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Spain, Gibraltar, Catalonia and the Basque country



The discussions about Catalonia, the Basque provinces and Gibraltar arouse strong feelings among Madrid-oriented Spaniards. Luis Sanzó says: "In reference to the double-speak of Spain in the question of Gibraltar, in terms of the United Nations decolonization committee, after the successful process in East Timor, there are currently 12 Non-Self-Governing Territories: American Somoa, Anguilla, Bermuda, British Virgin Islands, Cayman Islands, Falkland Islands, Gibraltar, Guam, Montserrat, New Caledonia, Pitcairn, St. Helena, Tokelau, Turks and Caicos Islands, United States Virgin Islands, and Western Sahara.

It is interesting to see that much of these territories are administered by the challengers of Spain in terms of territorial integrity, that is the United Kingdom and Morocco. At the same time, Ceuta, Melilla and the Canary Islands are not included in the list. So, there is no double-speak in Spain about this question in terms of international law.

In relation with the Gibraltar problem, it is clear, in terms of UN resolutions, that Gibraltar is part of the territory of Spain. Nothing can change that reality. The British population there has, anyway, clear rights. In my opinion, the right to maintain British nationality and citizenship, having at the same time the right to Spanish citizenship; the right to cultural sovereignty – culture, education, etc. - and the right to territorial self-government. In relation to this last question, in the context of resolution of problems of sovereignty, it would be interesting to introduce in the Spanish Constitution the principle of no possibility of change in the Gibraltar Constitution without the consent of the British people of Gibraltar.

In relation with the Basque and Catalan question, in the long-term we must all accept in Spain the principle of self-determination, as a political aspiration, in the way that the Supreme Court of Canada did in reference to Quebec. The only alternative is force and democratic people can not assume this.

At the same time, people that accept this basic principle and are not nationalist must create an alternative to Spanish and Basque or Catalan nationalism. In my opinion, this alternative includes these principles:

  1. The constitutional regulation of territorial self-determination. Independence can be achieved but in a legal context and with enough support (at least 50% of the Census).
  2. The principle of equal citizenship in all the territory for all the actual citizens and descendants, with disregard to questions of national origin and future status of the different territories.
  3. The principle of cultural sovereignty for the different nationalities in the different territories, with capacity to participate independently in the international affairs in this dimension – culture, education, etc- .
  4. The equality of rights of the different nationalities and cultures in all the territory, specially in the language dimension.
  5. A multicultural approach to common services (education, health care, social services, etc), with guarantees for all languages.
  6. The strict separation of territorial entities (State and Regional authorities) and culture or nationality".

My comment: The technical status of enclaves or territories is the result of historic events of little current relevance. Ceuta and Melilla are just as much a part of Morocco and Gibraltar is of Spain. Some of the non-self governing territories listed do not want independence. On point 1 above, the Spanish Government has not permitted a plebiscite in the Basque Provinces or Catalonia for fear that the result would be a defeat for it, just as the Partido Popular was disappointed not to win the last Basque elections.

Ronald Hilton - 7/22/02


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