The Minister of Foreign Affairs, José Manuel Albares, met this Wednesday in Riga (Latvia) with his new British counterpart, Liz Truss, who last September replaced Dominic Raab, who had a hard time keeping his vacation in Crete in full retreat from Afghanistan. In their first interview, held on the margins of the NATO Foreign Ministers’ conference, both have agreed to give a boost to the negotiations on Gibraltar’s future relations with the EU.
Albares has asked the new head of British diplomacy that the teams from the United Kingdom and the European Commission, which have already held several rounds of negotiations, “take a leap [en el proceso de diálogo] with the optimal objective of reaching a definitive agreement ”before December 31, according to his words. Truss, who until three months ago was Minister of Commerce, has agreed to reach an agreement “as soon as possible”, although without compromising a date. The new head of the Foreign Office will visit Madrid on the 15th, in return for the trip that Albares made to London last July, still with her predecessor, which diplomatic media interpret as a symptom of her desire to improve bilateral relations.
The problem is that the negotiations on Gibraltar are not carried out by the Spanish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which reached an agreement with the British one on December 31 last, but by the European Commission; and they are mixed with the conversations on the general agreement of the Brexit, that have been complicated by the British pretension to review the protocol on Northern Ireland. Both Spain and the United Kingdom set the date of December 31 to close an agreement on the future status of Gibraltar in the EU. Diplomatic sources admit that it is not an insurmountable limit, but only an objective, but they warn that it is difficult to extend indefinitely the current situation, which leaves the British colony in limbo: it is no longer part of the EU, but neither the controls foreseen for the external border of the Union are applied.
Albares has asked Truss that the negotiation on Gibraltar not be mixed with that of Brexit and has stressed that the objective of the first is the benefit of the people who live in the area; both the residents of Campo de Gibraltar and the colony, according to diplomatic sources. Beyond the Rock, the two ministers have addressed the mobility problems that Brexit has caused to residents, tourists or students of the two countries and have agreed on the need to work so that their lives are affected as little as possible.
Among other bilateral agreements, Albares has also met with his French colleague, Jean-Yves Le Drian, with whom he has agreed to finalize the new friendship treaty between the two countries, which should place bilateral relations at a level similar to that envisaged in the agreement between Paris and Rome or Madrid and Lisbon. The two ministers have also reviewed cross-border cooperation and the ratification of the dual nationality treaty and have addressed, as with Truss, the tension in Eastern Europe and the preparations for the summit that NATO will hold in Madrid in June 2022 .
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.