The biggest difference between the current dispute and the others that are a regular feature of Gibraltar life is that, for various reasons, this one has caught the eye of the world’s media, which in turn has brought some fresh faces into the mix, such as Argentina president Cristina Fernández, said Robert Mancera, director and general manager of the Gibraltar-based expatriate advisory firm Blacktower.
“These things tend to flare up every now and again” between Gibraltar and Spain, Mancera, who has been in Gibraltar for two decades, noted.
“This particular incident, over fishing, has been rumbling on for about the last 12 months.”
Mancera and others said that the incident was prompting more comment from those outside of Gibraltar, such as business contacts and associates, who have been seeing it on television and in newspapers, than from those living there.
Many observers of the latest Gibraltar-Spain dispute have suggested that certain Spanish politicians have sought to use it as a way of distracting Spanish voters from the country’s economic problems – a strategy widely seen as having been behind Fernández’s recent campaign to reclaim the islands Argentina calls “Las Malvinas”, but which most of the rest of the world knows as the British Falkland Islands.
London Mayor Boris Johnson, seen by some as a possible Tory candidate one day for prime minister, was among those expressing this view, which he did in a column in London’s Telegraph newspaper that appeared today on the Gibraltar Chronicle’s website, under the headline "The Spanish must take their hands off Gibraltar’s throat".
"The euro is the crisis facing the Spanish government, not the right of the Gibraltarians to fish off their own Rock," Johnson wrote.
"It is a supreme irony that a process that was meant to bring harmony among European nations should actually be provoking this bizarre row between Britain and Spain.
"The real and long-term solution isn’t for some Anglo-Spanish condominium over Gibraltar; if anything, it is for Spain to bring back the peseta."
As reported, the dispute between Spain, Gibraltar and the UK broke out after the Spanish government allowed lengthy queues to form at the border crossing between Spain and Gibraltar, in an escalation of tensions said to have to do with an artificial reef Gibraltar is building in the Bay of Gibraltar that the Spanish say will keep its fishing boats out.
Spanish foreign minister José Manuel García-Margallo raised temperatures on 4 Aug by saying Spain was considering the implementation of a “congestion charge” of €50 for vehicles heading toward Gibraltar, among other measures. The charge, he said, could go to help Spanish fishermen displaced by the artificial reef.
Among his other proposals were that the estimated 6,000 Gibraltarians with properties in Spain might be given extra scrutiny by Spain’s tax authorities; Spain’s air space could be closed to flights heading to Gibraltar; and Gibraltar’s online gaming companies might be made to operate under Spanish law.