Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said here Friday that he is in favor of a four-part dialogue - Spain, Britain, Gibraltar and Spain’s Andalusia region - to overcome current tensions surrounding the Rock.
After meeting with King Juan Carlos in the monarch’s summer office, Rajoy justified the presence of Andalusians and Gibraltarians in the local administration of fisheries and the environment, two problems at the core of current differences regarding the British overseas territory.
As for the next British naval maneuvers in waters of the Strait, the prime minister said they were scheduled some time ago and are part of the “good” bilateral relations between Madrid and London.
Rajoy’s words came on the heels of the antagonism sparked by certain Gibraltar incidents.
Gibraltarian tugboats dropped 70 huge concrete blocks into the sea near the Spanish town of La Linea de la Concepcion two weeks ago to create an artificial reef in Spanish waters near the Rock, prompting complaints from Spanish fishermen and leading to an investigation by Spain’s special prosecutor for environmental crimes.
Spain tightened border controls last week, causing long delays for Gibraltarians and upsetting officials on the Rock and in London.
Rajoy told the press Friday after speaking with the king that Spain reserves the right to adopt measures in defense of its interests and that, in any case, they will be “legal, in proportion, conditional and non-discriminatory.”
The prime minister recalled that he spoke last year with British counterpart David Cameron about the need to discuss issues like fisheries and environmental protection, but that never happened and, for his part, Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabian Picardo “has taken his own decisions.”
After speaking on the phone with Cameron on Wednesday, Rajoy expressed confidence that there will now be a four-part dialogue.
“It can be done,” he said.
Gibraltar, a territory of 5.5 sq. kilometers (2.1 sq. miles) at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, has been held by Britain since 1704 and became a British Crown Colony in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.