As Spain and the UK remain antlers locked over the ‘blocks and border’ disputes surrounding Gibraltar there are several side issues and revelations which are causing growing frustration.
This is according to some of our friends who have properties in both camps and work in Gibraltar.
Both they and we live in Fuengirola, around 68 miles from Gibraltar.
For the past few years we have been able to drive on or off ‘The Rock’ in around one hour – but not at peak times.
Now up to a six hour wait in temperatures above 30 degrees C is quite common. The few pounds you save in filling up the tank are lost as you fry on the tarmac with the air conditioning blasting.
For those not familiar with the exit procedure, you leave the main town and head for the airport runway crossing and get into ‘the loop’.
After being waved on or your vehicle stripped to the floor by the two or three Guardia Civil police officers on duty, you pass through the adjacent town of La Linea and speed for home.
When it’s gridlocked with irate drivers you are diverted away in a three mile queue through derelict land and open sites until some hours later you can eventually resume the loop traffic. There is no alternative escape – drivers must conform.
Our person who has gone through all this told us: “The irony is we estimate that about 80% of the cars in the queue are Spanish – either workers trying to get in and out – and the remainder are tourists coming to buy cheap cigs and booze or VAT-free luxuries which, of course, the Spanish Government doesn’t like as it deprives them of much needed tax income.”
They continued: “The Spanish government is delighted to have something to take the focus off the many corruption allegations for which they are being investigated. Also any reason to mess with Gib in general is an opportunity not to be missed, although they know 99.9% of Gibraltarians want to remain British.”
Some on ‘The Rock’ are accusing the Spanish Government of hypocrisy in its demands for the return of the territory while it occupies Melilla and Ceuta in northern Africa plus the Canaries. They ask “do they plan to lead by example and return these areas back to Africa?”
Our friends, whose main residence is in Gibraltar, added: “It’s not just one-sided as the Gibraltar Government are also being disingenuous here.”
Gibraltar’s government has dropped 74 concrete blocks on to the sea floor to create an artificial reef which it says will boost marine life.
The Spanish Government has reacted furiously to the construction, claiming that its fishing industry has been damaged as a result.
Fishermen say there are iron bars protruding from the blocks which tangle and break their fishing nets.
Our friends added: “They didn’t drop the concrete blocks to create an artificial reef to benefit the environment. They want to stop Spanish trawlers fishing in waters which both counties argue are theirs.”
Some are asking has the Treaty of Utrecht (the 300-year-old agreement to hand Gibraltar to the UK) been exceeded, especially questioning the massive reclamation of land, along with coastal and airport developments.
Another friend, Mary, said: “No big deal getting into our weekly work. We go over the border at midnight when there aren’t any queues and when they couldn’t care less about stopping you.
“We stay in our apartment, work the week and at a quiet point – Friday around mid-day – we park outside and later walk out to avoid the chaos and drive to the holiday home! The threatened 50 Euro charge in and out could cause riots.”
The first minister, Fabian Piccardo, has now compromised by allowing fishing to commence alongside the ‘new reef’ although he insists the waters still remain Gibraltarian.
In response to this a diver has put a Spanish flag on one of the blocks. Sadly, in La Linea things have recently got ugly with selected cars bearing Gib plates being damaged or, in some cases, set on fire.
But there are some of the town’s inhabitants who walk across the border legally with cartons of cigarettes which can be sold on at a big profit.
Smuggling of illegal tobacco has surged 213% between 2010 and 2012!
One can understand the appeal for many on very low income when you compare the price differences. A carton of 200 top-brand cigarettes cost £21.50 with others at £17.25 in Gibraltar.
But when purchased in the Spanish State-owned tobacconists they cost between £35 and £39.
It is widely reported that the Spanish tax office is set to investigate Gibraltar tax-domiciles who effectively reside in Spain for more than 183 days and pay nothing into the system such as tax or for health care.
Other annoying new laws in some regions which are upsetting ex-pats are that rubbish must only be placed in bins between 9pm and midnight, properties over 25 years old must be checked by architects and upgraded and a contract must be obtained before even small works are undertaken on your house. There are unreported rumours that you may be taxed as and when you leave the country having been residents!
But, having said all this, it’s still an interesting place to live.