25 May 2001


Press Release


(Received from a UN Information Officer.)

HAVANA, Cuba, 25 May – If constitutional reform was undertaken in Gibraltar, it would lead to a serious deterioration of relations between the United Kingdom and Spain, the representative of Spain this morning told participants of the Caribbean regional seminar to review the political, economic and social conditions in the small island Non-Self-Governing Territories.  The seminar was organized by the Special Committee on the Situation with regard to the Implementation of the Declaration on the Granting of Independence to Colonial Countries and Peoples --known as the Special Committee of 24.

The representative of Spain, reacting to comments made yesterday, said Gibraltar was a colony of the United Kingdom but the population was not a colonized people, as it was not an indigenous population.  Gibraltar had been taken by force from an existing State and the population was one of a military base, although the strategic importance of that base had now diminished.  Gibraltar could be compared to Hong Kong, for instance.

The tourist industry of Gibraltar was thriving because it was a duty-free zone and its financial industry was “pretty opaque”. It was a tax paradise for 80,000 companies, 10 companies per family; all to the detriment of its neighbour Spain.  The position of Spain regarding the situation of Gibraltar had been attacked, but rather, it was the position of the United Nations.  According to the Organization, Gibraltar was a matter of territorial integrity affecting Spain.  The situation of Gibraltar must be settled through bilateral negotiations between the United Kingdom and Spain.  The United Nations had repeated its position many times.

For political reasons, the Treaty of Utrecht was outdated, but the presence of the British in Gibraltar rested on that Treaty, and that Treaty excluded any change in its colonial status without Spain’s consent.

Peter Caruna, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, said the intervention of Spain was a monument to the importance of the visiting missions by the Special Committee to Non-Self-Governing Territories.  Distortions of the sort just stated would then no longer be possible, and the Special Committee would not have to rely on self-serving statements.  He asked why Spain was opposed to those missions to Gibraltar.  If the representative of Spain was so certain of the accuracy of his arguments, why would he reject taking the case to the International Court of Justice?

The people of Gibraltar were much less the descendants of colonizers than the people in South American countries who had exercised their right to self-determination.  It was a premeditated untruth for the representative of Spain to refer to the Gibraltar financial industry as opaque.  Gibraltar was part of the European Union and complied with all its directives.

The representative of Spain answered that visiting missions had to be approved by the administering Power, the United Kingdom.  Spain did not have any problem with such visits.

The representative of Venezuela said there was need to speed up the final eradication of the colonialism.  A third or fourth decade should not be necessary.  The consideration by the Special Committee during its next session of social and economic conditions in the Non-Self-Governing Territories was essential.  Consolidation of mechanisms for dialogue between the Committee and the parties concerned was also important.

Greater and better assistance of the United Nations to Non-Self-Governing Territories was a matter of concern to his country.  The meetings between the Special Committee and the Economic and Social Council should be sped up.

Phyllis Flemings-Bank, expert from Anguilla, announced that during the seminar, experts from several non-independent countries had come together to form the International Expert Group on Self-Determination to stimulate and encourage the flow of information relative to self-determination among non-independent countries, to provide expert commentary and analysis, and to provide a forum for the presentation, articulation and discussion of views of experts covering non-independent countries, including Non-Self-Governing Territories.

The founding experts agreed that impartial and intensive education on political status issues within the Territories was critical to progress towards self-determination.  There was also consensus on the practical need for direct contact between the Special Committee and those Territories within its jurisdiction, as well as a procedure to ensure that its jurisdiction included all countries with a right to self-determination.

The seminar then discussed specific paragraphs of the draft conclusions and recommendation to be included in the report to be approved this afternoon.  The draft report was introduced by the Chairman of the Draft Committee, Fayssal Mekdad (Syria).

Fred Phillips, expert from Antigua and Barbuda, Antonio Cousino, observer, Chedmond Browne, Montserrat, Carlyne Corbin, United States Virgin Islands, Joe Bossano, observer, and Judith Bourne, United Nations Association of the Virgin Islands, also spoke, as did the representatives of China, Argentina and the United Kingdom.

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For information media. Not an official record.