Gibraltar border row: EU officials swoop in to police contested area – Would be honoured

Picardo: Nothing will cleave Gibraltar from the UK

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Frontex, the bloc’s border control agency, said it was ready to manage Gibraltar’s external borders. They said: “We know that Spain and also the UK have expressed their wish that Frontex can help in the entry points of the external borders.”

The executive director of Frontex, Fabrice Leggeri, has assured that “it would be an honour” for the European border control agency to assume control of the external border with Gibraltar if Spain requested it, as advanced in late July by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, José Manuel Albares.

“It would be an honour if Spain, the United Kingdom, Gibraltar and the European Commission ask Frontex to take on this task or to support this type of task, it would be an honour for Frontex,” the Frenchman stressed in an interview with Europa Press.

Mr Leggeri explained that this would mean controlling the entry and exit of citizens through the port and airport of Gibraltar, carrying out tasks such as checking identity documents or supervising visas when needed.

“We know that Spain and also the United Kingdom have expressed their wish that the Permanent Corps of Frontex can help at the entry points of the external borders of Gibraltar and that means controlling arrivals and departures at the port and the airport”, he said.

The executive director of the European border control agency has expressed that “everyone is working, including the (European) Commission to find the legal framework to make this possible.”

On July 22, and in the framework of a meeting with his British counterpart Dominic Raab, Spanish Minister Albares reiterated that Spain’s wish is to request the assistance of Frontex agents to exercise control of the external border with Gibraltar.

Two days before, the European Commission had presented a proposal for a mandate to negotiate with the United Kingdom the end of the border fence in Gibraltar, as agreed by both Madrid and London last December, although it makes it clear that the Rock will continue to be outside the Schengen borderless area, with controls at the airport and ports.

According to this mandate, which has yet to be approved before negotiations begin, this task would in principle fall on the Spanish authorities, something that both the British Government and the Gibraltar authorities reject.

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The head of Spanish diplomacy, however, insisted Spain’s wish is to request Frontex to assume border control and justified the decision by stating the need to “create a climate of trust” in the Rock because “there are many interests at play.”

Gibraltar, a British Overseas Territory, has been at the centre of a row between the UK and EU after Brexit. However, despite the UK and EU striking a trade deal, access to Gibraltar was not included. Under an EU proposal, Spain would gain control over the country’s external border.

The Government of Gibraltar has said they refuse to accept any proposal which gives control of its borders away.

In a statement, they said they are “fully united and blended” with the UK on the future of the country.

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They added that “they will never accept a Treaty that resembles in any way the mandate issued by the European Commission”.

In the statement, Gibraltar suggested the EU’s proposals go “beyond the delicate balance reached in the New Year’s Eve Agreement on very sensitive issues and it is unacceptable for the Government as a basis for negotiation”.

Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, also welcomed the support of Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab “for having so clearly stipulated the position of the United Kingdom, which is fully in line with ours”.

The British minister met with José Manuel Albares, Minister of Foreign Affairs, European Union and Cooperation, during his visit to London.

Mr Picardo then said: “No one should believe that we would ever be prepared to accept the things set out in the EU’s draft negotiating mandate.

“We will not even be prepared to accept things that are close to that. But the notion that Spanish law enforcement officers might be present on our land, at our port or airport, is one that the Government or the people of Gibraltar will not accept.

“That is not something that can be finessed or negotiated. That is a non-negotiable red line.

“I have said so throughout this process and I will not change my mind or my position. The Cabinet as a whole will not change the position of Gibraltar.

“Anyone who wants to argue against that or thinks that they can negotiate around it are driving this process into a brick wall.”

Additional reporting by Maria Ortega

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