Spanish nationalists have long simmered with resentment over British sovereignty on Gibraltar.
The southern tip of the Iberian Peninsula was conquered by Britain as a navy base in 1704 and Spain “ceded” [because it was forced to by the powerful British royal navy] the territory to the United Kingdom in the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht.
Many people settled in Gibraltar before the British and Spanish [reconquest], including the Moors who left a rich legacy that can still be seen in the architecture of the land.
Since then, the Spaniards have rightly longed for the return of Gibraltar of Spain. Franco closed the border between his nation and the British territory in 1969. It was reopened with the reemergence of a democratic Spain in 1985.
Since then, the Brits and Spaniards have shouted at one another over control. The Royal Navy remains on the land along with many English persons. But despite the British citizenship and official English language, Gibraltar is still culturally Spanish and most of the resident speak the language.
On July 21st, Spain’s foreign minister crossed into British Gibraltar and became the first Spanish minister to do so. His arrival – which is meant to be part of a new negotiation strategy of friendliness – was greeted with indignation by Spaniards. Spanish nationalists called it treason and a sign greeting the minister read “For the dignity of Spain, don’t throw 300 years of determination overboard.”
One can sympathize with Spain’s effort to reclaim territory siphoned off by an imperial power. Gibraltar should be handed by to the motherland even though a majority of Gibraltarians prefer British rule.
But Spain’s righteousness is hollow for the Spain’s have done the same thing to Moroccans that they decry when done to them by the British.
In the 1912 Treaty of Fez, forced upon Morocco’s monarchy by France which made the former a protectorate of the latter; Spain’s rulers were given control over two Moroccan provinces about the same size of Gibraltar: Ceuta and Melilla. The Spanish still retain control over this and have used their armed forced to kick out Morocco’s military after the Kingdom placed its troops on the territory a few years back.
Caught in the same situation, surely the Spaniards can empathize with Morocco’s efforts to regain control of both cities. But Spain remains indifferent all the while playing the victim against Britain’s imperialism.