AS From Our Files in the adjoining column tells us, “On This Day” in 1704 Gibraltar was won from Spain by Admiral Sir George Rooke. An odd coincidence, therefore, that the first official visit to Gibraltar by a Spanish minister in 305 years should have taken place this very week.

Encouraging, too, that the foreign ministers of Britain and Spain, Miguel Angel Moratinos and David Miliband should meet on Gibraltar in the company of its chief minister Peter Caruana. Naturally, there have been protests about this meeting, most of them in Spain and directed at Sr Moratinos but others on Gibraltar itself where the referendum of 2002 showing virtually total opposition to any accommodation with Spain; for the most part, though, these objections were from people who look to the past rather than the future. This meeting was the third of the Forum of Dialogue, created in 2004 to facilitate discussion about problems of common interest arising from the Gibraltar situation without touching on the much larger issue of sovereignty; such problems include maritime co-operation, financial services, organised crime, the environment and visas policy. Although sovereignty will always be “the elephant in the room” the pragmatic approach of recognising shared problems and finding solutions to them is more likely in the end to lead to the resolution of the more fundamental disagreement. It will take time but - especially within the context of the European Union - it will eventually happen.