Spain eyes €50 car entry fee for Gibraltar

Spain and Gibraltar's diplomatic spat is far from over, now that Spain's Foreign Minister has announced a series of possible hard-line measures to "tighten the grip" on its diminutive neighbour.

Spain eyes €50 car entry fee for Gibraltar
The general sentiment on The Rock appears to be that the row is being used by Madrid to divert attention from Spain's own economic problems. Photo: Marcos Moreno/AFP

Spain's Foreign Minister José García Margallo added fuel to last week’s fire by suggesting a series of financial penalties on Gibraltar's population during an interview with Spanish newspaper ABC on Sunday.

The Spanish minister proposed a €50 ($66) fee for every vehicle entering or leaving the Rock through the Spanish border as well as closing Spain's airspace to flights heading to Gibraltar.

García Margallo also told ABC that Madrid intends to change the law so that online gaming companies operating in Gibraltar come under Spain's taxation regime.

A fiscal investigation into some 6,700 Gibraltarians who live in Spain but use Gibraltar as their tax residence may also be launched.

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

Margallo's words, summarized in ABC under the title "the party is over", have been referred to by Gibraltar's government as "threatening and reactionary" and "reminiscent of the tactics used by Franco’s fascist regime during the 50s and 60s".

The general sentiment on The Rock appears to be that the row is being used by Madrid to divert attention from economic problems and corruption scandals in Spain.

But Spain’s Foreign Minister has justified his government’s potential hard-line measures as a means of compensating Spanish fishermen affected by the damage to shared fishing grounds.

Last week, Gibraltarian authorities tipped 70 blocks of cement into shared waters allegedly in a bid to stop incursions by Spanish trawlers.

This in turn led to a roadblock by Spanish authorities operating at the border between both countries, which left hundreds of drivers stranded in unbearable heat for up to six hours.

The British government, which had already voiced "serious concerns" about the dispute, has vowed to carry out its "constitutional commitments" to the people of Gibraltar after two of the most turbulent weeks in Spain-Gibraltar relations in recent times.

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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”.