Europe

Gibraltar complains to EU over Spain border delays

A picture taken from Linea de la Concepcion on May 25, 2012 shows the famous Rock of the British colony of Gibraltar. The tiny British-held territory complained to the European Union Thursday over delays at its border crossing with Spain which it said were "deliberately" caused by Spanish authorities.

A picture taken from Linea de la Concepcion on May 25, 2012 shows the famous Rock of the British colony of Gibraltar. The tiny British-held territory complained to the European Union Thursday over delays at its border crossing with Spain which it said were "deliberately" caused by Spanish authorities.  (AFP/File)

The tiny British-held territory of Gibraltar complained to the European Union Thursday over delays at its border crossing with Spain which it said were "deliberately" caused by Spanish authorities.

Over the weekend the government of Gibraltar said cars entering and leaving the territory on Spain's southern tip were made to wait up to six hours to cross the border as Spanish authorities searched "practically every vehicle."

The government of Gibraltar said it deployed an ambulance to treat people with 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 government has made direct representations to the European Commission following the latest delays at the frontier that were deliberately generated by the Spanish authorities," it said in a statement.

In a letter sent to the European Commission, Gibraltar's Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Garcia "described the serious humanitarian problem that was created when thousands of EU nationals, including elderly people, the infirm and children were all caught up in delays that lasted for as long as six hours," the statement explained.

According to the government, in that letter "Garcia explained that, while Spain has the right to check people and goods crossing the border, these controls should be proportionate and should not interfere with the right of EU nationals to freedom of movement over an internal border of the European Union."

The border delays ended on Monday after British Foreign Secretary William Hague telephoned 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.

The intensive border checks began after Spain last week lodged a complaint with Britain over the building of an artificial reef in Gibraltar's waters, which Gibraltar said was necessary to stop incursions by Spanish fishing boats.

Spain closed the border with Gibraltar in 1969 -- cutting all communication and transport links -- following tensions with Britain over the introduction of self-government in the territory under a new constitution. The border was not fully reopened until 1985.

Britain has held Gibraltar since 1713 but Spain wants it returned and refuses to recognise British sovereignty over the waters off the land known as "the Rock."

Gibraltar, just 6.8 square kilometres (2.6 square miles) and home to about 30,000 people, overlooks the only entrance to the Mediterranean Sea from the Atlantic Ocean.

...,/.,