:::: MENU ::::

If Gibraltar wants to solve its border headache with Spain, it should join Schengen

gibraltarSo the Spain-Gibraltar border dispute rumbles on. Queues at the land border to enter Gibraltar persist, and suggestions abound that Spain may introduce a charge to cross from Gibraltar into Spain. Meanwhile Tory MEP for the South West & Gibraltar, Ashley Fox, has called on the European Commission to take immediate action and send a team to check what’s happening at the border.

It strikes me that the Commission is not going to care too much about checks and delays at the border. This complaint, after all, comes from the UK, and the UK does precisely that to any visitor coming to the British Isles from anywhere else in the EU as the UK is not in Schengen. Plus the UK’s political capital on any Justice & Home Affairs issue is very low in Brussels just now. So I cannot see the Commission caring too much about some queues as a result of border checks. Charging to cross a border is a different matter, but we are not there yet.

But what should Gibraltar do?

Here’s an idea. Rather than trying to whip up nationalist fervour in the UK, how about making a case for Gibraltar to join Schengen? That would mean Spain would not actually be allowed to control systematically at the border to Gibraltar. Problem solved.

How then could it work?

Gibraltar is part of the EU, although not a part of the common VAT area or customs union (details here). But neither of those has stopped Switzerland joining Schengen. There is also the precedent of Mount Athos that is in Schengen. There are also numerous precedents for parts of Member States being in Schengen, and others not being in Schengen – French overseas territories for example. Furthermore, Gibraltar is not part of the UK-Ireland Common Travel Area, so passports are needed for travel to the UK. This would mean Gibraltar joining Schengen would be a lot less complicated than the Republic of Ireland doing so.

To do so two things would have to happen. The UK government would have to agree to let Gibraltar join Schengen (but if it took a diplomatic problem off their hands, why not agree?) and then all current EU Member States would have to agree to its accession. If Spain were to threaten to veto, other Member States would surely point out Spain’s inconsistency as it is itself within Schengen and has no problem with the principle. If Gibraltar were to signal its intention to join Schengen it would also surely receive a more favourable attitude from the Commission in the meantime.

So then folks, when you face a border dispute, how about thinking of getting rid of the border?

Photo: "Gibraltar - Jock's Balcony" by Andries Seutens on June 24, 2009 via Flickr, Creative Commons Attribution

66 Comments

  • JorgeG |

    @ Martin Keegan, I don’t normally enter into debates with people from UKIP, I agree that I inadvertently contradicted myself.

    I did so because I was under the view, which I still hold, that Gibraltar cannot apply to join Schengen on its own, only the UK could apply to join Schengen and this application would apply to Gibraltar as well. Of course this view is hotly contested by our colleague Jon, the blog owner. But I respect his position that legally it may be possible.

    So what I meant is that the UK has no say on whether the UK applies to join Schengen, application to be extended to Gibraltar. Of course, any Schengen member can veto the entry of a new member as we see now with The Netherlands (and I think other countries) vetoing the entry of Romania and Bulgaria.

    Regarding the other issue, self determination, it seems from Wikipedia (refer to one of my posts above) that not even the UK recognises the right of self-determination of Gibraltar. It only recognises their right to remain British but not their right to be independent (rightly so as this contradicts the Treaty of Utrecht).

    Hence, since the right to self-determination is by definition not a relative right, then the UK itself doesn’t recognise the right to self-determination of Gibraltar. Why should Spain then?

  • JorgeG |

    @ Martin Keegan, if you’re not from UKIP or rather EIP, pls accept my apologies, you just sound like one of them…

  • Martin Keegan |

    @JorgeG, of course I am not from UKIP or EIP, and you make yourself look ridiculous by saying that you think I might be! I don’t know why you would usually not debate with people from UKIP – I presume you are performing some kind of disdain about them, in which case you’re a few years behind the times.

    We’ve explained how the current rules of Schengen would need to be changed to permit a territory like Gibraltar to join Schengen. It’s begging the question to say that Gibraltar can’t join because the rules don’t currently permit it, and getting beneath my intellectual dignity to point this out.

    I’m not sure what the UK’s position on self-determination for Gibraltar really adds: of course the UK doesn’t want Gibraltar to become independent – otherwise it’d have to lease the naval base from the Gibraltarians to stop them selling it to the Russians (doubtless a problem Spain would prefer not to have any time soon).

    I really don’t “sound like” someone from UKIP – my arguments about what is good and bad about the EU, and why the UK should leave, don’t overlap very strongly with their arguments, style or rhetoric.

  • Anselmo |

    The problem of Gibraltar is that many spanish people dislikes that UK ,using this Colony, parasitice the Spanish economy and increase their territory filling the waters surrounding the Rock, waters that belongs to Spain.

    For to solve the problem of the Colony, will be necessary that UK became a good neighbour of the country of he feeds, finishing practically all their economical activities and returning to Spain all the territores ocuppied violating the Treaty of Utrech.

    For to solve the today´s problem, the solution is to recover the bloks of concrete.

