Spain hopes to reach an agreement over Gibraltar “possibly by the summer” that would enable the Rock’s airport to be included in the EU single skies area after Brexit, Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis told the BBC yesterday.
As he has done on previous occasions, Mr Dastis also referred to resolving “irritants that have plagued our relation in the last few years” including tax transparency and “controls at the border”.
Asked what exactly Spain wanted in terms of the airport, Mr Dastis declined to be drawn on the detail but was clear that Spain saw the potential for cross-border gain from an agreement that unlocked this thorny issue.
“The problem, as you know, is that the airport is located in a piece of land that was not ceded in the treaty of Utrecht, so we cannot accept that there is British jurisdiction over that piece of land,” he said.
“But at the same time we want to use the airport to the benefit of the population in Gibraltar [and] in the Campo de Gibraltar in the surrounding area, so we think it would be best for all of us if we could manage it jointly.”
Pressed further on this issue, the Spanish minister replied: “Well we will have to work out which exact terms will be.”
“We have tried twice, once it was rejected by the UK the second time it was rejected by us. Maybe a third time lucky.”
“I think, yes, if we got an agreement on the joint management of the airport, that would mean that the airport would be included in the single European skies so it could be used for flights towards Europe and outside Europe.”
Earlier this week, Mr Dastis told Reuters that Spain wanted an agreement for “joint use” and that such an agreement need not affect “each party’s position.”
Talking to the BBC yesterday, Mr Dastis referred to “constructive conversations” – he did not specify who with – and said there had already been “three or four” meetings to discuss Gibraltar-related matters.
The UK has previously said it has held “informal discussions” on Gibraltar with Spain as part of wider Brexit-related talks, and that the Gibraltar Government has been closely involved in preparing the UK’s position.
The Gibraltar Government did not react to the interviews with Mr Dastis this week but has previously expressed its desire to develop good cross-border relations to turn Brexit into an opportunity for wider regional prosperity.
In a ministerial message recently, Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said Gibraltar too wanted a list of “historic irritants” addressed, including better frontier flow, the removal of Gibraltar from Spain’s financial blacklists and for Madrid to meets its aviation commitments under the Cordoba accord.
Mr Picardo said Brexit had created an opportunity for all relevant parties to find common ground within “established and immovable red lines”.
But he made clear too that Gibraltar would never accept any proposal that diluted the Rock’s British sovereignty in any way, adding that his government would protect this community’s interests “at every turn”.