Spain's Queen Sofía will attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic games. (Efe)
The dispute between Spain and Great Britain over Gibraltar, a British territory on Spain’s southern coast, continues to create tensions between the two countries.
The latest incident was provoked last weekend when Spanish Guardia Civil detained a Gibraltarian fishing boat and transferred two persons of Gibraltarian British citizenship to the nearby Spanish city Algeciras.
The serious incident may even lead to the cancelation of Spain’s Queen Sofía’s trip to London, where she is expected to travel on Thursday to assist in the opening ceremony of the Olympic games on Friday.
The Spanish government already obliged the queen to cancel a trip to London in May, when she was going to assist in the 60-year anniversary of the coronation of Queen Elisabeth II, together with representatives from all royal houses in Europe.
On that occasion, Spain’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, José Manuel García Margallo, put the Royal House under much pressure, given that the government first gave its approval saying the trip was of private character, but later withdrew the approval, and required that the trip was canceled, following the announcement that British Prince Edward, Queen Elisabeth’s youngest son, would visit the British territory.
Tensions over the last months
Over the last months, several incidents related to a dispute over fishery rights on the waters outside the Rock have increased tensions between the two countries. Guardia Civil patrol boats have, on several occasions, accompanied Spanish fishermen when they lay out nets on the disputed waters, guarded by the Royal Gibraltar Police and the Royal Navy.
With this dispute unsolved, the latest incident may put the queen’s travel plans at risk. The British government, according to Foreign Office Minister for Europe, David Lidington, is “shocked by the disgraceful behavior of the Spanish Guardia Civil,” a behavior he said is “intolerable.”
In a communiqué from the Foreign Office, Lidington condemned the action on “British Gibraltar Territorial Waters” as a “provocative escalation.”
"Time for action"
The Gibraltarian authorities, under the leadership of Chief Minister Fabian Picardo, have contributed to increase tensions during the time leading up to the queen’s trip, saying that the “invasions of our territorial sea” - not recognized by Spain - must be “repelled by the Royal Navy.”
“The time has come for action,” Picardo stated in a communiqué published yesterday.
Madrid claims that the waters surrounding the Rock belong to Spain, based on the Treaty of Utrecht that was signed in 1713, which, according to Spain, limits the British territory to the city of Gibraltar and the waters inside the harbor area.
Queen Sofía is expected to travel to London on Thursday without King Juan Carlos. On the day of her arrival, she will assist in a reception at the Spanish embassy in the British capital, together with the Spanish Olympic team. On Friday, she will assist in the official reception, hosted by Queen Elisabeth at the Buckingham Palace, together with the heads of state who have traveled to Londong to participate in the opening ceremony of the Olympic games, which will be held a few hours later.
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