Memorandum from Mr John Borda
I attach a report containing a summary solution
to Gibraltar's telecoms difficulties, including comments on yesterday's
Press Release by the Government of Gibraltar on the subject (attached).
In view of the fact that the Spanish Government
offer is illegal, as well as underhand, and that they are unlikely
to offer a solution which addresses the root cause of the problem
(themselves), it now becomes urgent to implement an interim solution
which bypasses them, until such time as prosecution forces them
to accept the 350 IDD code.
In this way Gibraltar's telecoms can be normalised,
and removed as a source of friction. An Anglo-Gibraltarian solution
would improve trust between Gibraltar and the UK which is currently
at a low ebb.
GIBRALTAR TELECOMMUNICATIONS DIFFICULTIES:
A POSSIBLE SOLUTION
1. Gibraltar is expecting a shortage of
telephone numbers accessible from Spain, due to the Spanish Government's
illegal non-recognition of Gibraltar's 350 IDD code. While Gibraltar
could unilaterally expand and renumber its numbering system, those
numbers would be inaccessible from Spain for this reason. I propose
an interim solution that would solve this, and other problems,
without the need for Spanish co-operation.
2. The proposed use of UK's 02350 and 07350
National codes (or others if not available) to replace the use
of Spanish Cadiz exchange would:
1. Remove the Spanish stranglehold on Gibraltar's
2. Allow Gibraltar mobile phones to be used
in Spain ("roaming"), and be called from Spain.
3. Allow "least cost dialling"
international calls to Gibraltar to be successfully routed via
4. Remove the danger of Gibraltar's telecoms
being compromised by Spanish interference. (See also attached
3. As such, there is no real disadvantage
to either the UK or Gibraltar, and very great advantages. The
change would be visible only in Spain, and such change is inevitable
when Gibraltar renumbers, as it must do soon.
4. Currently, while Gibraltar has its own
allocated International Direct Dialling (IDD) code of 350, this
is recognised by all countries except Spain. As an "interim
solution" 30,000 numbers were allocated to Gibraltar from
the Cadiz telephone exchange, so that they could be dialled as
if they were part of the Spanish national telephone network.
5. While initially workable, though politically
repugnant to Gibraltarians, this solution has worked until recently.
Because of Gibraltar's expanding economy, Gibraltar has now exceeded
the 30,000 lines allocated to it, and the Spanish government are
using this as a bargaining chip in negotiations from which they
expect to gain concessions.
6. The "100,000" lines (in reality
about 70,000 usable additional lines) offered by the Spanish government
do not address the root of the problem, and the condition placed
that they are not used for Gibraltar's finance centre defeats
the object of having those lines in the first place. This raises
the additional danger that the lines could be withdrawn at any
time should the Spanish government feel that some lines might
benefit Gibraltar's economy, or in retaliation for some real or
imaginary grievance. Also, such is the pace of expansion in Gibraltar
that these lines would be exhausted quickly, tightening the strangehold
once again, at the cost of permanent concessions. Please also
see attached Press Release,
where the expert legal opinion of the Gibraltar Government is
that the offer is, in fact, illegal and amounts to an attempt
by the Spanish government to take over Gibraltar's complete numbering
7. There has also been the suggestion that
these lines might be bugged without due legal process in Gibraltar.
The suggestion is not so far-fetched if the Spanish government's
policy of economic strangulation is taken into consideration.
Industrial espionage of this sort would enhance their ability
to damage Gibraltar's economy. However, there is no evidence of
this happening at this time.
8. Gibraltar's mobile phones are not accessible
via Spain directly, due the non-recognition of the 350 IDD code
as detailed above. They can also not be used within Spain as Spanish
telecommunications companies (telcos) are forbidden from honouring
"roaming" agreements (already signed) with Gibraltar
mobile phone operators. Spain is the only country to do this.
This inhibits Gibraltar's ability to open up its mobile phone
market to other operators, and is in breach of EU competition
Disruption to International Calls
9. This arises out of the liberalisation
of the international phone call market. Telcos are free to route
their calls through the cheapest operator, regardless of the physical
route taken (Least Cost Routing). While this is generally of benefit,
it has caused Gibraltar significant problems in terms of failure
of calls routed via Spain, which sometimes get a "this number
does not exist" automatic response.
