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GIBRALTAR HAS been in the news of late. And, with no modesty on my part, I admit this has nothing to do with my recent item on Peter Ustinov and his “Grand Prix of Gibraltar” (www.wp.me/p2ETap-1op).
No. This time, it’s a problem with those shirty Spaniards.
What with defeat of the invading Spanish Armada in 1588, you’d think they would have learned their lesson.
Gibraltar’s significance in Anglo-Spanish relations goes back to the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. More or less ending the War of the Spanish Succession, the treaty recolored various bits of Europe, one of them, the Peninsula of Gibraltar going to British Empire Gold from Other Beige.
Gib, as it’s known familiarly, isn’t very large, about 2.6 sq. miles. Nor is it tiny: Monaco (www.wp.me/p2ETap-TD) is 0.78 sq. miles; Vatican City (www.wp.me/p2ETap-100) is 0.2 sq. miles; and Sealand (www.wp.me/p2ETap-lY) is only 5900 sq. ft., or 0.0002 sq miles.
The Rock of Gibraltar, largely of Jurassic limestone, rises 1398 ft. Its upper area is a nature reserve, home to around 230 Barbary Macaques, an endangered species of Old World wild monkey. Like the ravens of the Tower of London, it’s said if the monkeys ever leave Gib, so do the Brits.
Which would be just fine with the Spaniards.
Gib, you see, is a British Overseas Territory (along with Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, the Cayman Islands, the Falkland Islands and nine others.
Funny I should mention the Falklands, as the Spanish keep bringing these up too, with not so veiled hints of the C word, colonialism. This always plays well in certain offices of the United Nations, never mind that Spain herself maintains a string of enclaves across North Africa, among them Ceuta and Melilla in Morocco.
In Spain’s latest assault against Gib, it’s creating five-hour delays in stringent checks at the Gibraltar border. Also being considered are a €50 hit per person at the crossing as well as prohibiting aircraft from entering Spanish airspace on their way into and out of Gib’s North Front Airport.
Spain has required aircraft to zig and zag avoiding its airspace before.
Adding to the fun is the fact that the runway at North Front is bisected by Winston Churchill Avenue, the principal road to the nearby border. Various alleviations of this less than ideal intersection have been proposed. Thus far, whenever a plane lands or departs, the road is closed.
Among flight simmers, North Front with the old Spanish no-fly area is considered great fun. Flight simmers have reset buttons. Among real people, the airport is considered one of the world’s most challenging. Plus, Spain has a continued sovereignty dispute over the real estate, distinct from the general dispute concerning Gib itself.
Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy is stirring the more general pot. He’s also battling a disastrous Spanish economy and personal scandals.
Cynics suggest Gib is primarily a diversionary tactic.
Imagine people being so cynical about a government official diverting the public.
An increase in tobacco smuggling is claimed as justifying the 5-hour border delays.
I consulted my primary resource on this matter, the 1892 Murray’s Hand-Book to the Mediterranean, and learned the following. “There is still an extensive contraband trade in tobacco,” Lieut.-Col. Playfair writes, “to check which the Spanish Government are extremely anxious that we should establish a custom-house, but neglect to look after their own officials.”
And that pretty much sums up today’s goings-on. ds
© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2013