Group of Gibraltar

Denis Matthews

National Day
September 1994

Original Text

Denis Matthews, Chairman of the SDGG.

Gibraltar is one of the few remaining colonies in the world, and the only one in Europe. As such it is something of an anachronism. Gibraltarians readily accept that Gibraltar should be decolonised, but only through the exercise of the self-determination of our people. We hold the view that. in today's world, and in particularly in Europe, Spain's claim to our territory is as much of an anachronism as Gibraltar's status. There is no doubt that the main impediment to Gibraltar's decolonisation is Spain's claim. It is the conviction of all Gibraltarians that the transfer of sovereignty to Spain would mean the recolonisation of Gibraltar by Spain, and not its decolonisation. Gibraltarians would become foreigners in our own land, under the control of a state that has shown Gibraltar nothing but enmity and aggression.

Gibraltar has already been British for longer than it was Spanish, and our people have roots which predate the emergence of many countries which have achieved recognition and been accepted as members of the international community. Spain has an unacceptable double standard in the United Nations. She espouses the principle of self-determination, except, of course, where it counts in its application to Gibraltar, which is the acid test as far as Spain is concerned.

Spain's claim to Gibraltar today has to be seen in the residual ultra nationalistic feelings fostered in the Franco era for uniting the country after the trauma of the Spanish Civil War. This has been followed by the political opportunism of Spanish politicians who regard Gibraltar as a soft target which can be hit with impunity. Unfortunately Britain has failed to respond adequately to Spain's policy of applying measures to impede Gibraltar's efforts towards economic selfsufficiency while attempting to interfere with our political development.

Spain's argument that the decolonisation of Gibraltar is a question of the restoration of its territorial integrity is a direct denial of the right of the people of Gibraltar to selfdetermination. There is no logic in Spain's argument, based on a shortlived Spanish Gibraltar of 300 years ago, which is now condemned to the pages of history books, while our Gibraltar is a living reality. We, the Gibraltarians are far from being alone in the world in having acquired rights over our land in the 300 years since the Treaty of Utrecht. Many conditions of that treaty are inapplicable today, being against international law, and modern attitudes and practices. Most will agree that it as archaic to declare that "...the coasts of Spain (might) be infested by the excursions (sic) of the Moors...", that "...the right of 'asiento' (the slave trade) is granted to England..." or that "...Jews and Moors may not reside in the fortress...', as it is to hold that the mention of preference being given to Spain, on Britain's withdrawal, constitutes an obstacle to the right of our people to self-determination. Many concepts of people's rights had not been won or established in the early 18th century, it is therefore bizarre to argue that we should allow a 300 year old treaty to deny anyone those rights today.

In any event, Spain ceded Gibraltar to the English Crown and its successors in perpetuity, so to call on Britain to consider decolonisation is in effect to call for the Treaty of Utrecht to be set aside. At this point the right of our people to decide our future must be considered paramount. Spain's idea that the 'preference' section of the treaty can be applied while ignoring either the 'perpetuity' section or universally proclaimed rights is a brazen attempt to manipulate the situation by a selective misuse of the Treaty.

Clearly the decolonisation of Gibraltar requires the annulment of the whole of Article 10 of the Treaty of Utrecht, and the application of the United Nations Charter. The latter holds that the principle that peoples should decide their destiny through the exercise of their freely and democratically expressed wishes, is paramount and overrides all others.

We, the Gibraltarians are merely asking for recognition of our existence as a people with the right to decide the future of our homeland. We do not believe that, in today's world, this can be denied to us or that it is too much to ask for.

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