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GIBRALTAR

Gibraltar slams Spanish warship for ‘childish behaviour’ in its waters

Gibraltar has accused Madrid of "childish behaviour" after a Spanish warship ordered commercial vessels to move from British-controlled waters near the tiny territory.

Gibraltar slams Spanish warship for 'childish behaviour' in its waters
The Rock of Gibraltar viewed from La Linea de la Concepcion across the border in Spain. Photo: AFP

It is the latest in a long string of diplomatic skirmishes over the tiny Mediterranean peninsula which has been governed by Britain since 1713 but is claimed by Spain.

 

 

Video: Warship blasts Spanish anthem while sailing through Gibraltar waters

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said the incident was “childish behaviour” and an amateurish attempt at bravado which “achieved nothing more than to provoke”.

“Actions such as this just create confusion and unnecessary risk to the lives of mariners. That is the nonsense that we are dealing with,” he added in a statement.

The skirmish took place on Sunday when the crew of a Spanish navy vessel ordered commercial ships to move from waters which Gibraltar says it controls.   

The crew aboard the Spanish ship can be heard ordering boats to “leave Spanish territorial waters” in an audio of the incident obtained by the Gibraltar Chronicle newspaper.

The government of Gibraltar called it an “illegal incursion which aimed to make a political point about the sovereignty of our waters.”   

Spain, too, claims ownership of the waters around the self-governing territory which measures just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles) and is home to about 33,000 people.

Tensions over the waters around the Gibraltar, which is strategically placed at the mouth of the Mediterranean, often erupt between Spanish and British vessels.

Britain's looming exit from the European Union on March 29th has raised questions about the continued flow of goods and people along Gibraltar's border with Spain.

A draft divorce deal between London and Brussels – rejected by British MPs – sought to defuse any future tensions over Gibraltar when Britain leaves the EU on March 29th.

READ MORE Gibraltar: how Brexit could change its sense of British identity

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ABORTION

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”.

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