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Gibraltar - Politics

GibraltarGibraltar is a British Overseas Territory. Gibraltar has an independent parliament and the governor does not intervene in local affairs. The Office of the Governor supports the Governor and Commander-in-Chief in carrying out his constitutional role and duties as Her Majesty’s Representative in Gibraltar. As a UK overseas territory, it cannot sign or ratify international conventions in its own right. Rather, the UK is responsible for Gibraltar’s international affairs and may arrange for the ratification of any convention to be extended to Gibraltar. Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron support British military activity in the region, providing force protection for visiting allied warships as well as upholding the sovereignty of British Gibraltar territorial waters.

Gibraltar has been on the United Nations list of Non-Self-Governing Territories since 1946, following the transmission of information by the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland under Article 73e of the Charter of the United Nations. In the case of Gibraltar the right of self-determination is circumscribed by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht, 1713, under which Spain would have the right of "first refusal" if the United Kingdom ever wished to relinquish sovereignty over Gibraltar. Full independence for Gibraltar could therefore become a reality only with Spanish consent.

A November 2006 referendum resulted in constitutional reforms transferring powers exercised by the UK government to Gibraltar. The unicameral Parliament consists of 18 seats; 17 members directly elected in a single nationwide constituency by majority vote and 1 appointed by Parliament as speaker; members serve 4-year terms). Elections were last held on 26 November 2015, and the next to be held not later than December 2019.

Bordering Spain and near the north coast of Africa, Gibraltar is adjacent to known drug trafficking and human smuggling routes, but the territory is heavily policed on land and at sea due to the risk of these activities occurring within its borders or territorial waters. Gibraltar is exposed to money launderers located in drug producing centers in Morocco and drug consumption and distribution networks in Spain. With the establishment in southern Spain of organized criminal activities from Eastern Europe, there is potential for launderers to use Gibraltar as a base for money laundering. These risks are mitigated by the small coastline and effective policing.

The people of Gibraltar already enjoyed a very full measure of self-government in their internal affairs. There were a Legislative Council elected by universal adult suffrage on the basis of "one man, one vote 11 and a Government and Opposition in the best traditions of democratic government. Since July 1965, in order to cope with the results of the restrictions imposed by Spain, there had been a coalition Government. In Gibraltar, political parties of all shades of opinion operated freely, and so did trade unions. The existence of habeas corpus meant that no arrest without trial Was possible. The first Legislative Council had been set up in 1950, and since then Gibraltar had achieved a great measure of self-government.

In a referendum held 10 September 1967, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency. UN General Assembly Resolution 2353 (XXII) on 08 January 1968 asserted that Gibraltar was a colony which impinges on the territorial integrity of Spain and thus on Spanish right to self-determination, and that a referendum of the population could not change that. The subsequent granting of autonomy in 1969 by the UK led Spain to close the border and sever all communication links.

Following elections in May 1996, a new Government, formed by the Gibraltar Social Democrats, took office in Gibraltar. This Government pressed Gibraltar's case for self-determination and in particular has done so in appropriate United Nations fora such as the Fourth Committee of the General Assembly and the "Committee of 24". The Gibraltar Government has said that it intends to put forward proposals for changes to Gibraltar's constitutional arrangements. At the Gibraltar Government's request, in 1998 the United Kingdom Government held exploratory technical discussions with the Gibraltar Government on constitutional reform.

Between 1997 and 2002, the UK and Spain held a series of talks on establishing temporary joint sovereignty over Gibraltar. In response to these talks, the Gibraltar Government called a referendum in late 2002 in which the majority of citizens voted overwhelmingly against any sharing of sovereignty with Spain.

General elections were held in Gibraltar towards the end of 2003, with the Gibraltar Social Democrats being returned to office for a third four-year term. Peter Caruana was again re-elected Chief Minister after topping the polls. The GSD obtained 51% of the vote. The Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party in alliance with the Liberal Party obtained 40% to take all opposition seats. Joe Bossano therefore continued as Leader of the Opposition.

