Gibraltar row explodes as Spain throws weight around in fight with Britain over land

Fabian Picardo addresses coronavirus situation in Gibraltar

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The Rock currently has a £250 million scheme to turn parts of the sea surrounding the British Overseas Territory into land again. If realised, it would create approximately one million square feet for residential buildings with leisure, community, retail and commercial use.

It is being undertaken by Harbour Developments Limited, a consortium made up entirely of locally-based developers – who are keen to provide more accommodation on the Rock itself.

Spain has always furiously objected to the plans.

And earlier this month questions were raised about the development in the Spanish Parliament.

Its equivalent of the Foreign Office reiterated “its opposition to any refilling, construction or any other type of operation on spaces not assigned by Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713”.

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Under the treaty, the British Overseas Territory was ceded to the British.

But it says this only applied to the “city and castle of Gibraltar, together with its port, defences and fortresses that belong to it”.

In a previous statement, the Spanish Government said: “This type of action is not in accordance with International law and has a negative environmental impact in areas of special environmental sensitivity.”

Since losing Gibraltar, Spain has insisted that it was signed under duress and still claims sovereignty over the Rock.

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Gibraltar’s fiercely patriotic Government had paid little attention to its complaints and has vowed to plough ahead with the work regardless.

Speaking in 2019, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar, Fabian Picardo, said: “It (the project) is another vote of confidence for our economy. The moment could not be better.

“It is a pride to be able to announce another multimillion project in the current situation.

“Our international projection seems to have had a positive effect.

“Projects like this encourage and facilitate these relocations and ensure that new companies wishing to move to Gibraltar can get accommodation for themselves and their workers.

“And most importantly, it also offers more houses to local residents, a demand that has proven to be insatiable given the popularity of the most recent private developments.”

Gibraltar is looking to press ahead with new projects as its successful vaccine rollout has left many EU countries, including Spain, lagging far behind.

Last year it became the first country in the world to vaccinate its entire adult population.

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