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Friday, November 15, 2013

Spain cleared over Gibraltar border checks


Spain cleared over Gibraltar border checks

Members of the Guardia Civil check cars as motorists queue to cross the border between Spain and Gibraltar in La Linea de la Concepcion on August 22, 2013The European Commission assessed the legality of the border checks on 25 September
Checks by Spain at its border with Gibraltar did not break EU laws, the European Commission has ruled.
Madrid imposed strict controls at the border with the British territory amid a row over the creation by Gibraltar of an artificial reef in disputed waters.
Following complaints from the UK, the commission assessed the legality of the checks on 25 September.
The commission has written to the UK and Spain with recommendations to avoid delays at the border in future.
It advised the countries to work better together to help fight tobacco smuggling and cross-border crime - issues Spain had used as justification for its tougher checks.
A Foreign Office spokesman said: "We welcome the commission's recommendations that the Spanish government should take measures to ensure that the Gibraltar-Spain border functions efficiently, and the commission's commitment to review progress against their recommendations in six months."
Tobacco smuggling
While the commission found that no EU laws had been broken at the border, it did say that the crossing point is "challenging, in view of the heavy traffic volumes in a relatively confined space and the increase in tobacco smuggling into Spain".
In its letter to Spain, the commission recommends it makes better use of existing traffic lanes or adds new lanes on the Spanish side of the border and uses more targeted checks "to reduce the large amount of random border controls".
In its letter to the UK, the commission recommends the development of risk-based profiling of travellers and improved laws and safeguards against tobacco smuggling.
Both countries were asked to develop an "exchange of information" with each other about tobacco smuggling.
The row broke out in July when Spanish authorities increased checks at the Gibraltar border, saying they were necessary to tackle tobacco smuggling.
Gibraltar, though, said the strict checks came after it dropped 74 concrete blocks into the sea next to its territory, intended to create an artificial reef and encourage sea life to flourish.
Spain said the blocks would disrupt waters used by its fishing boats, but denied that the development had prompted its increased border checks.
Spain disputes UK sovereignty over Gibraltar, a limestone outcrop known as the Rock near the southern tip of the Iberian peninsula, which was ceded to Britain by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.