Mr Chairman, Excellencies, a very good morning to you all. I should
like to start by thanking you Mr Chairman for agreeing to reschedule
the Committee’s consideration of the question of Gibraltar to
accommodate our engagement in a General Election which took place in
Gibraltar on Thursday of last week. In those elections my party was
returned to Government for a fourth consecutive four year term.
Mr Chairman, our understanding of the Charter of these United
Nations and of the settled principles, doctrines and international
law encrusted around it, is that the people of all the UN’s listed
non-self governing territories have the inalienable right to
decolonisation by self-determination, which is the only principle
applicable in the decolonisation process. So much has been declared
by the International Court of Justice and by many resolutions here.
Yet, Mr Chairman, there are some Member States who have taken the
view that there is an overriding, unilaterally invocable rule that
takes precedence over this sacred principle, namely that the right
to decolonisation by self-determination is extinguished by the mere
existence of a sovereignty dispute.
This ‘do it yourself’ approach to basic and fundamental applicable
principles would not be so serious if these very same Member States
had not become prepotent in the very Committee responsible for
decolonisation, the so-called “Committee of 24”. To the extent that,
despite the efforts of the Chair of that Committee, they have
secured the insertion in the Conclusions & Recommendations of the
Regional Seminars organised by that Committee, a statement precisely
to the effect that I have just described, namely that listed non
self-governing territories the subject of a territorial claim by
neighbours can be decolonised other than by self-determination, and
that where there is such a dispute, the normal principles and work
of the Special Committee does not apply.
Mr Chairman, worse still they attribute that view and that
Conclusion and Recommendation to the participants in the Regional
Seminar, who are the representatives of the listed non
self-governing territories themselves, despite the fact that not a
single one of those participants expressed any such view, let alone
make such a recommendation or come to such a conclusion. It is the
view only of the few Member States that manipulate and influence the
drafting Committee, yet it is presented in the report as a consensus
Conclusion and Recommendation of the Seminar participants. Mr
President, this issue raises a simple matter of integrity of process
in an important UN Committee, and I would respectfully request you
and the General Secretary to look into it. It is completely
unacceptable that the United Nations should circulate and adopt
concocted reports which purport to convert the fabrications of its
authors into truthful facts.
Mr Chairman, it is absurd to advocate that the mere existence of a
territorial sovereignty dispute can extinguish a colonial peoples’
right to self-determination, i.e. that the territorial ambitions of
a neighbour over a piece of land, based on the 18th century history
of 1705, can subject a colonial people in 2007 to a sovereignty that
they do not want, and in the process be denied emergence from a
colonial situation, and all at the suit of a claimant neighbour.
There are no circumstances, regardless of historical merit, that can
produce that result under the UN Charter in modern times.
Nor are advocates of the contrary view assisted by the principle
upon which they entirely rely, namely, the principle of territorial
integrity, because Gibraltar is not a part of Spain now, has not
been for 303 years, and accordingly the exercise of our right to
self-determination now does not result in the disruption now of the
integrity of Spains’ territory. In emerging from our colonial
situation through self-determination we are not seceding from or
breaking up Spain or any other country, since we are not part of
Spain or any other country. The principle of territorial integrity
exists to protect the integrity of a state’s territory. It cannot be
properly invoked to preserve a claim to neighbouring territory,
still less to extinguish the right to self-determination of a
Mr Chairman, in November 2006, the people of Gibraltar voted in a
referendum, an act of self-determination, to accept a new
Constitutional relationship with the UK. In that Referendum, which
was organised entirely by the Gibraltar Government with no
participation whatsoever of the British Government, the people of
Gibraltar approved and accepted a new Constitution that had been
negotiated between a cross party Gibraltar delegation led by me, and
the British Government.
That Constitution, as far as the people of Gibraltar are concerned,
eliminated the last few remaining colonial trappings from our
Constitution, gave Gibraltar self-government in all matters except
foreign affairs and defence, and established between Gibraltar and
the UK a modern, non-colonial relationship, which reflects precisely
the relationship with the UK that the people of Gibraltar want.
Now, Mr Chairman, even though our new Constitution gives us
practically full self-government, clearly it is not the constitution
of a sovereign independent state. But the people of Gibraltar, for a
variety of reasons, do not believe that independence is the best
option for the decolonisation of a territory as small as Gibraltar
and in our circumstances in today’s world.
Independence is not the clear cut concept in the modern world that
it was at the time of the establishment of your decolonisation
doctrines. Who is truly independent in today’s world? What does
independence mean in practice? Why then make a holy grail of a
concept that has already become distorted by other global political
and economic factors and realities even for larger countries?
Do not many independent countries now give up some of their
previously cherished independence to collective regional decision
making structures, for example, the European Union? The ingredients
of the concept of modern day independence have changed. If Spain
(and the other EU Member States) remains an independent country,
even though she has chosen to surrender to the European Union
Institutions a very large and ever increasing part of her power and
control over her own national affairs, why is Gibraltar a colony
just because we choose a Constitutional relationship with the UK,
that gives the UK much less power over our affairs than Spain has
surrendered over her own affairs to the EU? These concepts evolve
with time, and the United Nations must adapt its jurisprudence to
accommodate such evolution.
