The Disputed Status of Gibraltar

GibraltarThe government of Great Britain issued an urgent call to the European Union to deploy a team to Gibraltar to “gather evidence” on Spanish efforts to close traffic between the British territory and Spain. Earlier last week, the Spanish government announced it would seek to request the status of Gibraltar be taken up by the United Nations Committee on Decolonization. At issue is whether Gibraltar remains a British territory or returns to the control of Spain.

It’s rare that the United Nations Committee on Decolonization would be called on to adjudicate such a dispute, and it’s even rarer that two European Union Member States would face such a standoff. But tensions between Spain and Great Britain have intensified in recent months as Spain seeks to pressure Great Britain on the issue. Spain claims that tighter border security is necessary to curtail smuggling, with the British government maintains that the border checks are politically-motivated.

Formally, Gibraltar is a British Overseas Territory located on the Mediterranean coast of Spain. At just 26 square miles, it’s quite small. But it occupies a strategically important point, controlling access to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean. The territory was ceded to Great Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713 following the Spanish Wars of Succession. But Spain claims the territory and rejects British claims. A 2002 referendum saw 99 percent of Gibraltarians reject a proposal advanced by the British and Spanish government to establish shared sovereignty over the territory. Instead, under the 2006 Constitution of Gibraltar, the territory governs its own internal affairs but the British government remains responsible for foreign affairs and defense.

What do you think? Should Britain return Gibraltar to Spanish control or continue to administer the Gibraltar as an overseas territory? Does the status of Gibraltar present a challenge for European interrogation? And if so, how should that challenge be addressed? Take the poll or leave a comment below and let us know what you think.

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