The head of the DG Employment, Social Affairs & Inclusion unit of the European Commission, Nicolas Gibert-Morin, has urged the EU’s hierarchy to visit the Rock “because it is the only way you can understand Gibraltar”.
Mr Gibert-Morin is a member of an EU Commission Mission which visited Gibraltar last week to see first-hand how EU-structural funds have aided the Rock.
During their stay, the mission visited projects which have been EU co-funded and met with those that work or have benefited from the same.
At a press conference at No. 6 Convent Place on Friday, Mr Gibert-Morin told reporters that what he would be taking back to his superiors in Brussels is that EU funding has had a “huge impact” on Gibraltar’s economy and society.
“The second thing that I would like to say to them is that Gibraltar and Gibraltarians are essentially pro-European, Europhile and very sad to see that they might have to leave the EU,” he said.
“The last thing that I would probably say to them is that they need to come to Gibraltar because you can only understand the situation of Gibraltar if you come to Gibraltar.”
“If you pass the border, if you just go around the island and understand the geography of the place this is the only way you can understand Gibraltar.”
“So I would tell them please go to Gibraltar,” he added.
“Absolutely true,” remarked Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia.
Dr Garcia also explained that Gibraltar has benefited from 60 million Euros of EU funding since 1990 when the first programmes were devised in which Gibraltar was included.
The funding programme for Gibraltar has come from the European Regional Development Fund and also from the European Social Fund.
Additionally, Dr Garcia said, there have been projects where Gibraltar has participated with other EU states like Spain, France and Portugal and member states that are not in the European Union like Morocco.
The latest EU funding programme which spans 2014-2020 guarantees Gibraltar approximately five million Euros.
EU funds have historically assisted the economy of Gibraltar as it made the transition from an economy which was based on defence spending to an open private sector economy.
In this regard Dr Garcia flagged the Kings Bastion Leisure Centre – a 17th century bastion and now leisure centre – and Casemates Square which included historic military barracks, was modernised and became shops and restaurants.
“That is what EU funding is all about in my experience… its generating economic wealth, generating jobs and generating employment,” Dr Garcia added.
The objective of the mission, Mr Gibert-Morin explained, was to gain a firsthand experience of EU funding implementation in Gibraltar.
“In a way the visit was also a celebration of the EU contribution to Gibraltar’s economic and social development,” he said.
Anecdotally he added: “We were walking down Main Street yesterday and I was shown around and basically every ten metres was a shop, there was a building which had in one way or another benefited from EU funding.”
The mission had the opportunity on Friday to visit a number of social fund and European Development fund projects including the Construction Training Centre, the eco wave power plant and the Gib Docks.
Mr Gibert-Morin said: “What I have learnt from these visits first of all is how committed Gibraltarians are to the EU and to EU funding and how pleased they were with the EU contribution to Gibraltar.”
“The other thing is that although the contribution of the EU is relatively small compared to the Gibraltarian economy, it does make an essential contribution.”