10. As there are two routes available, either
via Spain or direct to Gibraltar, and Spain can take advantage
of economies of scale, the cheaper route is via Spain. However,
international telcos have not anticipated that they need to convert
a number directed at Gibraltar into a domestic Spanish number
for the Spanish exchange to recognise it. This has caused a large
number of calls to Gibraltar to be greeted with a "number
not recognised" message, with consequent loss of business
11. Gibraltar would certainly benefit from
a "normalised" situation. Apart from being able to develop
its telecoms, and hence other businesses, in a natural manner,
it would remove a source of tension between Gibraltar and Spain,
which would also benefit the UK. Another advantage is the removal
of the implication of being part of Spain by virtue of the telephone
system. As there is no possibility of integration with Spain in
the even distant future, this has positive political benefits
too. Once all benefits of its restriction were removed, Spain
might decide to accept the 350 code, rather than face the EU Commission
12. The British Government gains from the
removal of a source of friction in Anglo-Spanish relations. It
also improves the British/Gibraltarian bargaining position with
respect to normalising Gibraltar/Spain relations. A bilateral
Anglo-Gibraltar solution would also improve Gibraltarian trust
in the British Government, which has been sorely tested of late.
13. The Spanish hinterland would also greatly
benefit from any increase in Gibraltar's economy. As the Gibraltar
resident workforce is almost 100 per cent employed, extra workforce
would have to come from the neighbouring area. Indeed, 4,000+
workers currently commute from Spain. Indirect benefits would
also accrue to the area, as both these commuting workers, and
those resident in Gibraltar spend their earnings in the hinterland.
Again this is already the case, two hypermarkets and many other
businesses rely on money earned in Gibraltar, increasing employment
in what has been a depressed part of Spain. Gibraltar would then
become the "financial powerhouse" of the region, providing
cheaper "seed capital" for businesses in Spain.
14. The Spanish government would gain financially
through increased tax revenues and reduced social security payments.
The improved financial status of the Andalucian region would also
help to reduce the high crime rate in the area, by securing honest
employment for more citizens.
15. Unfortunately, the Spanish government
places the destruction of Gibraltar's economy above the welfare
of its citizens, and is therefore unlikely to co-operate in a
full solution. Its conditional offer of 70,000 additional lines
is unacceptable, precisely because it is conditional and could
form the basis of a withdrawal of those lines at any time. This
insecurity is unacceptable to a modern economy. This is as well
as the sound legal reasons outlined by the Gibraltar Government
in the attached Press Release.
16. As the Spanish government is unlikely
to normalise its policy on Gibraltar, a means must be fond to
"remove them from the loop".
17. The UK would allocate part of its domestic
numbering system to Gibraltar. Ideally, these numbers would contain
the existing "350" prefix for ease of transition. The
prefixes 02350 and 07350, the latter allocated for mobile phones,
would be ideal. Spain would then have six months before the use
of the Cadiz exchange by Gibraltar ceased. This should be sufficient
time for Gibraltarian users to inform their contacts of the change.
All numbers reaching Gibraltar via the Cadiz exchange would also
get a recorded message informing them of the change. Simultaneously,
Gibraltar could adopt six-figure telephone numbers, rather than
the current five-digit numbers available so far.
18. This would make two million lines available
in total. This should be more than sufficient for the foreseeable
future, though there would be no problem with expanding this to
seven or eight digits as needed. Spanish domestic subscribers
would then be able to dial Gibraltar landlines, and now, also
mobile phones in a normal fashion as if they were part of the
UK network. The difficulties with "roaming" would also
be resolved as Spanish callers would just dial an unblocked UK
number to reach the phone in a normal manner. It would probably
be politically difficult for the Spanish government to order the
blocking of UK numbers.
19. International telcos could then route
calls to Gibraltar via the UK in a normal manner, without risking
the loss of calls, while taking advantage of the UK's economies
of scale to keep prices down.
20. This would provide as close to a normal
solution as is possible under current circumstances. There would
be no question of Gibraltar giving up it's 350 IDD code, which
would still be usable by all other countries and would remove
all advantages to the Spanish government of non-recognition. Court
action in the EU would still proceed against the Spanish government
until normalisation was complete.
21. The advantages, as detailed previously,
to both Gibraltar, the UK and Spain are obvious and permanent,
as would be the normalisation of any other area. While the Spanish
government might be disgruntled at the loss of a bargaining chip,
it would gain in other, more tangible ways.
22. I therefore submit this as a possible
solution to a part of the Spanish discrimination against Gibraltar.
Mr John Borda
4 Government of Gibraltar Press Release No: 14/2002,
23 January 2002. Not printed. Back
Government of Gibraltar Press Release No: 14/2002, 23 January
2002. Not printed. Back
Government of Gibraltar Press Release No: 14/2002, 23 January
2002. Not printed. Back