Spanish authorities have reduced vehicle checks on their border with British colony Gibraltar after a weekend of intense gridlock that left drivers stranded for hours in sweltering temperatures.
Following a series of accusations by Foreign Secretary William Hague and the Gibraltese Chief minister Fabian Picardo concerning the apparent “torture” of drivers attempting to leave Gibraltar into Spain, the Spanish have been forced to reduce road searches. Over the weekend, several drivers were taken to hospital complaining of chest pains in the searing heat, forcing Hague to speak to his counterpart in an attempt to resolve the situation.
Six hour traffic jams for “pretend” vehicle searches meant that thousands of drivers had to this endure extreme heat, yet it was only after Hague’s appeal to Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo that traffic searches were scaled down. A spokesman for the Foreign Office said: “Our main concerns are restoring people’s basic right to freedom of movement”.
Picardo believes this “bullying” stems from Spanish anger at an artificial reef that had been created in Gibraltan waters. This created tension over fishing rights, with Picardo claiming the reef was to “prevent Spanish fishermen fishing in a manner that is contrary to our law", he told the BBC.
Suspecting the spiked concrete blocks could cause damage to fishing nets and the fish themselves, the Spanish government launched a formal complaint, but have since been suspected of turning to other means. Gibraltar’s Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia said “Spain has again shown that she cannot resolve issues through normal diplomatic channels. Instead she merely resorts to heavy-hand tactics at the frontier”.
Many will point out that this is just the latest in a series of disputes concerning the ownership of Gibraltar. With the recent shots fired by Spanish Guardia Civils at a jet skier in British waters, and Spanish plans to reduce flights into Gibraltar, this dispute looks likely to run.