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Gibraltar

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Gibraltar is represented in the European Union, having been the only British overseas territory which joined the EC under the British Treaty of Accession (1973).

The government of Spain continues with an irredentist territorial claim to Gibraltar, which was ceded in perpetuity to the British Crown in 1713 by the article X of the Treaty of Utrecht. In a referendum held in 2002, a proposal for shared sovereignty was overwhelmingly rejected by the Gibraltar electorate with 99.5% voting against.[1] The sovereignty issue remains an important factor in local politics.

Gibraltar has a number of political parties which have developed to address local issues. Gibraltar's political activity takes place in a framework of a parliamentary representative democratic, whereby the Chief Minister is the head of government, and of a multi-party system. Gibraltar is an British overseas territory of the United Kingdom, with full internal self-government under its 2006 Constitution. The preamble to that Constitution repeated from the 1969 Constitution states that "Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes." [2]

Contents

Executive branch

Head of state, Elizabeth II.

As an overseas territory of the UK, the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by the Governor of Gibraltar. The UK retains responsibility for defence, foreign relations, internal security and financial stability.

Main office holders
Office Name Party Since
Queen Elizabeth II 6 February 1952
Governor Sir Adrian Johns KCB CBE ADC 26 October 2009
Chief Minister Peter Caruana QC GSD 17 May 1996

Government

The Government of Gibraltar is elected for a term of four years. The head of Government is the Chief Minister, currently Peter Caruana, QC, of the Gibraltar Social Democrats (GSD), who have been in office since May 17, 1996, and were returned to power in elections held on February 10, 2000, November 27, 2003 and October 11, 2007. The Leader of the Opposition is the Hon Joe Bossano, of the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party (GSLP), which is in coalition with the Gibraltar Liberal Party (GLP) of Dr Joseph Garcia.

The composition of the Government of Gibraltar is the following:[3]

Picture Name Mininsterial Role Notes
Peter Caruana Peter Caruana Chief Minister and Minister of Finance [4]
Joseph Holliday Minister of Enterprise, Development & Technology and Deputy Chief Minister
Ernest Britto Minister of the Environment, Traffic & Transport
Fabian Vinet Minister of Housing
James Netto Minister of Family, Youth & Community Affairs
Yvette Del Agua Minister of Health & Civil Protection
Daniel Feetham Daniel Feetham Minister of Justice
Luis Montiel Minister of Employment, Labour & Industrial Relations
Clive Beltran Minister of Education & Training
Edwin Reyes Minister of Culture, Heritage, Sport & Leisure

Legislature

The Gibraltar Parliament Building at John Mackintosh Square.

The Gibraltar Parliament (previously the House of Assembly) consists of seventeen elected members, and the Speaker. Under the electoral system of partial bloc voting used since 1969, voters must choose ten candidates, who need necessarily not be from the same party but usually are. The winning candidates are then chosen by simple plurality; consequently, a party seeking to form a government stands ten candidates, and the party that forms the government is usually successful in having all ten of its candidates elected; the remaining seats are usually won by the 'best loser' which then forms the opposition. The last election was held on October 11, 2007.

Governor

Queen Elizabeth II is represented by the Governor and Commander-in-Chief, presently Lieutenant General Sir Adrian Johns KBE CBE ADC (sworn in 26 October 2009). After an election, the Governor appoints the leader of the largest party in the unicameral parliament, as Chief Minister. The Governor is not involved in the day-to-day administration of Gibraltar, and his role is largely as a ceremonial head of state. The Governor is responsible for matters of defence and security only.

Political parties and general elections

There are three political parties currently represented in the Gibraltar Parliament: Gibraltar Social Democrats; Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party; and Gibraltar Liberal Party. The other active parties is the Progressive Democratic Party.

All parties support Gibraltar's right to self-determination, and reject any concessions on the issue of sovereignty.

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2003 elections

e • d  Summary of the 28 November 2003 Gibraltar House of Assembly election results
Parties Votes % Seats
Gibraltar Social Democrats 51.5 8
Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party 39.7 5
Gibraltar Liberal Party 2
Others 8.3 -
Ex-officio members (retired under new constitution) 2
Total (turnout  %)   17
Source: Parties and elections

Since the 2003 election the Reform Party has dissolved, with the party leader and others now involved in Friends of the Earth (Gibraltar). The Labour Party has merged with the Gibraltar Social Democrats.

