Something is wrong with European integration. On the one hand, the European Community is getting ready for the admission of new members, but the number of countries wishing to enter the organization is still great. On the other hand, some EU members still fail to settle problems of their bipartite relations. The talks between Great Britain and Spain on the status of Gibraltar may serve as an example.
Another round of the talks on the problem between British Foreign Minister Jack Straw and his Spanish colleague Josep Pique took place on Monday. As a result of the talks it was announced that the parties “have achieved considerable success." However, the statement can be easily doubted, as the talks were held at the time the people of Gibraltar organized protest actions against the return of the British colony under the jurisdiction of Spain.
In fact, the problem of the status of Gibraltar status demonstrates to what extent the task is complicated. Everything seems to be clear: London and Madrid both wish to come to a compromise as soon as possible (earlier the summer of 2002 was mentioned). Theoretically, Spain is ready to share control of the territory, and Gibraltar has already lost its attractiveness for Great Britain from political, military, and economic points of view, which is why Gibraltar is of little importance for Great Britain now. In addition, any quarrels with Spain as the EU chairman are not profitable for London. Great Britain abstains from the process of European integration; for example, it has not adopted the Euro. Although the Labourite government aims at introduction the Euro, the public opinion is against such a move.
However, the people of Gibraltar may lose a lot in the situation. Due to the fact that Gibraltar is an off-shore zone and, consequently, has tax privileges, the living standard of the British colony is higher than that of Spain. In addition, eyes have always been shut to smuggling there. The people do not want to lose their material comforts and British citizenship. London will have to make a large effort to persuade the people of Gibraltar to agree with the results of the talks. They will be brought to a referendum as soon as the problem is settled on the governmental level between the two countries.
How the world changes! Not long ago, numerous colonies tried to get rid of the surveillance of the parent states, but, now, any small Asiatic or African country would be happy to regain Britain’s protection, because this would solve many of their problems. However, nobody would offer such a return, because other, more effective ways for the protection of national interests exist. These ways are economic. If there is money, influence will be obtained as well.
There is no doubt that London and Madrid will come to an agreement on the status of Gibraltar. The only problem they must is to persuade the people of Gibraltar to give up the slight pleasures of the colonialism.
Oleg Artyukov PRAVDA.Ru
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Photo by BBC News
Read the original in Russian: http://pravda.ru/main/2002/02/06/36666.html