Spain’s Foreign Ministry summoned Britain’s ambassador, Simon Manley, on Monday to protest what it called “reckless behavior” by a Royal Gibraltar Police (RGP) patrol boat in disputed waters off the Rock on July 8.
The Spanish authorities say that an RGP patrol boat traveling at high speed narrowly missed a Civil Guard vessel, causing a large wave that destabilized the Spanish boat.
The Foreign Office in London said that Spanish police had illegally entered British waters. The incident took place about one mile off the east coast of Gibraltar close to la Caleta, or Catalan Bay.
Shortly after taking office in 2012, the Popular Party (PP) proposed sharing sovereignty of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom
In a statement, Spain’s Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, Ignacio Ybáñez, accused the RGP of failing to contact the Spanish vessel “in any way.” Ybáñez called on Manley to take the necessary measures to prevent further incidents.
The clash is the latest in a long line of incidents in the disputed waters off Gibraltar.
During his meeting with Manley, Ybáñez reiterated Spain’s position regarding the areas in and around the Rock that were ceded to Britain in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.
Under the treaty, Spain ceded the port, the town, and its defenses, but not the isthmus that connects Gibraltar with the Spanish peninsula or the surrounding waters. Spain only recognizes as British the waters within the interior of the port itself.
Shortly after taking office in 2012, the Popular Party (PP) proposed sharing sovereignty of Gibraltar with the United Kingdom.
The PP government ended the so-called tripartite forum — which brought representatives from Madrid, London and Gibraltar together around the same table — and in its place suggested a forum featuring two or three groups, in which the leading role of the Gibraltar executive would be offset by the presence of the regional government of Andalusia and Campo de Gibraltar local authorities. But the British Foreign Office has refused.
Since then, Spanish authorities have imposed strict customs controls on vehicles entering and leaving Gibraltar, creating long delays. At the same time, RGP patrol boats harass Spanish vessels fishing in disputed waters.
Despite the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, Britain is unlikely to give up the overseas territory in the medium term; among other reasons because since the beginning of the 1990s it has been financially self-sufficient and does not cost the British treasury a single pound.
Meanwhile Gibraltarians — who have an average income of €47,000 a year compared with €17,000 in Andalusia, and who overwhelmingly favored the UK remaining in the EU — have made it clear they feel no desire to move closer to Spain.
English version by Nick Lyne.