A new party, New Gibraltar Democracy, announced it would contest the next election. NGD claimed that the two main parties were "Out of touch with people's expectations and make up for their lack of ideas through Orwellian style propaganda." At the 2007 election one candidate, charles Gomez, stood for election for the party. It achieved under 1% of the vote and has subsequently ceased any activity.

In June 2006 the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) was formed and announced it would be presenting a full slate of candidates and had entered the political arena as "a fresh, positive and modern alternative," to both the ruling Gibraltar Social Democrats and the Opposition GSLP/Liberals. However. in the 2007 election it only presented six candidates.

2007 elections

e • d  Summary of the 11 October 2007 Gibraltar Parliament election results
Parties1 Votes2 % Seats
Gibraltar Social Democrats 76,334 49.33 10
Coalition Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party 49,277 31.84 4
Gibraltar Liberal Party 21,120 13.65 3
Progressive Democratic Party 5,799 3.75
Charles Gomez (independent, New Gibraltar Democracy) 1,210 0.78
Richard Martinez (independent) 1,003 0.65
Total (turnout 81.4%) 154,743 100.00 17
Source: Gibfocus

1 These figures have been consolidated by party. Under the Gibraltar electoral system, all candidates are listed on the ballot paper individually. 2 Every voter has up to 10 votes to vote for their choice from all the candidates standing. Accordingly although there are more seats available, the main parties field 10 candidates and hope to secure 'block votes'. Thus the total of 154,743 votes comes from 16,004 voters, an 81.4% turnout of the electorate.

European Parliament elections

Although part of the EU under the British Treaty of accession, Gibraltar had not voted in elections for the European Parliament although its membership of the European Union meant it was affected by European Union law. A ten year campaign to acquire the vote culminated in the case of Matthews v. United Kingdom This forced the UK to include Gibraltar in the 2004 European Parliament election. For administrative reasons it was included as part of the South West England region, as its electorate of 20,740 was considered too small to justify a separate seat.

This was the first UK election in which Gibraltar participated. The Conservative Party took 69.52% of the vote, which has generally been interpreted as a protest against the handling of Gibraltar by the Labour Party. [5] The Conservatives also campaigned more strongly, with the support of the Gibraltar branch of the party and a visit from the party leader Michael Howard.

In 2009, the Conservatives again topped the poll with (54%) but in contrast to 2004 the turnout at 35% was much lower, being comparable to other EU states.[6]

Constitutional reform

Select Committee proposals

In 1999, the Government of Gibraltar established a Select Committee on Constitutional Reform, to consider how the 1969 Constitution should be reformed.

In March 2006, British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced in the British House of Commons that the details of a new constitution had been agreed. There are some differences between the draft constitution and the one to which the UK agreed, namely that the Governor's title will remain unchanged, and that the Police Authority will remain independent of the Government of Gibraltar.

2006 Constitution

In December 2006 Gibraltar was granted a new constitution, providing a modern constitutional relationship between Gibraltar and the United Kingdom, not based on colonialism. The constitution does not in any way diminish British sovereignty of Gibraltar, and the United Kingdom retains its full internal responsibility for Gibraltar, including Gibraltar’s external relations and defence, and the Member State responsible for Gibraltar in the European Union.

Writing to the Spanish Foreign Minister, Jack Straw stated:

"My own view [is] that the label "colonial" is misleading and anachronistic in this context; regardless of the United Nations dimension. As Peter Caruana and I said in our joint statement on Monday, the new Constitution provides for "a modern and mature" relationship between the UK and Gibraltar. I do not think that this description would apply to any relationship based on colonialism." [1]

After several months of political wrangling, the Gibraltar Government published the draft Constitution Order, which includes the existing preamble promising that there would be no transfer of sovereignty against the wishes of the Gibraltarians and a new addition explaining the status [2].

"Whereas Gibraltar is part of Her Majesty’s dominions and Her Majesty’s Government have given assurances to the people of Gibraltar that Gibraltar will remain part of Her Majesty’s dominions unless and until an Act of Parliament otherwise provides, and furthermore that Her Majesty’s Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes:
"And whereas the people of Gibraltar have in a referendum held on [date] freely approved and accepted the Constitution annexed to this Order which gives the people of Gibraltar that degree of self-government which is compatible with British Sovereignty of Gibraltar and with the fact that the UK remains fully responsible for Gibraltar’s external relations.

Based on this wording and the Statement of the Minister for Europe in the House of Commons, the Gibraltar Opposition now support the new Constitution [3].

