Gibraltar in the news again

Gibraltar in the news again


President of the Spanish Government Mariano Rajoy spoke to the United Nations recently. He explained the country’s economic situation, which is disastrous, though no fault of his own, and clarified what his government is doing (or trying to do) to improve the situation. But he also brought up the thorny and contentious subject of Gibraltar. He said that the two governments, British and Spanish and the UNO itself must reach a consensus of opinion about the Rock, and be quick about it. He pulled no punches. It is not his job to pull punches.
British submarine approaches Gibraltar /

British submarine approaches Gibraltar /

For those of our visitors who know little about Gibraltar, where it is, its importance, and what happened to bring about a kind of Falkland Islands/Argentina, Hong Kong/China (now resolved),  Formosa/China situation here is a brief resumé:

Gibraltar is a rocky headland and fortified town which dominates the narrow passage from The Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. This passage is only a few miles long, but has caused trouble since 1704.

Gibraltar is not a colony. It is a ‘dependency’ with its own Parliament, Laws and Prime Minister. In 711, the Rock (a huge sandstone semi-mountain, with a precipitous eastern face) was captured and fortified by the Moors, who named it Jabal al-Tariq (Mount of Tariq). During the many centuries of Spanish wars of liberation from the Moorish occupation of two thirds of their country, they (the Spanish) re-conqueredGibraltar in 1462. Everything stayed comparatively peacful until the Wars of the Spanish Succession (q.v.). In 1704 Sir George Rooke, commander of a big Anglo/Dutch fleet took the surrender of the Rock, and later this piece of wartime booty was ratified in the Treaty of Utrecht, signed officially by all those in authority, including of course representatives of the King and Government of Spain.

Naturally,Spain made repeated attempts to recover Gibraltar, as it did not and does not seem natural that a piece of Spanish land should belong to a foreign country. The Spanish, a nation of fiercely patriotic people (or at least until recently) have always found the Treaty of Utrecht unbearable, unfair and debatable. But the British hung on to the Rock because of its strategic importance, guarding the entrance to the Mediterranean.

In 1779 the Rock managed to repel a long siege made by Franco/Spanish forces; during both World Wars Gibraltar was important to the Allies as a naval base. The population which is tiny is a mixture of Spanish, Italian, Maltese and Portuguese, and are know as Gibraltareños. They are British passport holders.

General Franco closed Spain’s borders with Gibraltar (which he knew as El Peñon) in 1969, making commerce and family connections between Gibraltar and the rest of Spain difficult if not impossible. After an Agreement was reached in 1984, the borders were re-opened in 1985. Britain maintained ships of war including submarines there. At least two of the submarines were nuclear and in need of repair, which infuriated the Spanish people. Presidents of the Government can always be relied upon to be fierce about Gibraltar, because of the votes gained. British ground forces (but not the Navy) were withdrawn from Gibraltar in 1991. In a number of referendums, Gibraltareños have said they prefer allegiance to Britain, not Spain.


A ‘dependency’ is an independently governed state which will be defended by another, more powerful state of which it is not geographically a part in case of attack. Mozambique was never ruled by Britain, but is part of The Commonwealth of Nations. Burma (Myanmar) and Ireland have left the Commonwealth. Pakistan left and then re-joined. South Africa left, and then was re-admitted. Fiji left and then re-joined. Cameroonwas accepted in 1995.

Prime Minister David Cameron and his Foreign Secretary William Hague have a serious and perhaps unsolvable problem. If laws are passed giving back to Spain her own territory (Gibraltar), what is to be done with the population? Can places  be found for them within the Commonwealth, or in Britain herself? Would they be accepted in Malta, not so very far away? Turkey and Greece will not agree to have them in Cyprus. There is room for them in Israel, but Gibraltar is predominately Catholic. The United Nations has been set a task by Mariano Rajoy, who will obviously return to the fray as often as he finds necessary.

About the Author:

‘Dean Swift’ is a pen name: the author has been a soldier; he has worked in sales, TV, the making of films, as a teacher of English and history and a journalist. He is married with three grown-up children. They live in Spain.


