document A/AC.109/2005/11).  Outlining developments regarding the future status of Gibraltar, the working paper notes that negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain on the subject of Gibraltar, relaunched in July 2001 in the framework of the Brussels Process, did not continue during 2003.  In a joint press release dated 16 December 2004, however, the Governments of Spain and the United Kingdom and Gibraltar confirmed the establishment of a new three-sided forum for dialogue on Gibraltar, separate from the Brussels Process.  According to the modalities for the forum, any decision or agreement reached would have to be agreed to by each of the three participants.  The first meeting of a forum working group took place in January 2005 to examine the pension entitlements of Spanish workers who had worked in Gibraltar.

Regarding United Kingdom-Gibraltarian discussions, the paper notes that in May 2004, the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary met with the Chief Minister of Gibraltar for preliminary talks on the local constitutional reform proposals and on the mechanism for taking the process forward.  The first meeting to discuss reform proposals for Gibraltar took place on 1 December 2004.  Other topics covered in the working paper include political developments, economic and social conditions and consideration of the question by the United Nations.

Statements

ROMÁN OYARZÚN (Spain) said his country’s position was that the question of Gibraltar was about a sovereignty dispute between the United Kingdom, as a colonial Power, and Spain, whose claim was based on the Treaty of Utrecht.  For Spain, sovereignty was unwaivable and referred not only to the Rock, ceded by article 10 of the Treaty, but also to the isthmus, whose occupation by the United Kingdom had never been recognized by Spain.  The existing doctrine at the United Nations regarding the dispute was that the colonial situation in Gibraltar was contrary to the United Nations Charter and destroyed the unity and territorial integrity of Spain.  For that reason, the decolonization process of the Territory must not be based on the principle of self-determination, but on that of territorial integrity.

He said that, in accordance with the mandate of the General Assembly, which urged Spain and the United Kingdom to begin a negotiating process in order to resolve all differences regarding Gibraltar, including issues of sovereignty, both Governments had begun what was known as the Brussels Process, which today continued in full force.  In his statement to the General Assembly on 21 September 2004, Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero had confirmed that Spain would maintain its negotiating will to reach a solution that would benefit the region in its totality, and would listen to the voice of the non-autonomous Territory.  In that spirit, the Ministers for Foreign Affairs of Spain and the United Kingdom had made public a communiqué on 27 October 2004 in which they confirmed the establishment of a three-way Dialogue Forum separate from the Brussels Process.

On 8 and 9 December 2004, he said, an agreement had been reached to set in motion the new forum, whose principal elements were:  an open agenda whereby any of the participants could present any issue relating to or affecting Gibraltar; without prejudice to their respective constitutional status, each party would have its own separate voice and each would participate from the same base; and any decision or agreement in the Forum would be reached by each of the three participants.  If they wished to adopt a decision in the Forum relating to an issue that, according to the formal agreement must appropriately be made between Spain and the United Kingdom, it would be understood that the United Kingdom would not give its corresponding part of the agreement without the consent of the Government of Gibraltar.

P.R. CARUANA, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, asked the Special Committee if it believed that it was discharging its sacred trust in the case of Gibraltar.  Gibraltar’s arguments were heard, and then ignored, without answer or action, victim to the seemingly overriding and paralysing effect of the words “dispute about sovereignty”.  It was as if a sovereignty dispute displaced everything else, even the very applicability of fundamental human rights.  Yet there was no basis for that either in the Special Committee’s mandate or in the applicable General Assembly resolutions.  The Special Committee was not concerned with sovereignty disputes and had no mandate in such disputes.  Despite that, the Assembly had placed Gibraltar on the list of Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The Special Committee’s action should not genuflect to the existence of the sovereignty dispute, he said.  Indeed, there seemed to be occasions on which the protection of the interests of sovereignty claimants seemed to receive priority over assisting the colonial people of the Territory to achieve decolonization.  The Committee had rightly resolved to be active.  The first of the “tools of activity” identified by the Special Committee was the development of work programmes for individual Territories in which the participation of representatives of the Non-Self-Governing Territories should be ensured.  Yet, at the request of Spain and/or Argentina, the Special Committee allowed the conclusions and recommendations of the regional seminars to be qualified by the addition of the words “in which there was no dispute over sovereignty”.  What part of the Special Committee’s “sacred trust” was that designed to promote?

