Spain: Madrid harms Gibraltar with tough talk, Picardo says

Removing the cement blocks is not an option, says Picardo

06 September, 13:33

    (ANSAmed) - MADRID, SEPTEMBER 6 - Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo on Friday said Spanish tough talk in an ongoing border spat with the UK is harming the Rock's citizens.

    ''The Spanish government is creating an almost prewar atmosphere'', which ''puts Gibraltarians in jeopardy'' the minister told Cadena Ser in a radio interview. The tiff began in mid-July when the UK sank a cement barrier off the Bay of Algeciras, also known as the Bay of Gibraltar, to form a natural reef.

    Saying this compromised the livelihood of its fishermen, Spain retaliated with excruciatingly long customs checks at the border, allegedly to foil tobacco smugglers and money launderers.

    Picardo said removing the cement blocks is not an option.

    ''They were placed there for scientific reasons, to defend the environment'', he explained. Cameron ''has nor right or sovereignty to order the blocks removed, and he won't,'' the minister assured.

    The Spanish border checks ''have nothing to do with tobacco'' and everything to do with wanting to reclaim the Rock, which Spain ceded to the UK under the Utrecht Treaty of 1713, the minister alleged.

    ''Small-time cigarette smugglers are operating all the time, and 80% of those we arrest are Spanish'', Picardo assured, adding that anyone accusing Gibraltar of being an off-shore tax haven is ''manipulating reality''. His comments came as UK Prime Minister David Cameron and Spanish Premier Mariano Rajoy prep to meet on this thorny issue today, on the margins of the ongoing G20 summit in St.


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