Spanish Congress snubs foreign minister’s Gibraltar plans

New motion asks government to avoid “unilateral action” on disputed British Overseas Territory

José Manuel García-Margallo (l) at the Foreign Ministry.
José Manuel García-Margallo (l) at the Foreign Ministry.Mariscal (EFE)

Spanish Congress has implicitly rebuked the actions of its acting foreign minister over the issue of Gibraltar, describing them as “unilateral.”

On Wednesday, the lower chamber’s Foreign Affairs Committee approved a non-binding resolution asking the government to “establish an institutional framework on a state strategy for Gibraltar that should be reached by consensus.”

Margallo predicted that Gibraltar will see the benefits of remaining part of the EU through a deal with Spain

The motion is backed by the Socialist Party (PSOE), the Popular Party (PP) and Ciudadanos, who want to establish a common parliamentary position on the disputed British Overseas Territory.

The text specifically asks the government to avoid “actions which, in a unilateral way, could condition Spain’s negotiating position in future” with regard to the Brexit vote.

The motion fails to express any support for acting Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo’s recent offer of joint Spanish–British sovereignty for Gibraltar.

An offer that cannot be refused?

Shortly after Britain voted to leave the European Union – a move that residents of The Rock overwhelmingly opposed – the Spanish minister predicted that Gibraltar would soon see the benefits of remaining part of the EU through an association with Spain.

Margallo offered Gibraltarians dual nationality, broad powers of self-rule, special tax benefits and shared power between Madrid and London on matters of defense and foreign affairs.

It is unclear how Gibraltar will be affected by the British decision to leave the EU.
It is unclear how Gibraltar will be affected by the British decision to leave the EU.Ricardo Gutiérrez

He made his proposal at the meeting of the Fourth Commission of the United Nations General Assembly, which deals with decolonization.

On Wednesday, Socialist deputy Salvador de la Encina said that Margallo’s decision to present this offer at a world body without first telling his own parliament about it was “a very serious unilateral act.”

He also suggested that reappointing Margallo as the new official foreign minister, now that Spain has a new government, would not help the process of finding a solution to the longstanding dispute over Gibraltar, which Spain ceded to Britain under the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

Foreign Ministry sources said that Margallo discussed his position with party speakers at a lunch event on September 16 in Bratislava, Slovakia. The PSOE retorted that this event was not the proper place to talk about the issue.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is expected to announce his new cabinet later on Thursday.

English version by Susana Urra.

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