The outgoing Spanish Foreign Minister, Abel Matutes in Ibiza yesterday welcomed the agreement on Gibraltar between Britain and Spain which would unblock a raft of European Union legislation but would not affect a three-century dispute over the colony's status. “This agreement will help inspire further dialogue between the two countries regarding the future of Gibraltar,” said Matutes who is now retiring from active politics. The Foreign Minister, who is from Ibiza, said that the agreement was the fruit of months of intense dialogue between the two countries.“It's a good accord for Spain, the United Kingdom and for the people of Gibraltar,” he said. The agreement should smooth the way for Britain to join policing and judicial aspects of the EU's Schengen Agreement which allows passport-free travel for EU citizens. “The Spanish and British ambassadors in Brussels have exchanged letters this morning ratifying their understanding on how Britain's imminent partial entry to Schengen affects Gibraltar,” Matutues was quoted as saying. British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said the deal, which he called “arrangements” rather than a formal agreement, was good for both Britain and Gibraltar. He stressed it had no bearing on the issue of British sovereignty over the tiny colony, home to 30'000 people and claimed by Spain for 300 years. “We've achieved it without surrendering a single dot on our commitment that Gibraltar is British territory,” he said in a television interview with Reuters during a visit to Thailand on Wednesday. The agreement covers diplomatic, financial and policing issues and clears the way for passage of a number of stalled EU laws, including a directive on cross-border takeovers.


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