BRUSSELS, Dec. 17 (EUROPA PRESS) –
The vice-president of the European Commission responsible for relations with the United Kingdom, Maros Sefcovic, expressed his confidence this Friday that an agreement on the status of Gibraltar in relations with the European Union will be possible “throughout the first quarter” of the next year, as London and Madrid point out after verifying that it has not been possible to resolve it in the scheduled time.
“We will continue negotiating during the new year and will enter a decisive phase as soon as possible. We share with the United Kingdom and Spain the objective of concluding an agreement throughout the first quarter,” Sefcovic said at a press conference in Brussels.
The Community Vice President has appeared to take stock of the negotiations with the British Government on another open matter, compliance with the Protocol for Northern Ireland that London refuses to apply despite being part of the divorce agreement due to Brexit and that indirectly it also hampers the advances in what the Rock is concerned.
The European Commission, which negotiates on behalf of the EU with London on Gibraltar, and the Government of Boris Johnson have participated in four rounds of contacts since last October to try to close an agreement on the situation of the territory before the end of this year .
Madrid and London agreed twelve months ago a provisional framework to avoid systematic controls on the Gibraltarian border that Spain should be carrying out since the United Kingdom left the EU, among other changes, but the definitive status for the Rock must be agreed by the British with the set of Twenty-seven.
In this framework, Sefcovic has assured that progress has been made in the talks during these months of negotiation, which he has defined as a “very constructive” process that “reflects the firm will” of the two parties to reach an agreement as soon as possible.
It was the government of Gibraltar itself that announced last Wednesday that the parties had assumed that they would not be able to close the agreement as they aspired before the end of 2021, so they would resume the talks at the beginning of the following year.
The Gibraltarian authorities then pointed out the objective of an agreement “before Easter” and that would fundamentally serve to ensure the “smooth” movement of people and goods between the EU and the Rock. Community sources consulted by Europa Press already confirmed that “the first quarter” was the shared objective of closing the pact.
The prospect of a new calendar of negotiations for the first months of the year announced by Gibraltar coincided in time with a meeting in Madrid between the Foreign Minister, José Manuel Albares, and his British colleague, Liz Truss.
BORDER CONTROL WITH THE PRESENCE OF FRONTEX
The departure of the United Kingdom from the European Union also left Gibraltar out of the common market that guarantees the free movement of people and goods within the bloc, although London and Madrid agreed almost a year ago to maintain the ‘status quo’ while the EU negotiated a new status for the territory.
The Twenty-seven gave their approval to demolish the Gate as the Spanish and British want, but in return they ask that border controls be transferred to the airport and the port to monitor the passage to the Schengen area.
Brussels advocated that Spain should be in command of those controls, which irritated the British Government, which saw in this gesture an attack on its sovereignty and considered that condition “unacceptable.”
For this reason, and at the request of Spain, the negotiating mandate of the Europeans added the nuance that Madrid had “interest” in requesting the Frontex agency assistance for this task during an initial period of four years.
However, along with the mandate, the 27 included their own declaration to make clear that the abolition of the Gate seeks to ensure the development and prosperity of the region and “cannot be interpreted as the participation of Gibraltar in the Schengen acquis”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.