Since late 2004, Spain, the UK, and Gibraltar have held tripartite talks with the aim of cooperatively resolving problems that affect the local population, and work continued on cooperation agreements in areas such as taxation and financial services; communications and maritime security; policy, legal and customs services; environmental protection; and education and visa services.

On 2nd January 2007, the Gibraltar Constitution Order 2006 came into effect. The Order restyled the House of Assembly as the Gibraltar Parliament. The Gibraltar Parliament is the heart of democracy in Gibraltar and the rock foundation of the sovereignty of the Gibraltarians, that is, “Gibraltarians” in its widest sense since not only the indigenous but British inhabitants are enfranchised.

After the new noncolonial constitution came into force in 2007, the European Court of First Instance recognized Gibraltar's right to regulate its own tax regime in December 2008. The UK retained responsibility for defense, foreign relations, internal security, and financial stability. Spain and the UK continue to spar over the territory. Throughout 2009, a dispute over Gibraltar's claim to territorial waters extending out three miles gave rise to periodic non-violent maritime confrontations between Spanish and UK naval patrols. In 2013, the British reported a record number of entries by Spanish vessels into waters claimed by Gibraltar following a dispute over Gibraltar's creation of an artificial reef in those waters.

In the 23 June 2016 Brexit referendum, the British overseas territory of Gibraltar voted overwhelmingly for remain, with 95.9% opting to stay in the union. The Spanish government called for joint sovereignty over Gibraltar in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU. At the entrance to the Mediterranean, Gibraltar relies heavily on its shared EU border with Spain for trade.

Spain renewed its demands for an eventual return of Gibraltar to Spanish control after the UK’s June 2016 vote to leave the EU, but London dismissed any connection between the vote and its future commitment to Gibraltar. The European Commission said that the UK will need to reach a separate bilateral agreement with Spain to allow Gibraltar to be covered by the UK's broader EU exit agreement. Minister for the Armed Forces, Mark Lancaster, said 08 November 2017: "Gibraltar is of great importance to the UK, our Armed Forces and our allies. It has provided vital assistance to operations and exercises over the years, perhaps best demonstrated by the recent support to the UK’s hurricane relief effort in the Caribbean. We are absolutely steadfast in our support of Gibraltar, its people and its economy and will fully involve Gibraltar as we prepare to exit the European Union."

By June 4, 2018 Spain’s new Socialist government seemed likely to adopt a “flexible” approach to Gibraltar that seeks consensus “as quickly as possible” on how best to mitigate the impact of Brexit, the PSOE’s international relations secretary, Héctor Gómez, said 04 June 2018.

The overwhelming majority of Gibraltarians remain bitterly opposed to any negotiations with Spain over the territory’s political future. For a Gibraltarian politician to advocate a diplomatic settlement with Spain that would involve a cession of sovereignty, however partial, is tantamount to political suicide.

In December 2017 the Chief Minister hinted that he planned to call the next general election in late 2019. The first meeting of the current parliament was place on 9 December 2015, so the parliament must be dissolved by 8 December 2019, and an election must take place before 7 April 2020. But if recent precedent was followed, the Chief Minister would ask the Governor for an early dissolution and an election to take place sometime in November 2019 (four years after the last election). Following the British tradition, elections conventionally take place on a Thursday.

The GSLP/Libs won the 17 October 2019 general election with 53% of the votes, their candidates coming top of the list. Fabian Picardo topped the candidates list with 9961 votes, followed by Dr Joseph Garcia with 9672 votes. The three bottom candidates in the GSLP/Libs list were Balban, Sacramento and Daryanani. TG leader Marlene Hassan Nahon topped the seven Opposition candidates, followed by Damon Bossino, Daniel Feetham and Keith Azopardi followed at the bottom of the GSD list by Roy Clinton, Elliott Phillips and Edwin Reyes. All the others, from both the GSD and the TG, as well as the two Independents, were not elected.

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Page last modified: 17-11-2019 19:12:28 ZULU