The proposal was put to the people in a referendum and approved. The constitution took effect in 2007 and 29 January declared a public holiday in celebration.

Integration with the UK

A group in Gibraltar has campaigned in favour of a far closer relationship with the UK, in the form of devolved integration or incorporation into the UK itself. This is similar to the offer made to Malta in 1955. The Rock would be represented in the British House of Commons, while retaining internal self-government. This would be a similar status to France's overseas departments and to Spain's North African enclaves, Ceuta and Melilla, claimed by Morocco. One of Spain's arguments in rejecting comparisons between Gibraltar and these territories is that they are part of Spain, whereas Gibraltar is a British overseas territory and not part of the UK. [7]

However, the British Foreign Office rejected the idea in 1976, along with independence, on the grounds that any further constitutional reform or decolonisation would have to take into account the so-called "Spanish dimension". Many in Gibraltar, including the present Government, have also argued against integration on the grounds that it would mean the surrendering of many existing powers of self-government.

While there is still considerable emotional attachment to the idea of Gibraltar being British, its citizens want to participate in the new Europe of the future.[8]

Condominium

The idea of a condominium, with sovereignty shared between the UK and Spain has even less support in Gibraltar. The suggestion was made by a UK politician on a BBC television programme about Gibraltar in the 1980s, and attended by Fernando Moran, prior to becoming foreign minister of Spain and re-opening the land frontier. The suggestion was for a status similar to that of Andorra, in which Queen Elizabeth II and King Juan Carlos would be joint heads of state, in the same way that President of France and the Spanish Bishop of Urgell are Co-Princes of Andorra.

This would give Spain a symbolic constitutional role in Gibraltar, but would not go far enough for Spain towards effective Spanish control of the Rock. Even a symbolic role would be a step too far for most Gibraltarians.

United Nations

Gibraltar was caught unawares when the whole issue of the relationship between The Rock and the UK, as well as the question of Spain was brought before the United Nations Committee on Decolonization, otherwise known as the Committee of 24, in 1963.[9]

Resolution 2231, which recalls UN Resolution 1514 (XV) (which guarantees the right of self determination of all peoples), states that Considering that any colonial situation which partially or completely destroys the national unity and territorial integrity of a country is incompatible with the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations, which forms part of the Spanish claim. It also urges United Kingdom and Spain to overcome their differences, respecting the "interests" of the people of Gibraltar and declares the 1967 referendum being a "contravention of the provisions of Resolution 2231.

Resolution 2353 (XXII) was supported by seventy-three countries (mainly Latin American, Arab, African and Eastern European countries), rejected by nineteen (United Kingdom and the countries of the Commonwealth of Nations), while twenty-seven countries abstained (Western Europe and the United States).

Since then and up to the present time, representatives of Gibraltar have regularly petitioned the UNC24 and the UNC4, although no progress has been achieved. The Committees regularly roll out their 'consensus resolution'[10] which:

  • (a) Urges both Governments, while listening to the interests and aspirations of Gibraltar, to reach, in the spirit of the statement of 27 November 1984, a definitive solution to the question of Gibraltar, in the light of relevant resolutions of the General Assembly and applicable principles, and in the spirit of the Charter of the United Nations;
  • (b) Welcomes the ongoing successful implementation of the first package of measures concluded at the Tripartite Forum for Dialogue on Gibraltar.

Unwilling to tear the delicate skin of Spain’s historic position over Gibraltar, Britain is nonetheless gently pointing an already more pragmatic Spanish Government down the path of consensual politics over Gibraltar.[11]

The commitment of the British Government is not to hold the talks envisaged by the above resolution without the consent of the Gibraltarians.

The UK Government will never - "never" is a seldom-used word in politics - enter into an agreement on sovereignty without the agreement of the Government of Gibraltar and their people. In fact, we will never even enter into a process without that agreement. The word "never" sends a substantial and clear commitment and has been used for a purpose. We have delivered that message with confidence to the peoples and the Governments of Gibraltar and Spain. It is a sign of the maturity of our relationship now that that is accepted as the UK's position.[12]

The effective stalemate has led Peter Caruana to conclude that attending future meetings of the Committee of 24 is a pointless exercise. [13]

Relations with Spain

In a referendum on September 10, 1967, the people of Gibraltar voted by 12,138 to 44 to reject the transfer of sovereignty to Spain and to remain under British sovereignty. This day is now celebrated as Gibraltar's National Day. In a referendum organised by the Government of Gibraltar on November 7, 2002, voters overwhelmingly rejected the principle that Spain and the United Kingdom should share sovereignty over Gibraltar, by 17,900 votes to 187 on a turnout of almost 88% [14].