  1. Tony September 28, 2012 at 4:44 pm - Reply

    There are no laws, there are no questions. The fate of Gibraltar lies in only the hands of the Gibraltarians, not Mr Cameron’s or Mr Hague’s. Spain needs to “wake up and smell the coffee” and end their claim. We voted to remain as we were because we like what we have right now. We will never surrender!

    • Dean Swift September 30, 2012 at 12:05 pm - Reply

      Tony: Good for you and all power to your elbow. I could not be more in agreement. Cheers! Dean

  2. Chris Johnson September 28, 2012 at 5:48 pm - Reply

    Mr Swift, do you understand the meaning of the terms “in perpetuity” or “self-determination”? If not, for the first, go and read the text of the Peace of Utrecht 1713, and for the latter UN Resolution 1541, or indeed have a read of this article:

    The people of Gibraltar have a legal right to decide their own sovereignty, and in many ways, 300+ year old treaties are now irrrelevant.

    As to territorial integrity, please also google the Spanish colonies of Ceuta and Melilla, on the Moroccan mainland – isn’t hypocrisy a wonderful thing!

  3. Robert James September 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm - Reply

    Mr Swift you clearly know as much about Gibraltar and its people as Ethel the aardvark does about quantity surveying.

    • Dean Swift September 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm - Reply

      Ethel the Aardvark? That might be a new source of information. I have always liked the name ‘Ethel’. Oh by the way I know as much about Gibraltar as you do, or anyone else for that matter. I know I am on the people of Gibraltar’s side. I know I am the side of anyone who cares to READ properly my articles. READ, MARK, LEARN AND INWARDLY DIGEST. Childishness has its place in this world of course!
      Best wishes, Dean.

  4. Chris Johnson September 28, 2012 at 11:41 pm - Reply

    Oh, by the way, on a geological note, the Rock of Gibraltar is limestone, not sandstone… More accurate research needed, perhaps?? 🙂

    • Dean Swift September 30, 2012 at 12:33 pm - Reply

      Now the historian has to be a geologist as well. Limestone is a sedimentary rock consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, used in the manufacture of cement. Sandstone means any of a group of sedimentary rocks mainly consisting of such materials as quartz, haematite, clay minerals, or limestone. Argue with the Encyclopaedia Britannica, not me. I cannot be bothered with minute details without general importance. If you like, ‘Gibraltar has a Rock which consists of limestone or sandstone’: do you feel better now? More important comments, perhaps?
      Best love to all, Dean.

  5. Chris Johnson September 28, 2012 at 11:49 pm - Reply

    … And the precipitous face is the northern face, not the eastern – have you actually ever visited Gibraltar to understand what it, and the Gibraltarians are all about?? Let me be the first to invite you to come and meet us. I am extremely well connected in all circles of Gibraltarian society, and would be delighted to formulate a programme for you to meet people from all parts of our community – you have my e-mail address.

    Maybe a little proper on the ground research may enable you to see things as they really are…

    • Dean Swift September 30, 2012 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      I should be so delighted to visit Gibraltar, but I fear I have to spend so much time in replying to infantile comments, that I could hardly board the ‘plane or ship necessary to get to Gibraltar from my home.
      Very best wishes,

  6. Dean Swift September 30, 2012 at 12:03 pm - Reply

    Chris Smith: Are you sure you read the same article I wrote? Yes I do know, strangely enough, about Ceuta and Melilla, but I was not writing about them at that time. You say that ‘300 year old treaties are now irrelevant’: Possibly, but what do you imply by that? That Utrecht no longer applies? Do try not to patronize: It is irritating and exasperating and childish. ‘Do you understand the meaning of the terms ‘in perpetuity’ or ‘self-determination’. I wonder who you think you are. I defy you to find anything in my article which is deprecatory (do you understand the meaning of the term?) about the people of Gibraltar. Perhaps you cannot read the word ‘Gibraltar’ without jumping on your very high horse. Best wishes Dean.

    • Tintanus October 3, 2012 at 7:01 pm - Reply

      HAHAHHAHA ! I like this answer. You will always have to deal with the Trolls. Trolls are people who constantly enter websites like this one, choose an article and then tries to diminish dozens of hours of investigation.

      I have read the article and there is nothing “deprecatory” in it (Nice word).

      I encourage people to read the articles before saying such stupid things. Read, understand and the comment. Cheers !

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