Gibraltar stands ready to “grasp the hand of honest friendship” should Spain reach out and respect the wishes of the Gibraltarians to decide their own future, a long-time Gibraltarian campaigner for self-determination told the UN Fourth Committee in New York yesterday.
Addressing the committee as a petitioner representing the Self Determination for Gibraltar Group, Dennis Matthews said Gibraltar sought to avoid confrontation and wanted to live in harmony with its neighbour.
But he reminded the committee that Gibraltarians had in the past paid “a heavy price” when the Spanish dictator General Franco closed the border to apply pressure on the Rock, and that such attitudes toward Gibraltar endured in parts of the Spanish establishment to this day.
He noted, for example, how Spain’s former Partido Popular Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo had sought to use Brexit to “attack and intimidate” Gibraltar and push a joint sovereignty agenda rejected by the Gibraltarians.
In a carefully-crafted speech, he said Gibraltarians had “bravely stood up” to Franco and, in doing, “galvanised and strengthened” the Gibraltarian identity.
And while he acknowledged that Spain’s new Socialist government had stated Brexit would not be used “as a weapon” against Gibraltar, he left no doubt about the resolve of the Gibraltarians to stand up to such pressures again if need be.
“If Spain seeks to extend the hand of honest friendship to Gibraltar, whilst respecting our wishes, we will grasp it,” Mr Matthews said.
“We do not seek confrontation, nor do we want to create issues where there are none. We would be happy to live in harmony with our neighbours.”
“But let us be clear, we will never weaken in our resolve.”
“Because successive generations of Gibraltarians have endured many hardships and their sacrifices can never be in vain.”
“Because Gibraltar has been built on the shoulders of those who faced the burdens of an oppressive dictator and that building can never fall.”
“But, most of all, because our children must grow up with the privilege of being able to be the sole arbiters of their destiny.”
Mr Matthews reminded the Fourth Committee that the UN had acknowledged the right to self-determination of non self-governing nations including Gibraltar, adding that the UN charter affirmed the equal rights of nations “large and small”.
“Consequently, however small Gibraltar may be, I cannot understand why this Committee appears so reluctant to either recognise that Gibraltar is already decolonised, or tell us what further steps we must take in order to achieve removal from the UN list of colonies,” he said.
“Is there no one here prepared to apply these principles to our small nation?”