Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo stirred up the diplomatic waters on Wednesday when he announced the closing of the Cervantes Institute in Gibraltar, saying it did not make sense having a center promoting Spanish language and culture in an area that is considered “Spanish territory.”
“In Gibraltar everyone speaks Spanish, apart from the apes, ” the foreign minister said.
The government opened a branch of the Cervantes Institute in the British colony in 2006 as part of an agreement by the so-called Tripartite Forum that for the first time brought together representatives of Spain, Britain and Gibraltar at a meeting in Córdoba.
Speaking before the foreign relations committee in Congress, García-Margallo said he had decided to close the institute because he considered the Tripartite Forum to be concluded, as it had meant treating Gibraltar on an equal footing with Spain and Britain, which he called unacceptable.
In its place, Spain will now open a Cervantes Institute in Singapore. The non-profit centers are located in 20 different countries.
Spain’s top diplomat also denied that the government had pressured to prevent Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo from speaking earlier this month at the New Economic Forum. But he did acknowledge that he had let organizers know that he did not think it “useful” to allow the British ambassador in Madrid, Simon Manley, to introduce Picardo so he could deliver his “categorically false theories, such as Gibraltar is not a colony.”
Picardo finally addressed the event at a Madrid hotel paid for by Gibraltarian authorities.
“There isn’t one Spaniard who accepts the title of chief minister,” García-Margallo told lawmakers.