Mariano Rajoy has vowed to retain the right to exercise “all legal means” at the state’s disposal to guarantee Spain’s interests in the latest diplomatic stand-off over Gibraltar.
The prime minister aimed a broadside at the authorities on the Rock for what he termed the “unilateral breaking” of the 1999 agreement between Spain and Gibraltar concerning fishing rights to the waters around the British colony. Gibraltar has taken the step of laying concrete blocks to stop Spanish boats from fishing in Algeciras Bay.
Speaking after the traditional prime ministerial visit with the vacationing king in Marivent, Rajoy said relations with the UK were “good” but also warned: “That doesn’t have anything to do with a specific matter, which is the case with Gibraltar.”
The prime minister indicated there would be no let-up in the stringent checks at the border, which have raised the hackles of the Gibraltar authorities and led to lengthy queues going into and out of the colony.
“We have to carry out controls, as we have been doing these past few days and because it complies with the EU’s environmental regulations,” he said.
Rajoy met with Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo, who is also vacationing on Mallorca, earlier Friday. The government has reiterated its “openness to dialogue” with David Cameron’s administration, while the UK has announced that a Royal Navy fleet of three warships and a helicopter carrier will soon be stopping off in Gibraltar en route to military exercises in the Adriatic and elsewhere.
Spain ceded Gibraltar and Menorca to Great Britain in 1713 under the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht, which brought the War of the Spanish Succession to an end. Since then, sovereignty of the waters in Algeciras Bay, where the Spanish fleet based in La Línea has traditionally fished, has always been a point of contention.
Last year, a diplomatic incident flared up when Gibraltar banned trawlers from the area, stating their use contravened EU regulations.