WASHINGTON – Spain’s Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said on Thursday that the European Parliament made “very clear” that it considers Gibraltar to be a colony by approving a document on visas that uses that term to refer to the formerly Spanish territory currently under British rule.
“For Spain, today is a very important day because the European Parliament voted with an overwhelming majority within the rules on the granting of visas. It said very clearly that Gibraltar is considered a colony,” Borrell told the press before entering a NATO meeting in Washington.
“We already knew that because the Court of Justice of the European Union and the United Nations had said it, but what the European Parliament has said is clear and that is the result of joint work by Spanish parliamentarians, first the Socialist Party, the Popular Party and Ciudadanos,” he said.
The foreign minister, in addition, emphasized that “it’s a very important issue for Spain because it concerns the country’s territorial integrity,” and he added: “I think that congratulations are in order.”
On Thursday, the full European Parliament approved the agreement to reform the policy to exempt Britons from needing travel visas after the United Kingdom leaves the European Union, a document that includes a footnote mentioning the so-called “colony” of Gibraltar for the first time in EU legislation.
The EU lawmakers acted to ensure post-Brexit freedom of movement for UK nationals in Gibraltar.
Lawmakers in the European Parliament passed the decision aimed at allowing UK nationals to enter the EU for short periods without the need for visas but included a footnote classifying Gibraltar as a colony.
“Gibraltar is a colony of the British Crown,” the footnote says. “There is controversy between Spain and the United Kingdom concerning the sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory for which a solution has to be reached in light of the relevant resolutions and decision of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”
Spain’s foreign ministry, which had pushed for the inclusion, welcomed the new visa waiver that it said would ease freedom of movement in Europe after the UK’s departure from the EU and noted that the EP had identified Gibraltar as a colony.
According to the ministry, “the measure will avoid problems for the movements of British nationals, including those from Gibraltar, when they cease to be part of the EU and become nationals of a third State.”
The designation of Gibraltar as a “colony” does not change the legal status of The Rock – a British enclave on the southern Spanish coast on the narrow strait linking the Atlantic Ocean with the Mediterranean Sea – on the UN list of territories that still need to be decolonized, but Spain feels that the term is of great diplomatic and political value.
Borrell is in Washington to participate in a meeting of NATO foreign ministers coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the founding of the Atlantic alliance.
Also participating in the meeting is UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, but Borrell told reporters that he does not plan to discuss the issue of Gibraltar with him.
“There’s nothing to talk about, the issue is closed and decided,” Borrell said.
Gibraltar’s citizens elect their own lawmakers while its parliament and government decide on every aspect of the territory’s life except defense and foreign affairs because Spain has consistently blocked such autonomy within the EU.
Gibraltar’s first parliament was a Legislative Council held in 1950 whose power was consolidated by the Constitution of 1969 and reconfirmed in 2006.
Spain became a democracy in 1978 after the death of long-time military dictator Gen. Francisco Franco, but it had ceded sovereignty over Gibraltar, a territory of 5.5 square kilometers (2.1 square miles) to the British by treaty in 1713, and since then has persistently sought its return.