Sunday, July 26, 2009

300 Years And Nothing To Show For It

The pathetic response of the Spanish right to the visit by Spanish foreign minister Moratinos to Gibraltar has only demonstrated the futility of so much nationalist posturing. Moratinos has been berated for breaking with a supposed tradition of 300 years of firm anti-colonial policy over the rock. Leaving aside for the moment the evident contradictions of that position in a country which itself possessed colonies, the real question that many in Spain are themselves asking is what has been achieved in those three centuries? The answer is nothing, or to be even more blunt about the results you could argue that Spanish policy has often been completely counterproductive. Franco's decision to try and isolate the population of Gibraltar for years probably accounts more than anything else for the hostility the inhabitants feel towards the idea of Spanish rule.

Some here are also drawing the inevitable comparison with the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla, which lie within the territory of Morocco. There are various excuses for crying "no es lo mismo" in the case of these possessions but the reality is that their existence is also the result of colonial adventure. The argument that Morocco didn't exist when they were conquered counts for little, on that basis you could argue that much of South America still belongs to Spain too. Then there is the frankly racist argument that it's not the same for a country to have colonies in Africa as it is in Europe. The difficulty that the Spanish patriots have, very well described in this piece by Josep Ramoneda, is that they can't face a more 21st century justification for Ceuta and Melilla This would be that the inhabitants have the right to decide their own future. It's not just because of the obvious implications for the case of Gibraltar that this argument has either, recognising the right to self-determination is a taboo for the Spanish right within the frontiers of the country itself. Because the right to decide on belonging to a country also implies the right to decide to leave it.


Tom said...

Colonialism? What colonialism?

Rab said...

The right to self-determination is a taboo for the Spanish right AND the Spanish left.

This is an article in today's Avui about this issue.


There is an online Catalan-English-Spanish translator in my blog.

The Guardian published a quite disgraceful editorial the other day about the issue. Understandably, it has not made many friends in Gibraltar.

The Guardian

Pueblo girl said...

More posturing over rocks - Perejil, anyone?

Patriotism is always an excellent card to play when you want to divert attention and frame yourself as the nation's saviour (think Falklands). What could it possibly be that the right wing want to push off the front page, I wonder?

Lavengro in Spain said...

You’re right that three hundred years of Spanish pressure has achieved nothing, but the Spaniards do have a perfectly good case about the isthmus, which the UK half-inched and built an airport on; and also about the territorial waters, which were explicitly not ceded in the Treaty of Utrecht. Britannia waives the rules as usual, but will get no backing from the EU or anyone else on that issue. Caruana’s daft idea that any boat stopped by the Guardia Civil should fire a rocket so that the Gibraltar Police could come galloping to the rescue over the Bay of Algeciras was quite rightly greeted with a resounding cry from the skippers of ‘Sodomizar eso por un juego de vaqueros’.

Independence for Gibraltar was ruled out by Utrecht for a very good reason: to keep the Barbary pirates out of the place. That reason is every bit as valid today. A pirate kingdom under the nominal control of the UK – when it chooses to exercise any control that is – is better than a pirate kingdom that is totally beyond any control.

As things stand at present, with Spain and the UK both in NATO, there is no need for a military presence at Gibraltar; the Mediterranean and the Atlantic are in the same hands and the Strait is freely open. But what if Gibraltar were independent, leasing its base to the highest bidder? Who would the supporters of independence like to see ensconced in the fortress and port of Gibraltar? Russia? Israel? Libya (the original Barbary pirates)? Brazil? South Africa? India? China? Hmmm, I thought not.

Rab said...


The Spanish claim on Gibraltar is as good as the Serbian claim on Kosovo.
One Spanish, always Spanish?
When the Arabs say the same about Al-Andalus, then people complain.
And why Spain does not reclaim Perpignan?
When Hitler offered Franco the counties of Rousillon and Cerdanya that are now part of France, Franco said “we have enough Catalans already”.

The llanitos don’t want to be part of Spain, that should settle the matter, why should a constitutional settlement be forced upon them without their explicit consent? Not very democratic and not very 21st century.

Graeme said...

I suggest that Gibraltar be opened up to offers from landlocked countries. Obviously we can't just give it to the highest bidder as the Swiss would win too easily - as well as getting a nice little offshore banking centre they don't really need together with the port.

Bolivia could be a good candidate, it does actually have a navy which is currently left practising on Lake Titicaca since the Chileans took away their access to the sea. Also, they speak the same language and the fact that the country is a former Spanish colony itself should help to defuse any claims about Gibraltar being a colony.

Lavengro in Spain said...

Nationalists rant illogically and irrationally. That's what you do best.

Well, if we're talking about landlocked countries I must put in a plea for the splendid country of Zambia. I lived there back in the early eighties. The thought of empowering a poor landlocked African country by giving it a place on the world stage does have very great attractions. Bolivia already has its navy, though it has no coastline. Zambia could achieve both at a stroke if it had Gibraltar!

Graeme said...

I noticed that when I was checking on the existence of the Bolivian navy that Wikipedia has a page on landlocked countries that have a navy! So let's add Paraguay, Uganda and Rwanda to the list of candidates.

Rab said...

@Lavengro: I think that what I do best is to unmask other people's prejudice, ignorance and double standards.

Care to elaborate about what is illogical and irrational about my earlier comment? And why do you call me a "nationalist"? (whatever that means)

Lavengro said...


Perhaps you would like to quote any comment of mine to the effect that the llanitos should be part of Spain. And when you have given up that futile search, you might like to present a logical and rational response to my message.

As for what you're best at, I think we'll just have to agree to differ.

Rab said...

I have long learnt in this game that when someone does not have any argument, or has his argument countered, a way to escape is to attack ad hominem (“nationalist”, “rant”, “irrationally”, etc) rather than addressing the point made. Another is to misconstrue what was written so that the new argument obscures the response given earlier. I see you have done a bit of both.

I don’t need to find any quote of yours to the effect of etc, etc, because I never wrote you had.

My response to your earlier comment (“the Spanish do have a perfectly good case about the isthmus”) is that the Spanish claim on Gibraltar is as good as the Serbian claim on Kosovo. That was all.

If we respect the right of the people of Kosovo (or most of them) not to belong to Serbia, then we should respect the right of the people of Gibraltar not to belong to Spain. It is that simple (some call it self-determination, others just plain old democracy in action) and everything else is just rhetoric and diversionary tactics (Pirate states? Russia? What about a martian base?)

Lavengro said...


Why do I call you a Nationalist? Well, you see, I have had a look at your blog. I am left seriously puzzled. Why should someone with such a blog regard the word 'nationalist' as an ad hominem attack?

Please explain.

Tom said...

@Lavengro - an 'ad hominem' argument is an argument against the man rather than his words. It's irrelevant whether you hold the 'nationalist' label to be true. What matters is that calling someone a 'nationalist' is not a logical response to his argument: you employed a logical fallacy.

As to independence for Gibraltar, is that even on the cards? I've never heard it mentioned as a possible (or desirable) option. So fear not the Barbary pirates.

Troy said...

I personally love the "Ceuta y Melilla no es lo mismo" argument. Reminds me of my invisible friend is stronger than yours out on the playground.

ejh said...

I suggest that Gibraltar be opened up to offers from landlocked countries.

I have a similar theory that Northern Ireland should be given to Norway. Protestant monarchy, so the Paisleyites can't complain, admirable welfare's an idea whose time will never come.