Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Between A Rock And Another Rock

The book of diversionary international political tactics, author L. Galtieri, with contributions by M. Thatcher and C. Fernández de Kirchner, 2013 revision by M. Rajoy and J. M. García-Margallo, available now. What the critics have to say:

"While stopping short of the use of war as proposed in the original, Rajoy and García-Margallo present a coherent argument for raising nationalist support for a faltering government with a nationalist agenda and for minimising the scrutiny of one of the author's previously suspicious financial affairs by targeting a disputed territory and going beyond historical claims by highlighting potential tax and financial irregularities that centre on this disputed territory. One of the co-authors, now a minister for foreign affairs, displays his deep knowledge of fiscal matters in such disputes. He attended the international tax programme at Harvard Law School and was a former head of studies at the Spanish Hacienda ministry and so has all the credentials required for understanding issues facing his fellow author and those pertaining to allegedly piratical behaviours in said disputed territory."

"A miserable exercise in sabre-rattling by a corrupt and incompetent regime."

"A flawed analysis which takes no account of Moroccan claims on the cities of Ceuta and Melilla or of either further Moroccan claims on the Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera, which is connected to the Moroccan coast by an isthmus that is a mere 85 metres long, or of Portuguese claims on the territory of Olivenza between Portugal and Spain in the region of Extremadura which was ceded to Spain under the Treaty of Badajoz in 1801."

Gibraltar is a nonsense. Look where it is. What on earth is it doing being a British overseas territory? It makes no sense but it makes perfect sense, strategically and militarily, and history decrees that it is British. And, where British national pride is concerned, it is a small something to show for the old empire: some half-decent real estate.

Empires have a lot to do with Gibraltar. Neither Britain nor Spain has ever come to terms with the fact that each of them lost an empire, but what gets up the noses of the Spanish is that they lost theirs that much earlier and were forced to endure British dominance while they were slipping further and further into decline before suffering the final great humiliations of 1898 and the losses to the new Anglo-Saxon empire of the United States.

Gibraltar is the feeble battleground of old empires. Britain and Spain are trapped for an eternity within the straitjackets of the rock's straits, their history and the ghosts of imperial days. There Gibraltar is, stuck onto Europe's backside, an irritant boil that neither can lance but one upon which the rest of Europe looks and wonders why some soothing salve cannot be applied so that everyone can get on and pay attention to rather more important matters. Indeed, Europe may well wonder what in God's name the Spanish are doing, messing around with Gibraltar in an apparent act of ingratitude.

Franco chose to close the border with Gibraltar in 1969, having been asserting Spanish sovereignty for years, a good old nationalist ploy not that far removed from the current actions led by Spain's José Manuel García-Margallo. History has a habit of repeating itself, as does ingratitude. Franco's Spain chose to stick two fingers up to British (and European) investment and tourism. Rajoy's Spain is doing something not dissimilar.

But then this is not a Spanish view. It is revealing to read the thousands of comments posted on the internet under Spanish newspaper articles about García-Margallo's get-tough stance. To take but one - "the English are a cancer". This appeared under an article on the "El País" website and so was not one from a newspaper of the rabid and nationalist right. Gibraltar reveals just how much xenophobia exists in Spain and how much of it is directed at the British. 

After 300 years, Spain still wants Gibraltar back. It cannot let go, just as the British cannot let go. But Spain also can't let go of Ceuta and Melilla. Why should it, when people there are happy to remain Spanish? Melilla was conquered, Ceuta was ceded to Spain by Portugal. Spain maintains that both have always been Spanish, which is a version of history to suit the situations. The other rock, the Peñón de Vélez, became Spanish when Portugal was once absorbed into the Spanish crown. And what about Olivenza, because this territory was part of Portugal. It is also a territory about which very little mention is made in Spain. Why would that be, do you suppose?

Any comments to andrew@thealcudiaguide.com please.

No comments: