Gibraltar: Truth, Knowledge, History Of This Gateway To The Mediterranean


(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE CIA WORLD FACTBOOK)

 

Gibraltar

Introduction Strategically important, Gibraltar was reluctantly ceded to Great Britain by Spain in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht; the British garrison was formally declared a colony in 1830. In a referendum held in 1967, Gibraltarians voted overwhelmingly to remain a British dependency. The subsequent granting of autonomy in 1969 by the UK led to Spain closing the border and severing all communication links. A series of talks were held by the UK and Spain between 1997 and 2002 on establishing temporary joint sovereignty over Gibraltar. In response to these talks, the Gibraltar Government called a referendum in late 2002 in which the majority of citizens voted overwhelmingly against any sharing of sovereignty with Spain. Since the referendum, tripartite talks on other issues have been held with Spain, the UK, and Gibraltar, and in September 2006 a three-way agreement was signed. Spain agreed to remove restrictions on air movements, to speed up customs procedures, to implement international telephone dialing, and to allow mobile roaming agreements. Britain agreed to pay increased pensions to Spaniards who had been employed in Gibraltar before the border closed. Spain will be allowed to open a cultural institute from which the Spanish flag will fly. A new non-colonial constitution came into effect in 2007, but the UK retains responsibility for defense, foreign relations, internal security, and financial stability.
History There is evidence of human habitation in Gibraltar going as far back as Neanderthal man, an extinct species of the Homo genus. The first historical people known to have settled there were the Phoenicians around 950 BC. Semi-permanent settlements were later established by the Carthaginians and Romans. After the collapse of the Roman Empire, Gibraltar came briefly under the control of the Vandals, and would later form part of the Visigothic Kingdom of Hispania until its collapse due to the Muslim conquest in 711 AD. At that time, Gibraltar was named as one of the Pillars of Hercules, after the legend of the creation of the Straits of Gibraltar.

On April 30, 711, the Umayyad general Tariq ibn Ziyad led a Berber-dominated army across the Strait from Ceuta. He first attempted to land at Algeciras but failed. Subsequently, he landed undetected at the southern point of the Rock from present-day Morocco in his quest for Spain. Little was built during the first four centuries of Moorish control.

The first permanent settlement was built by the Almohad Sultan Abd al-Mu’min, who ordered the construction of a fortification on the Rock, the remains of which are still present. Gibraltar would later become part of the Kingdom of Granada until 1309, when it would be briefly occupied by Castilian troops. In 1333, it was conquered by the Marinids who had invaded Muslim Spain. The Marinids ceded Gibraltar to the Kingdom of Granada in 1374. Finally, it was reconquered definitively by the Duke of Medina Sidonia in 1462, ending 750 years of Moorish control.

In the initial years under Medina Sidonia, Gibraltar was granted sovereignty as a home to a population of exiled Sephardic Jews. Pedro de Herrera, a Jewish converso from Córdoba who had led the conquest of Gibraltar, led a group of 4,350 Jews from Córdoba and Seville to establish themselves in the town. A community was built and a garrison established to defend the peninsula. However, this lasted only three years. In 1476, the Duke of Medina Sidonia realigned with the Spanish Crown; the Sefardim were then forced back to Córdoba and the Spanish Inquisition. In 1501 Gibraltar passed under the hands of the Spanish Crown, which had been established in 1479. Gibraltar was granted its coat of arms by a Royal Warrant passed in Toledo by Isabella of Castile in 1501.

The naval Battle of Gibraltar took place on April 25, 1607 during the Eighty Years’ War when a Dutch fleet surprised and engaged a Spanish fleet anchored at the Bay of Gibraltar. During the four-hour action, the entire Spanish fleet was destroyed.

During the War of the Spanish Succession, British and Dutch troops, allies of Archduke Charles, the Austrian pretender to the Spanish Crown, formed a confederate fleet and attacked various towns on the southern coast of Spain. On 4 August 1704, after six hours of bombardment starting at 5 a.m., the confederate fleet, commanded by Admiral Sir George Rooke assisted by Field Marshal Prince George of Hesse-Darmstadt comprising some 1800 Dutch and British marines captured the town of Gibraltar and claimed it in the name of the Archduke Charles. Terms of surrender [5] were agreed upon, after which much of the population chose to leave Gibraltar peacefully.

