Tuesday, 6 August 2013

Pettiness of Politics

Gibraltar is a place known for mischievous monkeys and being a great tourist destination, but it also happens to be at the centre of a long running dispute between Spain and Britain. It exists as an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, just like the Falklands, and, just like the Falklands, it is a piece of land that Britain owns, but another country claims. The UK has been in charge for about 300 years, but the argument has once again boiled over the issue of Gibraltar potentially disrupting Spanish fishing.

Spain thinks that Gibraltar is sabotaging its fishing industry by building a reef, while the authorities on the rock simply claim that they are innocently building a new place where wildlife can thrive. The tension between the two governments is seen in how Spain has sought to make it harder to access the rock, while Gibraltar have complained about how Spain is just making things difficult because it is still sore about not being in control.

With both sides acting as if the other is some sort of crazed group dedicated to maliciously asserting some imagined claim to land that is not theirs, it is probably worth looking at the situation, and wondering which one of them is actually doing what is right.

In terms of who owns the rock, the solution is fairly simple: The people who live there own it. It is a long way away from Britain, and cannot really be claimed to be part of our country, so there is no point completely ignoring all Spanish claims. However, the people who live there has chosen to be British, due to their history as an important part of the old Empire, and they really want to stay connected with us. Therefore, if they want to be British, they can be, and we should treat them like the British citizens they are.

Therefore, the issue of ownership is not really one that we should worry about. However, even though that might be the deep down causes of the tension between Spain and Gibraltar, we can't simply fold our arms and say that the matter is settled. If the Gibraltar government is being a prat, then they are not excused by the fact that they are rightfully in charge of their own land. That would be like saying it was ok for you to egg your neighbours house, purely because you own your home.

The media, and a lot of people that you can see talking about it online, have suggested and implied that the reason Spain is causing all this trouble is that it is a distraction. Just like the Falklands war was used by the Argentinian government as an attempt to distract people from economic problems, Spain toughening its approach could be an attempt to get more public support behind the government in these tough times. Essentially, people are saying that Gibraltar is a nationalistic trophy for the spanish government, and a guaranteed opportunity to increase approval ratings.

If that was the reason behind the increased fuss at the border, the potential for a fee being introduced for those trying to travel between Gibraltar and Spain, and the possibility of the closing of spanish airspace to people traveling the to territory, then it does seem a bit petty. After all, this is a people, a community, and it really is a bit low to be playing political games with them.

Yet, then again, maybe the British media is not exactly portraying Spain fairly. Everyone loves an underdog in Britain, as well as a big nasty enemy to intensely dislike, and the tensions between Gibraltar and Spain might just be another excuse for the media to live out its favourite fantasy. After all, Gibraltar did suddenly start dumping concrete blocks in the sea without much warning, and this probably would cause disruption to Spanish fishing.

Therefore, it might be that Spain really was simply trying to act in the best interests of its fisherman, although those fisherman have been accused of causing serious damage to the local areas, something that the reef was meant to undo. However, that does not justify the measures that have been taken. A complaint to the Gibraltarian authorities would be fine, as would taking up the matter with the British government, but introducing measures to hurt the Gibraltarians just seems a little petty and childish.

If the motivations behind creating a reef were equally petty and childish, something that we have no evidence to suggest so far, then Gibraltar is in the wrong as well. It isn't going to do anyone any good by bickering over little things for no good reason.

A community has grown up on Gibraltar, a community with links both to Britain and Spain, but one that has chosen to be British. It is self governing, and has its own history and unique identity, something that should not be part of some political game. It should respect its neighbours, as is the right thing to do in all situations, but equally should be respected in return. Nothing can be gained from Spain or Gibraltar deliberately against the other one, so there really no point in all this fuss.

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