So, if the people of Gibraltar, as we do, value our sovereignty and
constitutional links with Great Britain and wish to retain them,
albeit in a modern relationship that is not colonial in nature, does
this mean that in your eyes, Gibraltar can never be decolonised?
We are a small country, 30,000 people and 7½ square kilometres. But
we are politically mature, socially advanced and economically
prosperous and totally financially self-sufficient. We enjoy one of
the highest GDP’s per capita in the world. I dare say that we might,
therefore, enjoy more real and meaningful independence than many
so-called independent countries.
I could understand that many of you, given your own decolonisation
histories and experiences may be challenged by these sentiments, and
may as a result even doubt whether it can be the genuine, freely
expressed and informed will of the people of Gibraltar. But I assure
you that it is.
So the real question is, what is decolonisation and by what variety
of methods can it be achieved, bearing in mind of course that all
methods, to be acceptable, must necessarily involve the free and
genuine choice and wishes of the colonial people.
The Special Committee maintains a set of so-called ‘delisting
criteria’ namely circumstances which must be present or absent
before genuine decolonisation can be said to have taken place. These
criteria have never been adapted to evolving times and
circumstances, or the special needs of the few remaining
territories, which are mostly small, or remote or economically
unviable. Some, indeed, may be all three of those.
Among the circumstances that is said must be absent, is the
reservation of any degree of power by the ex-administering power
especially legislative power, however consensual, remote or
exceptional those powers may be. I express no view on that
assessment, but only because it is not necessary to do so, because
it is not the case of Gibraltar.
External critics of our approach to decolonisation, namely
modernising our relationship with our ex-administering power so that
it ceases to be colonial in nature – and thus delivers effective and
practical decolonisation – point to the fact that under our new
Constitution the UK Government retains some powers in areas such as
external affairs and international security, and even to make laws
for Gibraltar in exceptional circumstances. This is an erroneous
assessment based on a total lack of understanding of the correct
Our ex-Administering Power, the Government of the United Kingdom,
has no powers whatsoever in or over Gibraltar, either executive or
legislative. The power to pass laws for Gibraltar (which is
extremely rarely used, and always in consultation with us) is not
vested in the United Kingdom Government. It is vested in Her
Majesty the Queen, in her Capacity as Queen of Gibraltar and not as
Queen of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.
Furthermore, to the extent that, as a matter of separation of
powers, our Constitution allocates powers to the Governor, it does
so in his capacity as Representative of HM the Queen as Queen of
Gibraltar, and not of the UK.
The Governor is not the representative of the UK, he is the
representative of our own monarch, and his Constitutional powers
therefore neither belong to, nor are exercisable by, or in
accordance with the interests or instructions of the UK. So much
has been clearly declared by the very courts of the United Kingdom
itself, at the very highest level of their judicial system.
The UK neither acts like, nor has the power or ability to act like
an administering power in Gibraltar. It does not want to do so, but
could not do so even if it wanted to.
It is our view therefore, that, even applying the UN’s existing
delisting criteria, there is no reason why Gibraltar should not now
be removed from the UN’s list of non-self governing territories, and
the UK accordingly relieved of its continuing obligation under the
Charter, while Gibraltar remains on the list, to report annually to
the UN about the situation in Gibraltar. Mr Chairman, this is the
wish of the people of Gibraltar.
Mr Chairman, we do not think that there is any need for the United
Nations to concern itself any further with the decolonisation of
Gibraltar, save for what remains to be done by you here, namely our
so-called ‘de-listing’. How that can be brought about is a matter
for internal UN procedures. But whatever may be the position or
obstacles in that respect, does not alter the political and factual
reality that Gibraltar has ceased to be in a colonial relationship
with its ex-administering power the UK, and has thus ceased to be a
These are the inescapeable realities which the UN can choose to
ignore if it wishes to but which do not therefore or thereby cease
to be realities.
Of course, it still leaves us exposed to Spain’s territorial
sovereignty claim, but that is a totally different and separate
issue to that of our decolonisation. In so far as sovereignty is
concerned, we do not accept that this can properly be the subject
matter of a dispute between the UK and Spain. That presupposes that
Britain is free to deal with our sovereignty as she pleases and
regardless of our wishes. We do not think that is the case, and
happily for us, neither does Great Britain herself. The Sovereignty
of Gibraltar, while legally vested in Britain is politically
disposable of only by the people of Gibraltar ourselves. No democrat
in this Chamber or back home, could conceivably subscribe to any
Mr Chairman, my remarks here today are expanded upon in the address
that I delivered in June to the Special Committee on Decolonisation.
In case any Member State is interested in them, copies of that
address are available at the back of the hall.
Mr Chairman, there is one further matter upon which I would like to
comment. The new Trilateral Forum for dialogue between the
Governments of Gibraltar, Spain and the United Kingdom, which
functions on the basis of an open agenda continues to function well,
and the first agreements reached within the Forum at its meeting in
Cordoba in September 2006 are now being successfully implemented.
The Gibraltar Government remains fully and enthusiastically
committed to that Forum and to continue to build modern, democratic
and constructive bridges with our neighbour, Spain, based on mutual
regard and mutual respect as fellow Europeans.