Despite this, Spain has never given up on its claims to the sovereignty of Gibraltar. The problem is a mixture of national pride and practical considerations. Nationalist sentiments stirred up by Franco, Spain's dictatorial ruler for much of the 20th century, has reignited Spain's indignation at having a foreign enclave on what they claim to be Spanish soil. Gibraltar's status as a tax haven is also a bone of contention for the Spanish. The Gibraltarians, for their part, claim to be British and have repeatedly asserted that they don't want to return to Spanish rule.
Latest DevelopmentsSpain continues to challenge Gibraltar's status. While the mass media asserts that Spain wants Gibraltar to return to Spanish sovereignty, Jo Nuñez (Gibraltar Football Association President) explained to me that Spain's actual position is that it doesn't want Gibraltar to act like an independent state. This includes having a national soccer team.
In recent years, Spain's opposition has not been as hostile as it has been in the past (see 'History', below). In 2002, Gibraltar held a second referendum on whether it was to return to Spanish rule or not (the first being held in 1967). The vote was again overwhelmingly in favor of remaining British. However, neither the British nor the Spanish governments recognize the referendum.
Gibraltar has by and large been left out of discussions over the future of The Rock. However, in recent years, Gibraltar has been invited to the negotiating table, despite Spain's opposition party, Partido Popular, calling the move 'humiliating'.
In 2004, Gibraltar was paired up with the South-West of England in the European Parliament elections. Spain opposed this, taking the matter to the European Court of Justice. Spain complained that the move to allow Commonwealth members who are not EU citizens to vote in European elections was illegal. Graham Watson, Liberal Democrat MEP for the South West of England described Spain's stance as 'political spite', pointing out that Commonwealth members have always been allowed to vote in the UK, something which Spain had never challenged.
In September 2006, the European Court of Justice ruled that the UK was not breaking any laws and that Gibraltar could continue to vote with South-West England.
In July 2009, a Spanish foreign minister visited Gibraltar for the first time in 300 years. The right-wing opposition party, Partido Popular, called the move 'treason'. Yawn.
HistoryGibraltar was under Moorish rule for 700 years until the 15th century, when it was conquered by the Duke of Medina Sidonia.
In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, the British navy captured Gibraltar. Most of the town's citizens left the city.
In the treaty of Utrecht in 1713, Spain ceded Gibraltar to the UK. The phrase used was 'in perpetuity', words which the Government of Gibraltar's Web site continues to use.
Despite this, Spain continued to covet The Rock and made several attempts to regain its control, the most famous of which being the Great Siege of 1779-1783.
During the Napoleonic Wars, Spain and Great Britain became allies and the Spanish relinquished their claim over Gibraltar.
In 1954, Queen Elizabeth II visited Gibraltar. This was to spark a renewed claim by Spain to the sovereignty of Gibraltar. Franco, dictator of Spain at the time, imposed restrictions on movement between Gibraltar and Spain. In 1967 a referendum was held in Gibraltar regarding the colony's sovereignty - the overwhelming majority voted to remain British. Two years later, Franco closes the border between Gibraltar and Spain. In 1982 the restrictions were partially lifted and in 1985 the border was fully reopened.