Wednesday, August 25, 2004

The Rock of Gibraltar

History is an interesting subject. Besides just being nosy about people of the past and the events that shaped their lives, history is a study of how those things affect us to this very day. The BBC had an interesting article about Gibraltar and the affects of a treaty that was signed almost 300 years ago.

The story goes like this... at the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, the Treaty of Utrecht was signed which gave the British ownership of Gibraltar, which they had captured in 1704. So in 1713, the British are given control but one of the clauses of the treaty is that if the British ever leave Gibraltar, they must give the Spanish first dibs on getting it back. (The treaty actually used the word "dibs"... well, maybe not.)

Anyway, speed ahead to 1969 and the British give the Gibraltarans? Gibraltarites? Gibraltarers? ummm... the people of Gibraltar a constitution which guarantees that they will never be given over to another country unless the people of Gibraltar give their approval. So where does this leave us... the British can only give up Gibraltar to Spain (Treaty of Utrecht - 1713) and they can only give it to Spain if the people of Gibraltar support it (Gibraltar Constitution - 1969).

But the people of Gibraltar don't want to be ruled by Spain or Britian. They want independence. But the British can't give independence without Spain's approval. And Spain wants Gibraltar back. So the British are stuck. They can never leave Gibraltar without the approval of both the people of Gibraltar and Spain, an approval that they are unlikely to get anytime soon. All because of of a treaty that is almost 300 years old.


Helen said...

Around the same time, 1842, the Treaty of Nanking was signed giving Hong Kong to Britain in perpetuity by The Manchu Ch'ing emperors. Later pieces of coastal China were leased for 99 years to Britain in The Convention of Peking. Britain was looking for a safe harbour to trade with China but weren't really expecting much from Hong Kong.
Instead it signalled the beginning of a time of peace and great prosperity, barring when Hong Kong was caught in the World Wars. The people of Hong Kong people overall felt betrayed by Britain after Hong Kong was handed over to China in 1997 with the Chinese failing to agree to many conditions of the handover.

Culturally, the Gibraltarians are closer to feeling British. Significantly, none surveyed believe that it belongs to Spain. The saying "as solid/safe as the Rock of Gibraltar" is well deserved and hard earned by what is probably the world's largest pebble of Jurassic age.During WW II it was the only territory in western Europe that remained under Allied control.

Dorin said...

The problem is the British gave the constitition of 1969, so they caused thre impass. It is a transpartent colonialist trick. They should give Gibraltar back to Spain. Otherwise, any country make ship its citizens anywhere and give them a similar constitition: a clear land grab.