Letter: Reasons Ceuta stays Spanish

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Reasons Ceuta

stays Spanish

Sir: As an expatriate Gibraltarian I would like to answer John Evans' question (Letters, 12 June) - why does Spain believe the retrocession of Gibraltar will be achieved before the return of Ceuta and Melilla to Morocco?

The simple answer is that it suits the Moroccan Government for Spain to retain sovereignty over these two enclaves. Morocco raised the decolonisation of Ceuta and Melilla at the UN Committee of 24 in January 1975 but since then has never forcibly pursued its claim. In the event of Islamic fundamentalism from Algeria encroaching into Morocco, King Hassan II regards the two enclaves as being an insurance policy to ensure immediate military support from the European Union. For the record, Ceuta has a population of 67,000 and was captured by Spain in 1580. Melilla has a population of 57,000 and has been a Spanish territory since 1497.

Both enclaves are deemed to be integrated into Spain and to be as Spanish as any town in mainland Spain. The British government of whatever political persuasion has steadfastly refused to allow Gibraltar to be integrated into the Mother Country.

Although democracy returned to Spain in 1975 there has been no attempt by the Spanish Government to win the hearts and minds of the Gibraltarians. The Spanish Government continues to impose intolerable delays at the frontier and makes it as difficult as possible for Gibraltar to succeed as an offshore financial centre and tourist resort.

There is now consensus amongst all political parties in Gibraltar that the Foreign Secretary must agree to the Gibraltar government's demand for a constitutional conference to do away with the stigma of being called a Crown colony.

The way ahead for New Labour is to agree to integration via a new constitution based on those of the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man. This would in effect retain the status quo but move responsibility for Gibraltar's affairs from the Foreign Office to the Home Office.



Fleet, Hampshire