The “principle of agreement” between Spain and the United Kingdom reached in extremis the last day of 2020 – and under an unequivocal ultimatum from Madrid – by which the Gibraltar Gate will cease to be such in a few months contains clear signs of what may be a shared management of the affairs of the Rock, which is close to a kind of exercise of limited practical co-sovereignty between both countries.
When the bilateral agreement becomes official at the London-Brussels multilateral level – where Spain has the ability to veto decisions on the Rock – Gibraltar will join the Schengen area, with the free movement of people between 22 EU countries and other neighbors (Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein). This implies that this territory is partially incorporated into European space and politics, unlike the rest of the United Kingdom. And therefore, its relationship with one of its protagonists, Spain, is much closer than the ones it maintains with its metropolis in this area.
The border of the colony is thus transferred from the nearby Line of Concepción to the port and airport of Gibraltar, so that those who enter the Rock from Spain will not require a passport, but will require the British who travel to it from their island. In terms of border management, it can be said that the Rock attaches itself to Europe and leaves the former empire.
Port and airport control is in the hands of the EuropeanFrontedx agency, of which Spain is a partner and the United Kingdom is not: it will be Madrid that responds that the Schengen regulations apply in Gibraltar, sinceFrontedx agents will depend on from the Spanish authorities for the entry of a visitor and / or the granting of a short-term visa. The agreed period of transitory application is four years, and the Government assures that at its end it will be the Spanish gendarmerie that will replaceFrontedx in its control task.
It is obviously not a question of a Spanish-British co-sovereignty over the set of foreign relations, defense and immigration of the disputed territory. But it is the beginning of Spain’s access, through Europe, to one of its key and most symbolic elements, border management. If the British Prime Minister has defined the sovereignty that he has pursued with Brexit as “the control of our laws, our borders and our waters”, many will miss the second term of his motto: the border of Gibraltar will be borne by Europe. And it is that, together with currency, defense and diplomacy, the control of the territorial perimeter traditionally constitutes one of the essential sovereign competences of the nation state.
If nothing distorts this agreement, which will benefit the Gibraltarians and the Andalusian population of the areabove all – by permeating their dividing line – it will become a very consistent progress to improve their daily and work life and their neighborhood relations. It will also be the main diplomatic advance in three centuries to dilute the suspicion instilled in the local population around Spain, build a climate of mutual trust and reverse irregular practices (fiscal and environmental, among others) in the Rock. And therefore, an important step in the complex path of application of the decolonizing resolutions of the United Nations.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.