    To send war ships is a big mistake that show that the Brits are not aware that the times of the Opium War have passed, and involves the risk of a escalate very harmful for UK and his allies, including Spain, and only good for the interests of the Western World enemies

  • Iestyn ap Robert |

    @JorgeG There is no legal impediment to Gibraltar joining Schengen on its own, it is a separate jurisdiction to the UK and recognised as such by the EU. The UK does not need to join first. Any application to join by Gibraltar would need to be made by the UK on Gibraltar’s behalf.

  • RICH E |

    even if its in schengen, wouldnt stop spain from creating a bottleneck of a road system near the border. the best thing to do is pull the economic plug from spain.

  • JorgeG |

    @ keegan,

    “We’ve explained how the current rules of Schengen would need to be changed to permit a territory like Gibraltar to join Schengen. It’s begging the question to say that Gibraltar can’t join because the rules don’t currently permit it, and getting beneath my intellectual dignity to point this out.”

    Sorry not sure what you mean. There are many views in this blog about whether Gibraltar can legally join Schengen on its own or not. In any case the debate is totally academic as Spain would veto it as sure as night follows day.

    On the other hand, if it was the UK that joined Schengen, Spain’s position would be far more difficult as IMO it couldn’t veto Gibraltar’s entry into Schengen without vetoing the UK’s entry itself. Of course this is also academic, the UK won’t attempt to join Schengen on account of the reasons that I will repeat again and more clearly, a toxic and self-reinforcing combination of:

    – Post-imperial delusions of grandeur
    – OBCD (Obsessive Border Control Disorder)

    It is the UK that looks completely and utterly hypocritical and frankly stupid in this conflict by claiming that Spanish border controls with Gibraltar are illegal because they are supposedly against the EU principle of freedom of movement and politically motivated. It is utterly stupid to say so because the UK is itself imposing border controls inside the EU (the only EU member to stubbornly reject Schengen, on account of the above toxic combination), these border controls are:

    – DISPROPORTIONATE, as I have personally experienced on several ocassions after arriving from an EU country in third rate UK airports and having to queue for around an hour in at least two occasions, and any time in between fifteen minutes and half an hour on countless of occasions.

    Also spare a thought for the disproportionate border controls that passengers of Eurostar service from Aix-en-Provence have to endure, in something far more reminiscent of the dark days of the Iron Curtain than with 21st century Europe.

    “The inbound train stops in Lille to enable passport checks. You will need to alight the train, have your passport checked and then reboard the train. The train will arrive in Lille at 20.38 and depart at 22.04.”

    http://www.raileurope.co.uk/?tabid=1663

    If this is not disproportionate, asking passengers to disembark the train to queue for the UK border police to scan their passport in a procedure that will delay their journey for almost 90 minutes, I would like to know what is. The fact that nobody, not even Mr Jon Worth denounces this just goes to show how the UK Gov has brainwashed their populace into submission.

    – POLITICALLY MOTIVATED as the UK is the only EU member that rejects Schengen for political reasons: a pervasive xenophobia running at the core of middle England and spurred by their unelected tabloid bureaucrats, without the support of either of which, no political party in the UK can win power.

    “British more anti-immigrant and xenophobic than rest of western Europe, survey suggests”

    http://www.theguardian.com/uk/2009/dec/03/british-against-eu-immigration-powers

  • Martin Keegan |

    @JorgeG

    “There are many views in this blog about whether Gibraltar can legally join Schengen on its own or not”. This is disingenuous. It’s clear from the comments that the rules currently effectively prohibit dependent territories (Gibraltar, Jersey, Greenland, etc) from joining, but that they can be changed by majority vote. However, Spain and the UK would have a veto on Gibraltar joining, once the rules had been changed. I don’t see anyone disputing this. if you honestly don’t understand this, that’s probably your problem.

    There are two, separate questions: “what can join?” (majority vote) “who can join?” (unanimous vote, subject to veto)

    Remember that you didn’t know what you were talking about on the question “who can join?” and had to change your mind on the question of the veto.

    Your constant baiting of the UK (I’m not going to give airtime to the specific slogans) really adds nothing and just makes your screeds longer and harder to read. But these racist taunts also distract you from the truth: the UK, contrary to your claims above, is not the only EU member state outside Schengen. Ireland and Cyprus are outside, too. I hardly think Ireland is going to be on some post-imperial nostalgia binge, or be suffering from border control fetishism – it’s in a free travel area with neighbouring territories!

    As to Cyprus: the UK has territory on the island. The UK territory in Cyprus uses the Euro. The UK supports the idea of Cyprus joining Schengen, and wants the UK territory on the island to become part of Schengen.

    I am not going to enter into some debate with you about whether your get out of “for political reasons” on the subject of why EU states don’t all join Schengen somehow excepts the Republic of Ireland, because debate with you is pointless, because you strike me as just too intellectually dishonest, or just not bright enough, to carry on this sort of debate. See also http://www.politicsforum.org/images/flame_warriors/flame_62.php; the constant race baiting and attacking the UK is just pathetic. I note you also comment on 972mag, which puts your comments on self-determination into a more sinister light.

