The Spanish Government yesterday approved a wide-ranging 900m euro plan aimed at boosting employment and educational initiatives in the Campo de Gibraltar, alongside measures to strengthen law enforcement resources to tackle organised crime and its socioeconomic impact on communities in the area.
The plan envisages coordinated action across eight different ministries that will work in tandem with the Junta de Andalucia and the Mancomunidad de Municipios de Campo de Gibraltar to develop action plans in the short, medium and long term.
It was approved yesterday by the Spanish Cabinet, although the financing and the timetable for implementation of most of its content has yet to be finalised and rubber-stamped.
The development comes against the backdrop of widespread concern in the Campo about the potential impact of Brexit on communities in the region.
But the plan, which focuses attention and resources on longstanding demands from Campo communities, also coincides with the formal launch of campaigning for regional elections to the Andalusian parliament, prompting accusations from opposition parties that Spain’s Socialist government was electioneering.
The Spanish Government rejected those claims.
The plan acknowledges the Campo’s strategic geographic location and the importance of its existing port and industrial complex, setting out plans to improve road and rail links in a bid to boost connectivity and the movement of both people and freight.
Many of the projects set out in this section are not new, for example improvements to the rail link between Algeciras and Bobadilla, but have never progressed despite being under discussion for years.
The plan also outlines proposals to tackle the Campo’s high unemployment rate, including improved coordination between regional and national authorities, as well as measures to encourage entrepreneurial activity and investments by small to medium-sized businesses.
Among the specific projects set out in the plan is the creation of a new Free Zone in Los Barrios which should be operational by next year, alongside tax incentives designed to attract foreign businesses to the area.
The plan foresees increased resources for law enforcement agencies, in particular specialist units targeting organised crime and money laundering.
This includes creating a new group within Spain’s Centre for Intelligence against Terrorism and Organised Crime to “permanently” collect intelligence on groups operating in the Campo.
The Ministry for Justice will also build and staff three new courts in the area, while the Ministry for Education will establish programmes aimed at training adults who lack qualifications to enter the job market.