The Jóvenes Europeístas Federalistas España (JEF Spain) and the Young European Movement UK (YEM UK) wish to express together our shared concern and condemnation of the recent increase in hostility around the dispute between the two countries over Gibraltar.
Once again, the aftermath of the Brexit vote leads to tensions within Europe. However, few would have anticipated such hints at military intervention from such senior political figures. Whilst this has reignited a dispute which has for long been a source of disagreements between the UK and Spain, the areas upon which we can agree and share values far overshadow this. We agree that this dispute and many others like it in Europe arose out of centuries of destructive warfare. We also agree that if nations are left to resolve these issues exclusively by themselves, international law becomes little more than ‘might equals right’.
It is for this reason, and many others alongside it, that we as organisations are so keen to support the European project, and to encourage the British and Spanish governments to maintain a conciliatory attitude on the issue and make the greatest effort aiming for a peaceful resolution. It is also why 95.9% of Gibraltarians were inclined to agree with us. They favour the European way, not a return to militarism. This must be respected in any discussions over the future of the territory, and how it relates to its neighbours and friends.
In this sense, it feels essential to remind both governments of the significance of the Gibraltar-Spain border. Approximately 10,000 people cross the border each day to go work at the other side, with both Gibraltar and the Cádiz province playing a vital role in the other’s economy. Thus making it a true example of cross-border cooperation and integration and a clear symbol of the success of the European project, that had turned a centuries-long source of conflict into a flourishing point of social and economic cooperation. Gibraltar is largely self-governing. Its location, like that of Northern Ireland, makes getting the right deal vitally important both to the people of Gibraltar and those living in the south of Spain. It is therefore unsurprising that the Spanish have asked that any agreement here is supported by both the British and Spanish governments.
We expect the British government to firmly condemn the kind of comment that implies military intervention is an option. Once the distraction caused by militarist rhetoric has dissipated, the main goal of any discussion on Gibraltar’s future should be to secure the economic prospects of the people of Gibraltar. The population of Gibraltar overwhelmingly voted to stay in Europe and the Single Market, and as Europeans we must do our best to grant their wishes, though without putting European unity into peril.
We as organisations have worked together a lot over the years, on a range of projects. Spain and the UK have significant expat communities living within the territories of one another, and a great many cultural, economic, and personal links alongside that. As such we remain hopeful that good sense will prevail, and that our governments and our media outlets will learn that we are so much more than occasional allies. Somos familia.