The second “tool of activity”, he said, was a visiting mission by the Special Committee to a Territory.  But the Special Committee had rejected his repeated invitations to visit Gibraltar because of the existence of a sovereignty dispute.  The third “tool of activity” available to the Special Committee in the case of Gibraltar was its ability to recommend to the Fourth Committee that it refer the principles applicable to Gibraltar’s decolonization to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion.  The Special Committee declined that too, because of the existence of a sovereignty dispute.  In the case of Gibraltar, the Special Committee’s inactivity was self-imposed, despite the encouragement, pleas and arguments of the Territory’s colonial people.

The Saint Vincent and Papua New Guinea seminars had concluded that, in the process of decolonization, and where there were no sovereignty disputes, there was no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which was also a fundamental right, he continued.  If it was a fundamental right, how could it be extinguished by the simple fact that a neighbour claimed sovereignty?  To him it sounded like a superficial right, to be enjoyed only when there were no inconvenient, extraneous diplomatic complications.  There was no legal, logical or moral basis to convert one Territory’s “fundamental human rights” into a non-right simply because there was a dispute about sovereignty.  The principle of territorial integrity could only be applied to prevent the dismemberment of a country today and could not be applied to restore the borders or territory of a country to what it had been 300 years ago.

He urged the Special Committee to deal with the question of Gibraltar as a case of decolonization by self-determination and not to disqualify itself from action by virtue of the mere existence of a sovereignty dispute.  The sovereignty dispute was separate from the issue of decolonization.  For years, he had urged the Special Committee and the Fourth Committee to stop calling for bilateral negotiations between the colonial Power, the United Kingdom, and the claimant, Spain, to overcome all differences between them.  He had also said that Gibraltar would never agree to take part in a dialogue structured bilaterally between the colonial Power and the sovereignty claimant, as such a structure intrinsically violated the political rights of the people.

While he would value dialogue with Spain, the principle of consent and the right of the people to decide their future was paramount, he said.  Dialogue must be on an open agenda basis.  On that front, there had been a significant breakthrough.  In December 2004, a new three-sided forum for dialogue on Gibraltar separate from the Brussels Process had been established by a joint statement issued by the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Government of Gibraltar.  In the new forum, dialogue would be on an open agenda basis; each of the three parties would have its own separate voice and would participate on the same basis.  Any decisions reached within the forum had to be agreed upon by all three participants.

He applauded Spain’s decision to facilitate the establishment of the new trilateral process of dialogue.  He applauded also Spain’s declared wish to normalize its relations with Gibraltar and its people.  Good progress had been made since the new process had been established.  He formally acknowledged Spain’s removal of restrictions on cruise ships sailing between Gibraltar and Spanish ports and also the removal of the ban on Gibraltar-bound civilian air flights diverting, in the case of bad weather, to nearby Spanish airports.  Those were welcome first steps.  It was presumably the establishment of that new trilateral forum that explained the disappearance from the conclusions and recommendations of this year’s seminar of support for the bilateral process between the United Kingdom and Spain under the Brussels Process.  He welcomed that as the logical consequence of the establishment of the new process, as the two processes were incompatible and could not operate in parallel or at the same time.

While Gibraltar would continue to take part in the new dialogue process, it would never compromise its right to freely deicide its own political future in accordance with the right of self-determination, he concluded.

JOSEPH JOHN BOSSANO, Leader of the Opposition in Gibraltar, said that the Caribbean Regional Seminar held on Canouan Island, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, had shown that there was now a genuine desire to complete the unfinished business of closing the chapter on colonialism and completing the work of the Special Committee within the time scale of the Second International Decade for the Eradication of Colonialism.  The Chairman had stressed the need to look forward and concentrate on the implementation phase, in order not to fall into the trap of repeating conclusions and recommendations for the next five years only to end up declaring a third decade.

He said that Gibraltar’s commitment to the defence of its self-determination and the aspirations of its people to achieve decolonization had been expressed before the Special Committee ever since it had concluded in 1965 that the decolonization Declaration was fully applicable to the Territory and its people.  It was about time the Special Committee unambiguously declared its unconditional support for Gibraltar’s right to self-determination.  On many occasions in the last 10 years members of the Special Committee had stated clearly that there was no alternative to self-determination.  The 2002 Pacific Regional Seminar in Fiji had stated in conclusion 8:  “In the process of decolonisation, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right.”  Regrettably, at a subsequent seminar in 2004, that had been amended to read:  “In the process of Decolonisation, and where there is no dispute over sovereignty, there is no alternative to the principle of self-determination, which is also a fundamental human right.”