Franco-Spanish troops failed to retake the town, and British sovereignty over Gibraltar was subsequently recognised by the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, which ended the war. In this treaty, Spain ceded Gibraltar (Article X) and Minorca (article XI) to the United Kingdom in perpetuity. Great Britain has since retained sovereignty over the former ever since, despite all attempts by Spain to recapture it.

Due to military incursions by Spain various fortifications were established and occupied by British troops in the area which came to be known as “the British Neutral Ground.” This was the area to the north of Gibraltar, militarily conquered and continuously occupied by the British except during time of war. (The sovereignty of this area, which today contains the airport, cemetery, a number of housing estates and the sports centre, is separately disputed by Spain.)

During the American Revolution, the Spanish, who had entered the conflict against the British, imposed a stringent blockade against Gibraltar as part of an unsuccessful siege (the Great Siege of Gibraltar) that lasted for more than three years, from 1779 to 1783. On 14 September 1782, the British destroyed the floating batteries of the French and Spanish besiegers, and in February 1783 the signing of peace preliminaries ended the siege.[6]

Gibraltar subsequently became an important naval base for the Royal Navy and played an important part in the Battle of Trafalgar. Its strategic value increased with the opening of the Suez Canal, as it controlled the important sea route between the UK and colonies such as India and Australia. During World War II, the civilian residents of Gibraltar were evacuated, and the Rock was turned into a fortress. An airfield was built over the civilian racecourse. Guns on Gibraltar controlled the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, but plans by Nazi Germany to capture the Rock, codenamed Operation Felix, later named Llona, were frustrated by Spain’s reluctance to allow the German Army onto Spanish soil and the excessive price Franco placed on his aid. Germany’s Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, head of the Abwehr, also helped by filing a pointedly negative assessment of the options. Canaris was a leader of the German high command resistance to Hitler, and tipped off Franco who erected concrete barriers on roads leading to the Pyrenees.[7]

In the 1950s, Spain, then under the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, renewed its claim to sovereignty over Gibraltar, sparked in part by the visit of Queen Elizabeth II in 1954 to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the Rock’s capture. For the next thirty years, Spain restricted movement between Gibraltar and Spain, in application of one of the articles of the Treaty. A referendum was held on September 10, 1967, in which Gibraltar’s voters were asked whether they wished to either pass under Spanish sovereignty, or remain under British sovereignty, with institutions of self-government. The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of continuance of British sovereignty, with 12,138 to 44 voting to reject Spanish sovereignty. This led to the granting of autonomous status in May 1969 , which the Government of Spain strongly opposed. In response, the following month Spain completely closed the border with Gibraltar and severed all communication links.

The border with Spain was partially reopened in 1982, and fully reopened in 1985 prior to Spain’s accession into the European Community. Joint talks on the future of the Rock held between Spain and the United Kingdom have occurred since the late 1980s, with various proposals for joint sovereignty discussed. However, another referendum organised in Gibraltar in 2002 rejected the idea of joint sovereignty by 17,900 (98.97%) votes to 187 (1.03%). The British Government restated that, in accordance with the preamble of the constitution of Gibraltar, the “UK will never enter into arrangements under which the people of Gibraltar would pass under the sovereignty of another state against their freely and democratically expressed wishes.” The question of Gibraltar continues to affect Anglo-Spanish relations.

In 1981 it was announced that the honeymoon for the royal wedding between prince Charles and Diana Spencer would start from Gibraltar. The Spanish Government responded that King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia had declined their invitation to the ceremony as an act of protest.[9]

In 1988, SAS troops shot and killed three members of the IRA who were planning an attack on the British Army band. The ensuing “Death on the Rock” controversy prompted a major political row in the UK.

2006 saw representatives of the United Kingdom, Gibraltar and Spain conclude talks in Córdoba, Spain, a landmark agreement on a range of cross-cutting issues affecting the Rock and the Campo de Gibraltar removing many of the restrictions imposed by Spain.[10] This agreement resolved a number of long standing issues; improved flow of traffic at the frontier, use of the airport by other carriers, recognition of the 350 telephone code and the settlement of the long-running dispute regarding the pensions of former Spanish workers in Gibraltar, who lost their jobs when Spain closed its border in 1969.

Geography Location: Southwestern Europe, bordering the Strait of Gibraltar, which links the Mediterranean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, on the southern coast of Spain
Geographic coordinates: 36 08 N, 5 21 W
Map references: Europe
Area: total: 6.5 sq km
land: 6.5 sq km
water: 0 sq km
Area – comparative: a little less than one half the size of Rhode Island
Land boundaries: total: 1.2 km
border countries: Spain 1.2 km
Coastline: 12 km
Maritime claims: territorial sea: 3 nm
Climate: Mediterranean with mild winters and warm summers
Terrain: a narrow coastal lowland borders the Rock of Gibraltar
Elevation extremes: lowest point: Mediterranean Sea 0 m
highest point: Rock of Gibraltar 426 m
Natural resources: none
Land use: arable land: 0%
permanent crops: 0%
other: 100% (2005)
Irrigated land: NA
Natural hazards: NA
Environment – current issues: limited natural freshwater resources: large concrete or natural rock water catchments collect rainwater (no longer used for drinking water) and adequate desalination plant
Geography – note: strategic location on Strait of Gibraltar that links the North Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Se
Politics As Gibraltar is an overseas territory of the UK, the head of state is Queen Elizabeth II, who is represented by the Governor of Gibraltar. The UK retains responsibility for defence, foreign relations, internal security, and financial stability. The Governor is not involved in the day-to-day administration of Gibraltar, and his role is largely as a ceremonial representative of the head of state. The Governor officially appoints the Chief Minister and government ministers after an election. He is responsible for matters of defence, and security. On 17 July 2006, Governor Sir Francis Richards left Gibraltar on HMS Monmouth leaving the symbolic keys of the fortress of Gibraltar with the Deputy Governor. A new governor, Lt General Sir Robert Fulton KBE, replaced Sir Francis in September 2006.[11]

The Government of Gibraltar is elected for a term of four years. The unicameral Parliament presently consists of seventeen elected members. The speaker is appointed by a resolution of the Parliament.

The head of Government is the Chief Minister, currently Peter Caruana. There are three political parties currently represented in the Parliament: the Gibraltar Social Democrats, the Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party, and the Gibraltar Liberal Party.

New Gibraltar Democracy and the Progressive Democratic Party have been formed since the 2003 election. The Reform Party was wound up and Gibraltar Labour Party absorbed into the GSD in a merger in 2005. A new party the Progressive Democratic Party PDP was formed in 2006.

The 2007 election was contested by the GSD, GSLP/LIBS, the PDP and two independents.

Gibraltar is a part of the European Union, having joined under the British Treaty of Accession (1973), with exemption from some areas such as the Customs Union and Common Agricultural Policy.

After a ten-year campaign[12] to exercise the right to vote in European Elections, from 2004, the people of Gibraltar participated in elections for the European Parliament as part of the South West England constituency.[13]

As a result of the continued Spanish claim, the issue of sovereignty features strongly in Gibraltar politics. All local political parties are opposed to any transfer of sovereignty to Spain. They instead support self-determination for the Rock. This policy is supported by the main UK opposition parties.

In March 2006, UK Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced that a new Gibraltar constitution had been agreed upon and would be published prior to a referendum on its acceptance in Gibraltar that year.[14] In July, in a statement to the UK Parliament, Geoff Hoon, the Minister for Europe, confirmed that the new Constitution confirms the right of self-determination of the Gibraltarian people.[15]

On 30 November 2006, a referendum was held for a new constitution. The turnout was 60.4% of eligible voters of which 60.24% voted to approve the constitution and 37.75% against. The remainder returned blank votes. The acceptance was welcomed by the Chief Minister, Peter Caruana, as a step forward for Gibraltar’s political development.

People Population: 27,967 (July 2007 est.)
Age structure: 0-14 years: 17.2% (male 2,460/female 2,343)
15-64 years: 66.3% (male 9,470/female 9,070)
65 years and over: 16.5% (male 2,090/female 2,534) (2007 est.)
Median age: total: 40.1 years
male: 39.6 years
female: 40.4 years (2007 est.)
Population growth rate: 0.129% (2007 est.)
Birth rate: 10.69 births/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Death rate: 9.4 deaths/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Net migration rate: 0 migrant(s)/1,000 population (2007 est.)
Sex ratio: at birth: 1.06 male(s)/female
under 15 years: 1.05 male(s)/female
15-64 years: 1.044 male(s)/female
65 years and over: 0.825 male(s)/female
total population: 1.005 male(s)/female (2007 est.)
Infant mortality rate: total: 4.98 deaths/1,000 live births
male: 5.54 deaths/1,000 live births
female: 4.39 deaths/1,000 live births (2007 est.)
Life expectancy at birth: total population: 79.93 years
male: 77.05 years
female: 82.96 years (2007 est.)
Total fertility rate: 1.65 children born/woman

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s