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Why Gibraltar is still the rock of contention

The Spanish government has finally agreed to reopen its borders to Gibraltar.
Will the quarrels over the famous Rock at last pass into history?


FOR NEARLY 300 years Gibraltar has been a rock of contention between the British and the Spanish.

It seems, understandably, that nothing upsets Spanish pride more than a British royal visit to the Rock of Gibraltar.

Prince Philip's visit in 1950, for example, served to spotlight the controversy. And to highlight the British Parliament's long-range goal to grant self-government to the Rock's 30,000 inhabitants. Madrid immediately perceived that the vast majority (mostly foreign in origin) would not vote for a return to Spanish sovereignty.

Again, when Queen Elizabeth II stopped off at Gibraltar to complete her world tour in 1954, the Spanish blamed the British government for this "deliberate," provocative act. The Spanish press hauled out British "sins" from the so-called rape of Gibraltar in 1704 to Henry VIII's treatment of Catherine of Aragon.

All the furor finally ended with Premier Francisco Franco forbidding Spaniards to visit the Rock. (In 1969 Spanish authorities completely sealed off the border linking Spain with Gibraltar)

The last time the "royal yacht touched the Rock" was in 1981. Spain's King Juan Carlos declined to attend Prince Charles' wedding because Gibraltar was chosen as a convenient place to begin the royal honeymoon cruise in the Mediterranean. Over a week before, The Daily Express ran a headline captioned: "Spain Ready to Open Gibraltar." The upshot of that British decision to begin the royal honeymoon at Gibraltar was perhaps to delay the opening of the Spanish frontier.

But despite another wounding blow to Spain's sensitive national pride, why has Madrid finally agreed to open up Gibraltar to the mainland?


Spain Ready to Reenter Europe

In simple terms the reason for Spain's about-turn is her desire to effectively reenter modern Europe. Spain wants to join, finally, both NATO and the European Economic Community (EEC).

NATO's 15 members all appear to favor the Spanish application. And Spain hopes to formally enter the Common Market on New Year's Day, 1984.

Spain's basic decision to discard its traditional isolationism by becoming an integral part of the Western family of nations is a fundamental turning point in her modern history. It would be incongruous for Gibraltar to continue to be a bone of contention between two treaty partners in both a major economic and an important military alliance. Besides that, Spain desperately needs British support if her application to the EEC is to succeed at a time when wealthier community members are beleaguered with all sorts of internal economic problems.

In return for agreeing to open her borders to Gibraltar April 20, Spain received a British promise to hold more talks on "all differences over Gibraltar." There are some surprising elements in The Economist's comment on these proceedings. England's leading news magazine stated: "Britain has no objection in principle to handing Gibraltar over to Spain — providing this is acceptable to the majority of the Rock's inhabitants" (January 16, 1982).

It may surprise one to learn that even conservative thinkers have no objection to giving Gibraltar away.

The fact that the majority of all Gibraltarians want the Union Jack to fly over the Rock may not always guarantee British control, however. One provision hammered out during the recent talks between Spanish Prime Minister Calvo Sotelo and Mrs. Thatcher was to allow Spanish workers to take jobs in Gibraltar after April 20. That particular proviso may prove to be the thin end of the wedge. For instance, if and when Spain is allowed to enter the EEC, these Spanish workers will automatically receive more favored status. This in turn opens up the possibility of a new scenario.

The Christian Science Monitor expressed it very succinctly: "What Gibraltarians fear is that Spain will encourage enough [workers] to establish themselves in Gibraltar to swing the vote in Spain's favor in any future referendum to decide the colony's eventual status" (January 18, 1982).


Gibraltar in Prophecy?

It looks as if Gibraltar is going the way of the Panama Canal. Britons seem determined to negotiate the Rock away in the same basic manner that Americans turned the Canal over to ultimate Panamanian sovereignty.

In some ways the Spanish attitude puts Britain to shame. In the words of a contemporary book, "Gibraltar is not a necessity to Spain — strategic, economic or political. . . . It goads Spain's pride" (Benjamin Wells, Spain: The Gentle Anarchy, page 234). Without a doubt that is an overstatement, but it serves to help make this basic point: Spaniards are divided on many important political and economic issues, but they all agree on one point.


Pride in a Spanish Gibraltar

Lackadaisical Britons with little pride in their power or in their inheritance are ready to negotiate the Rock away. In the ringing prophetic words of a long previous issue of The Plain Truth: "Gibraltar is destined to fall — not in glorious and heroic defense after a famous siege — but in utter ignominy. In useless and helpless sacrifice — in disgrace and shame" (June, 1965).

Few understand why we could say this in The Plain Truth 17 years ago. Fewer still understand what Gibraltar really represents to Britain. Little do the British realize who gave them the Rock, why it was given and why it will be taken away. If you have not before heard of the answers to these questions, then you should request our free book entitled The United States and Britain in Prophecy. It will give you a new under-standing of the Gibraltar controversy that you never had before. And a new look into the surprising future of Europe in the 1980s.