Although that had not been discussed at this year’s Seminar, he noted, it had found its way into the draft report as conclusion 11, purely on the basis that it had been there last year after the Papua New Guinea seminar.  In paragraph 39 of that draft report, the participants this year called on the Special Committee to integrate, as far as possible, the recommendations of the seminar into its relevant resolutions on decolonization as important expressions of the will of the peoples of the Territories.  How did the existence of a sovereignty dispute create an alternative to self-determination?  How could one argue that, in such a case, self-determination did not apply and in the same breath say that self-determination was a fundamental human right?  What was the alternative that allegedly was available to the colonial peoples seeking decolonization in such circumstances?  Mediation in territorial sovereignty disputes between Member States was not the role of the Special Committee and had nothing to do with the decolonization process.

Gibraltar was not blind to the difficulties surrounding the Territories where such disputes existed, he said.  In Gibraltar’s case, the negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain to resolve their sovereignty dispute had last taken place three years ago.  The proposed solution of shared sovereignty, which in any case would not have decolonized the Territory, had been totally rejected by Gibraltar in the 2002 referendum and, as far as it was concerned, that was the end of the matter, as well as the end of any further future sovereignty discussions between the United Kingdom and Spain.  Spain, under the new Socialist Government, had indicated a willingness to reduce the level of hostility against Gibraltar of the last 40 years and the long-established policy of carrot and stick, it seemed, was due to be replaced by more carrots and less stick.

However, Spain had been required by Article 74 of the United Nations Charter to conduct its relations with all Chapter XI Territories, including Gibraltar, on the basis of good neighbourliness, he noted.  Spain may hope that by acting in accordance with the Charter it would be able, at some distant future date, to revive the sovereignty dispute.  However, what was unacceptable was that, because Spain placed its sovereignty claim on hold, Gibraltar should do the same with its right to self-determination, even if that appeared to suit the administering Power.  Decolonization had to proceed, irrespective of what Spain did or did not do.  Gibraltar’s decolonization was purely a matter for Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and the Special Committee.

MARGARET HUGHES FERRARI (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said the blandishments of the Special Committee and the failure to make progress regarding Gibraltar’s self-determination were well founded, inducing a sense of guilt in her delegation.  She was happy to hear, however, that there had been some good news, namely the introduction of the tripartite talks.  In the new climate of cooperation, had the Chairman approached the administering Power with regard to sending a visiting mission to Gibraltar?  If not, did he intend to so in the near future?

Responding, Committee Chairman JULIAN R. HUNTE (Saint Lucia) said he did intend to approach the matter with a “fresh pair of eyes”, which was why he had said earlier in the meeting that consideration would be given during the course of the Committee’s deliberation on the matter.  The purpose of hearings was not only to sit and listen, but to determine how to approach the issue.  His first course of action would be to discuss the matter with the bureau and the wider membership, so it would have ideas on how to proceed.

Mr. CARUANA said that the position of the British Government, as expressed to him was that it had no difficulty with a visiting mission.  Spain’s representative, in his speech last year, had said that Spain objected to the visit, as the only purpose of such a visit would be to advance the claim of the people of Gibraltar to self-determination.  He said “amen” to that.  The Committee should make decisions on the basis of hearing from the three parties.  The Committee should assess for itself whether the people of Gibraltar were worthy to exercise the right to self-determination.

Mr. OYARZÚN (Spain) explained that, in his statement last year, he had mentioned various reasons why Spain did not feel it timely to send a visiting mission to Gibraltar.  The Minister had just mentioned one reason.  A number of reasons had been put forward regarding that.

Mr. HUNTE, Committee Chairman, suggested that the Committee, taking into account the related developments, continue consideration of the question of Gibraltar at its next session, subject to any directives which the Assembly might wish to give at its sixtieth session.  In that regard, he suggested that, in order to facilitate the consideration of the item at the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization), all relevant documentation should be transmitted to the Assembly’s sixtieth session.

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For information media. Not an official record.