Palma.—Spanish Foreign Secretary Jose Manuel Margallo is seeking to reverse the political concessions made to Gibraltar by the previous PSOE Government. This would include advances achieved under the Tripartite Forum and the Cordoba Agreement.

El Pais states that Margallo believes Gibraltar “has used Madrid's good faith to advance its independentist pretensions,” without Spain obtaining anything in return.

The first stage of Margallo's strategy will be to exclude Gibraltar from the Single European Sky directive, an EU wide initiative for the management and coordination of airspace throughout the European Union which also sought to make air travel more accessible to the public.

This will take the form of Spain entering a reservation on the allocation of flexible air slots to companies operating from the Gibraltar airport.
El Pais says that although the practical impact of this measure on the Rock will be minimal, it will nevertheless restore the Spanish position contrary to Gibraltar's inclusion in the air liberalisation package prior to 2006. An updated, revised version of the directive was due to be approved in 2012, but disagreements by member states – not just Spain's objections in respect of Gibraltar – deferred this until a meeting of Transport Ministers later this year.

Spanish diplomatic sources have conceded that a full return to the position prior to 2006 will be a difficult task as numerous other measures and EU directives related to air travel have been approved and extended to Gibraltar since then, without Spanish objection.

Among these are regulations on permitted noise levels in airports and the working conditions of ground handling staff which will be impossible to reverse.

El Pais reckons that what Margallo is seeking to avoid is a consolidation of the existing de facto position so that it does not end up becoming a right, “as occurred with the occupation of the isthmus and could happen with the waters surrounding the Rock.” This is all part of Spain ‘s intention to toughen its stance over Gibraltar in the long-running dispute over sovereignty following a year that has seen an increase in diplomatic tensions.

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