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Gibraltar airs EU advice to Spain over constant border delays

Brussels expresses concern over “lack of progress” improving conditions at La Verja

Lines of cars waiting to get out of Gibraltar.
Lines of cars waiting to get out of Gibraltar.Andrés Carrasco

Gibraltar has publicized the contents of a letter that the European Commission sent Spain on July 30 regarding an inspection of traffic problems in the border area between both.

Principal Minister Fabian Picardo had already released the letter that Gibraltar received from European authorities, who urged action against tobacco smuggling.

Picardo then asked the Spanish government to do the same with its own letter for the sake of transparency. Given the lack of response, Gibraltar has decided to go ahead and publish the contents of the same, to show what kind of criticism Spain is getting from Brussels.

In the letter, the Commission expresses concern about “the lack of progress" observed by the experts during their July inspection, compared with the first mission to the area in September 2013.

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The European executive also notes that “the five-hour delays to exit Gibraltar and enter Spain on June 11 and 15, 2014 were disproportionate,” and that it expects work to improve the border facilities to be completed by next summer.

Brussels also asked Spain to eliminate its policy of inspecting all vehicles coming through La Verja for brief periods of time, as these controls do not appear to be proportionate and contribute greatly to the delays.

Other timeframes in which 20 to 50 percent of vehicles get searched should be reduced considerably, European experts recommend.

The Commission also notes that inspecting vehicles coming from Spain “is not justified,” as the point of the searches is allegedly to prevent smuggling from Gibraltar.

Further recommendations include expanding the number of available lanes and improving the exchange of information between authorities on both sides.

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