Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Supplementary Memorandum from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Report of Meeting of the Brussels Process, Barcelona, 20 November 2001

  1.  The Brussels Process was established by the Brussels Communiqué of November 1984. In this, the British and Spanish Governments set our their aim of overcoming all the differences between the UK and Spain over Gibraltar and of promoting co-operation on a mutually beneficial basis on economic, cultural, touristic, aviation, military and environmental matters. The Communiqué also established that the issues of sovereignty would be discussed. Between 1984 and 1997, more than 50 meetings took place under the umbrella of the Brussels Process. Earlier this year, the Foreign Secretary announced, in the debate on the Queen's Speech (Hansard, 22 June 2001, Col 284), that the Government had agreed to resume talks under the Brussels Process.

  2.  The Foreign Secretary met the Spanish Foreign Minister in London on 26 July. The Chief Minister of Gibraltar was also invited to this meeting but did not attend. The Ministers underlined their commitment to resolve their differences over Gibraltar, confirmed the importance of Gibraltarian engagement in the Brussels Process, and confirmed the invitation to the Chief Minister of Gibraltar to attend future Ministerial meetings. The Ministers agreed to meet again in the autumn.

  3.  The Ministers held a further meeting of the Brussels Process in Barcelona on 20 November. Once again, the Chief Minister of Gibraltar was invited to attend but did not. A copy of the joint press communiqué issued at the meeting has been placed in the libraries of the House. A copy is also attached to this memorandum. The Ministers discussed the full range of issues set out in the Brussels Communiqué, including those of co-operation and sovereignty. They did not draw any conclusions at the Barcelona meeting, but agreed to meet again in the spring. In the meantime, normal contacts between the UK and Spanish and the UK and Gibraltar Governments will continue in order to prepare for the next meeting.

  4.  The Government believes that it has a unique opportunity to resolve the historic tensions between Gibraltar and Spain and to develop new relationships between the UK, Spain and Gibraltar. The Government aims, through the Brussels Process, to deliver a more stable, secure and prosperous future for Gibraltar, free from such inconveniences as border delays, telephone problems and flight restrictions. The Government wants Gibraltar to enjoy greater self-government and the full benefits of normal co-operation with the wider region. The Government believes that Gibraltar would then be in a position to develop its potential as a regional hub for financial business and tourism in the southern Iberian Peninsula. The Government firmly believes that dialogue under the Brussels Process is the only way to achieve this progress.

  5.  There is an open invitation to the Government of Gibraltar to participate in the Brussels Process with its own separate voice on the UK side of the table. At the meeting in Barcelona the Foreign Secretary and the Spanish Foreign Minister underlined the very important contribution that the Government of Gibraltar could make to the Brussels Process and reiterated their invitation for the Chief Minister to attend future Ministerial meetings.

  6.  The Government appreciates the concerns that many in Gibraltar have expressed. But we believe that they have nothing to fear and much to gain from discussion under the Brussels Process. As the Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and Minister for Europe have all recently reaffirmed, the Government's approach to the Brussels Process is based on the clear and public commitment enshrined in the preamble to the Gibraltar Constitution that ".....Her Majesty's Government will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes". This commitment is contained in the 1984 Brussels Communiqué that established the Process. As the Minister for Europe reaffirmed in his speech to the House on 7 November (Hansard, 7 November 2001, Col 88WH), the people of Gibraltar will be the final judges of the Brussels Process.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

23 November 2001



Josep Piqué i Camps, the Spanish Minister of Foreign Affairs and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary of the United Kingdom.

  At our meeting today we confirmed our shared objective to continue our discussions about Gibraltar, in an atmosphere of trust and mutual co-operation, a commitment which Prime Minister Blair and Prime Minister Aznar endorsed when they met in London on 9 November. We are delighted that we are making good progress.

  We discussed the full range of issues set out in the November 1984 Brussels Communiqué. We did not want to draw conclusions today. Our aim is to conclude a comprehensive agreement by the summer of next year. This overall agreement will cover all outstanding issues, including those of co-operation and sovereignty.

  Our shared objective is a future where Gibraltar enjoys a greater self government and the opportunity to reap the full benefits of normal co-existence with the wider region. The guiding principle is to build a secure, stable and prosperous future for Gibraltar and a modern sustainable status, consistent with our common membership of NATO and the EU. We also agreed on the need for rapid progress on key areas of co-operation. We asked officials to work up ideas and report to the next Ministerial meeting.

  While the British Government welcomed the Spanish decision to more than triple the number of telephone numbers for Gibraltar to 100,000, both Ministers agreed on the need for experts to continue discussions to resolve the other telecommunications issues. The British Government welcomed Spain's proposals to improve health care facilities in Spain for Gibraltarians, and both Ministers agreed that this should be followed up quickly. The Ministers also agreed that bilateral discussions would continue to address the pensions issue.

  We agreed that the Government of Gibraltar had a very important contribution to make to our discussions. Gibraltar's voice should be heard. We reiterated the invitation which we issued to the Chief Minister of Gibraltar when we met in London on 26 July to attend future Brussels Process Ministerial meetings. His role will be fully respected and he will have the opportunity to contribute fully to the discussions. The Process would benefit greatly from the direct views of the Government of Gibraltar, and through the Government of the House of Assembly and public opinion in Gibraltar as a whole.


20 November 2001

previous page contents next page

House of Commons home page Parliament home page House of Lords home page search page enquiries index

© Parliamentary copyright 2001
Prepared 13 December 2001