Unlike most other British territories, Gibraltar has not been offered independence by the UK. It has been suggested that this is on the grounds that the Treaty of Utrecht, under which Spain ceded the territory to the British Crown, states that, if the British Crown should ever wish to dispose of Gibraltar, it must first be offered to Spain. However, the Government of Gibraltar has pointed out at the UN that Article 103 of the UN Charter overrules and annuls this "reversionary clause".

Neither the United Kingdom nor Spain seem keen to test the legal status of Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht in court. The remaining parts of the treaty that regulated such things as the slave trade, and the transfer of Minorca to the British, have become obsolete.

Spain argues that Gibraltar's status is an anachronism, and that it should become an autonomous community of Spain, similar to Catalonia or the Basque Country. It also argues that the principle of territorial integrity, not self-determination applies, drawing parallels with the British handover of Hong Kong to the People's Republic of China in 1997. However, at the same time, successive Spanish governments have refused to countenance the handover of their north African enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco. The Junta de Andalucia (Andalucia's elected regional government) believes that Gibraltar should be integrated into its regional autonomy.

The Gibraltarians continue to assert that they are British not Spanish [15]. At the same time, the British Government continues to state that there can be no change in the status of Gibraltar without their democratic consent [16].

The Gibraltar Government has asked the UN Committee of 24 to refer the issues to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion, but Spain has lobbied against this. The Government of Gibraltar has also invited the Committee to visit the territory, but so far, despite no objection from the United Kingdom, they have not done so [17].

The 2006 constitution further increases the level of self-government in the territory, and the colonial status of Gibraltar is now considered to be over. In a letter[18] to the United Nations describing this, the British Ambassador states that "I do not think that this description would apply to any relationship based on colonialism."

Pressure groups

In addition to the parties there are a number of pressure groups active in Gibraltar, not aligned to any political party.

Gibraltar Women's Association

The Gibraltar Women's Association was founded on the 15 February 1966, by Mrs Mariola Summerfield and Mrs Angela Smith.

It was originally known as the Gibraltar Housewives Association, and subsequently, in the early eighties it was changed to the Gibraltar Women's Association keeping in with more modern times that not all women were solely housewives.

Equality Rights Group GGR

Launched in September 2000 by Felix Alvarez, initially named GGR (Gib Gay Rights) now has a wider human rights platform in Gibraltar and is known as Equality Rights Group GGR [4].

Although it still defends sexual minorities it is also been active on issues regarding the disabled, and issues regarding the protection of children against sex abuse. [19]

Environmental Safety Group

"The ESG is a registered Gibraltar charity which works to safeguard the Environment of Gibraltar and the Bay area, including air, land and marine aspects. The group campaigns to protect local ecology from pollution and contamination and to promote public safety in all matters relating to the welfare of our community." [5]

Gibraltar Local Disability Movement

The Gibraltar Local Disability Movement (GLDM) was established in 1985 to improve the lives of disabled people in Gibraltar, promote equal opportunities and tackle discrimination. The movement ceased to be active for several years during the 1990s and early 2000s, but was reactivated in 2005 to address the situation for disabled people in Gibraltar, which did not see great improvement for several years. Although the 2006 Equal Opportunities Act protects disabled people in Gibraltar from discrimination, Gibraltar remains behind the UK and other countries on issues such as disability allowances and wheelchair access to both private and government buildings. www.disability.gi

Voice of Gibraltar Group

The 2002 Referendum Campaign

The VOGG is a long running group which has the objective of defending the rights of Gibraltarians against external threats. It engages in public debate, and protest action where appropriate. As a non-political pressure group, its members represent a wide cross section of the community.

It was particularly active in canvassing a "no" note in the 2002 referendum, when it toured the housing estates with a loudspeaker van and invited guests from all parties to address residents, culminating with the Chief Minister at Convent Place, after the result was announced.

Integration With Britain Movement

The Integration With Britain Movement (IWBM) is a pressure group advocating further integration with the United Kingdom. They aim for Gibraltar to attain a state of devolved integration similar to that pertaining in Scotland and Wales. They are led by Joe Caruana and are successors to the defunct Integration With Britain Party (IWBP).

References

External links

See also


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