The challenges faced by La Linea and the wider Campo de Gibraltar make it “understandable” that Gibraltarians reject Spanish approaches on sovereignty, even if saying it sounds like “heresy”, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Alfonso Dastis, said this week.
In a frank response to a question during a conference in Madrid’s Club Siglo XXI on Thursday, Sr Dastis reflected on his recent visit to the Campo, where he heard at first hand the difficulties with unemployment and crime faced by communities in the area, in particular La Linea.
“One can understand Gibraltar,” he said, according to Europa Press news agency.
“Look at what we have on the other side of the fence.”
“Do you think they want to be like those other people?”
“I’m very sensitive and I was moved by the mayor of La Linea, who is committed to his city, because he says it is dying.”
Sr Dastis said Brexit and Gibraltar’s exit from the European Union offered “an opportunity” to improve the economic circumstances of the Campo de Gibraltar.
He said Spain would never drop its claim over Gibraltar or accept “the existence of a colony in the 21st century”, but insisted it would neither “go to war [over the Rock] or close the border”.
He flagged Spain’s long-standing concerns about Gibraltar’s tax model and claimed it did not follow international standards, a position firmly rejected by authorities here.
But he added: “We hope we can adjust these things and cooperate with the UK and with Gibraltar to bring a better standard of life” to La Linea and the Campo.