Spanish fishermen see red over Gibraltar ‘reef’

Spain and Gibraltar have fallen out yet again, this time over a load of cement blocks.

Spanish fishermen see red over Gibraltar 'reef'
It’s been a particularly turbulent week for Spain-Gibraltar relations. Photo: Marcos Moreno/AFP

Spanish Border Police have not been allowing concrete mixer trucks into the tiny British-held enclave of Gibraltar since Tuesday.

The decision was taken after Spain’s Environmental Department slammed the Gibraltarian government for tipping 70 blocks of cement into the sea.

Spanish trawlers alerted Spain’s Civil Guard police last week after they spotted Gibraltarian tugboats dropping the huge concrete blocks in what they deemed was a bid to make their job more difficult, online daily Público reported on Thursday.

Gibraltar’s government responded by saying they had begun building a man-made reef in their own waters to stop incursions by Spanish fishing boats.

Check out The Local's List on ten things you didn't know about Gibraltar.

Spain’s Environment Minister Arias Cañete has issued an official complaint at Madrid’s public prosecutor office for what he considers to be an “infringement of several environmental laws" by the Gibraltar government, which in turn has “severely damaged the type of fish species available to the Spanish trawlers.”

It’s been a particularly turbulent week for Spain-Gibraltar relations after Gibraltar accused Madrid of deliberately creating delays to car traffic to and from the disputed British-held territory and Spain.

The government of Gibraltar said it deployed an ambulance to treat peoplewith medical conditions who were stuck in the queue and distributed 11,000 bottles of water for people waiting in temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit).

The border delays ended on Monday after British Foreign Secretary WilliamHague phoned his Spanish counterpart Jose Manuel Margallo to express "serious concerns" at the stoppages and Britain's Foreign Office formally protested to the Spanish ambassador in London.

Gibraltar’s plans for building an artificial reef appear to be at the centre of this week’s dispute; an attack on Spain’s fishing fleet according to the Madrid government but a necessary evil in Gibraltar’s eyes.

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Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws

Gibraltar heads to the polls on Thursday to vote on plans to ease abortion laws which currently carry possible life sentences for offenders, in a referendum delayed for over a year by the coronavirus pandemic.

Gibraltar holds referendum on its draconian abortion laws
A woman wears a t-shirt reading " Gibraltar for Yes!" outside a polling station in Gibraltar, on June 24, 2021. Photo: Jorge Guerrero/AFP

The issue has exposed sharply opposing views within this tiny, normally closely-knit British enclave at the southernmost tip of Spain, which is home to some 32,000 people.

The referendum was initially slated for March 19 2020 but a week ahead of the vote it was postponed as virus cases began spiralling at the start of the pandemic.Except in cases where it would save the mother’s life, abortion is currently banned in Gibraltar on pain of life imprisonment, although such a penalty has not been applied in modern times.

The government is proposing changes to the law to allow abortion where a woman’s mental or physical health is at risk — such as in cases of rape or incest — or when foetuses have fatal physical defects.

Although the changes have already been approved by Gibraltar’s parliament, the referendum will decide whether or not that amended law be brought into force.

Under the changes, a woman would be able to undergo an abortion up to 12 weeks into her pregnancy if her mental or physical health is deemed at risk, or beyond if such damage would be grave and permanent.

There would be no time limit on cases involving fatal foetal anomaly.

Until now, women wanting to have an abortion have had to travel to Spain or to Britain to undergo the procedure.

Chief Minister of Gibraltar Fabian Picardo and his wife Justine Olivero leave a polling station after casting their ballots. Photo: JORGE GUERRERO/AFP

– ‘In Gibraltar’s best interests’ –

Ahead of the vote, both sides have been campaigning hard, with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo and two other party leaders releasing a video urging people to vote “Yes” to the proposed amendment to the crimes act that will regulate abortions in Gibraltar.

“My personal, professional & political opinion on the abortion referendum: it is in #Gibraltar’s best interests to #VoteYes on Thursday 24th June,” Picardo tweeted.

“No” campaigners have also been rallying support with hundreds of people dressed in pink and purple joining a pro-life “Save Babies, vote no” march through the city centre last week, chanting “We vote no!”

On the ballot, voters will be asked: “Should the Crimes (Amendment) Act 2019, that defines the circumstances which would allow abortion in Gibraltar, come into force?”

If the changes are approved, the law is expected to take effect fairly quickly although officials have not yet laid out a timeline.

The proposed changes came after Britain’s Supreme Court ruled in June 2018 that Northern Ireland’s abortion laws, which at the time were almost identical to Gibraltar’s, were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

“It is therefore clear that if the equivalent law on abortion in Northern Ireland was in breach of the Convention, our identical, archaic law is too,” wrote Picardo in an op-ed in Wednesday’s Gibraltar Chronicle.

“It is our duty to vote to stop this ongoing breach.”

Picardo has said he believed the changes were long overdue and that the plans would be approved “by a very large majority”.