Political shifts taking place across Europe make referenda “more pertinent” now than ever before, Deputy Chief Minister Dr Joseph Garcia said yesterday, as he insisted that a people’s right to self-determination cannot be denied.
Dr Garcia was speaking at the opening of a symposium at the Garrison Library on Understanding Referenda and Self Determination in Europe.
The symposium opened yesterday at the Garrison Library, with a selection of international speakers scheduled. The three day symposium continues today and tomorrow and aims to be an “informational and educational” event for the wider community.
Dr Garcia called the subject of referenda “more pertinent given the shifts that are taking place all across Europe and the world today”.
“Gibraltar has suffered injustice at first hand, but blunt reality is that the legal rights of a population listed at the United Nations as a non-self-governing territory are often sacrificed on the altar of political expediency under pressure from Spain,” Dr Garcia said.
Dr Garcia remembered the 1967 referendum where Gibraltar chose to remain British, and marked the first time Gibraltarians were given a say on their future.
He told how in 1967 the people of Gibraltar defied both Spain and the United Nations and in 2002 they defied the United Kingdom as well.
He described the referendum as a response to the UK governments plans to share the sovereignty of Gibraltar between the UK and Spain.
“It was described as illegal. It was described as eccentric, but it is important to note that although the UK was against the referendum, no attempt was made to stop the vote taking place,” he said.
“There were no baton charges in Gibraltar, there were no attempts to close polling stations, and there was no confiscation of ballot papers or ballot boxes.”
“History has shown that violence and oppression will never bury an ideal so against the background of opposition not only from Spain but also from the UK the people of Gibraltar were given the choice of accepting or rejecting the principle of shared sovereignty and we overwhelmingly rejected it.”
“The so called illegal and eccentric referendum put pay to the concept of shared sovereignty almost overnight.”
He hoped the talks would be beneficial to the community and is a way for the government is to promote further self-determination.
“This is one way of doing that, by encouraging academics from all over Europe to come to Gibraltar to discuss the question of self-determination and referenda, not only in context of Gibraltar but what is happening in their own countries, such as the different referenda that has taken place in Ireland, for example, in adopting or rejecting EU treaties,” Dr Garcia told the Chronicle.
“It is going to be a very interesting and comprehensive discussion, in addition to that British Empire post-colonial issues will be raised and obviously the question of Gibraltar, our referendum and the impact of Brexit in Gibraltar will also be addressed by local speakers.”