  • JorgeG |

    @ keegan

    “It’s clear from the comments that the rules currently effectively prohibit dependent territories (Gibraltar, Jersey, Greenland, etc) from joining”

    If you read my posts above, I started my contributions to this article by disputing the idea suggested by Jon Worth that Gibraltar could join Schengen WITHOUT the UK joining. I then became embroiled in a controversy with Jon because he is obviously of the opinion that Gibraltar can legally join Schengen without the UK joining.

    Therefore I don’t understand what you are on about. If you are saying that dependent territories are prohibited from joining Schengen then this is essentially what I was arguing in my earlier posts.

    If you are saying that Spain has a veto on Gibraltar joining, again this is also what I am saying.

    I suggest we leave this part of the debate to rest since you are inventing disagreements that do not exist.

    As for this:

    “But these racist taunts also distract you from the truth: the UK, contrary to your claims above, is not the only EU member state outside Schengen. Ireland and Cyprus are outside, too.”

    First of all, there is no racism involved here and your resort to accusing someone of racism shows that you have few intelligent arguments. My antagonism with certain elements of the populace is not related to racism but to their bigotry, ignorance and xenophobia. I have great respect for certain British people, e.g. Jon Worth – hence why I participate in this blog – and I also have very good English colleagues at work with whom I have endless conversations about business and many other issues over a pint or two.

    Your sentence above betrays your ignorance on Schengen (and probably other) matters:

    1. Ireland wished to join Schengen bu was unable to do so precisely due to the UK’s refusal:

    If you read the Treaty of Amsterdam there is a ” Declaration by Ireland on Article 3 of the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland” which, buried in the small print explains the position of Ireland:

    “Ireland recalls that its participation in the Protocol on the application of certain aspects of Article 7a of the Treaty establishing the European Community reflects its wish to maintain its Common Travel Area with the United Kingdom in order to maximise freedom of movement into and out of Ireland.”

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/dat/11997D/htm/11997D.html#0143040072

    Then in the “Protocol on the application of certain aspects of Article 7a of the Treaty establishing the European Community to the United Kingdom and to Ireland” translating this into layman’s speak, it means that

    http://eur-lex.europa.eu/en/treaties/dat/11997D/htm/11997D.html#0097010006

    – Article 1 – The UK rejects Schengen because it wants to exercise border controls onto any person entering the UK from another EU state.

    – Article 2 – The UK and Ireland will continue to make arrangements between themselves with regards to the Common Travel Area (the one that the previous government was adamant on dismantling, and as for the present one, I am not too sure). As a result Article above will also apply to Ireland [hence Ireland's priority is only to maintain the CTA, and in order to do this it is forced out of Schengen]

    – Article 3 – Since the UK rejects Schengen and will continue to impose border controls vis a vis other EU countries, the rest of the EU will also exercise border controls vis a vis the UK [= Gibraltar subject to border controls to enter Spain mainland territory]

    As for Cyprus

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Schengen_Area#Prospective_members

    “Although Cyprus, which joined the EU in 2004, is legally bound to join the Schengen Area, implementation has been delayed because of the Cyprus dispute”

    Enough said, your ignorance laid plain for anyone to see.

  • JorgeG |

    ” I note you also comment on 972mag, which puts your comments on self-determination into a more sinister light.”

    Well, keegan your imagination reaches ever higher heights… please run that one past me again, as I have never heard of 972mag…

  • JorgeG |

    @ keegan

    “Ferrous Cranus is utterly impervious to reason, persuasion and new ideas”

    Do you mean these ideas:

    http://www.thecorner.eu/news-europe/anti-eu-media-poison-uk-public-opinion/23191/

    “Anti-EU media poison UK public opinion”

    “In the UK, four media owners are known to hold eurosceptic positions, Rupert Murdoch (The Times, The Sun), Richard Desmond (The Express, The Star), the Barclay brothers (The Daily Telegraph), and the Daily Mail and General Trust. In September 2012, these titles accounted for the circulation of 74.1%, about 6.4 million copies, of British daily newspapers.”

    Not sure about Ferrous Cranus, but to me the above is a classic case of a great thought by Walter Lippmann:

    “When everyone thinks the same, nobody is thinking.”

    Indeed the tabloids and pamphlets mentioned above should be treated as weapons of mass idiotisation and indoctrination: First you idiotise the populace, then you indoctrinate them.

  • Sparticus |

    Andorra is not part of Schengen yet there are no border checks between Spain and Andorra. Perhaps because it is a ‘legit’ place for tax evaders from that country to use, whereas Gib is not?

  • Chris Davies |

    “Gibraltar can’t join Schengen” “Spain will block it”

    This is all nonsense. There is no way Gibraltar would want to join Schengen. The people in power in Gibraltar don’t really care the negatives of the border (they are too rich to care), only the positives. It’s a benefit to be able to have a strict division between Gibraltar and La Linea. Without it it would all blend into each other and ultimately weaken Gibraltar’s reason for existing. Gibraltar LOVES to be able to use the border as an excuse for its workers as if it’s imposed by Spain. Gibraltar puts all those signs up near the border – just like someone would do as if they felt guilty about it themselves.

So, what do you think ?