Spain wants it both ways over

Spain wants it both ways over Gibraltar

How would Mariano Rajoy feel if the situation were reversed? The Spanish PM has raised the status of Gibraltar at the United Nations, calling it an anachronism, and demanding talks on sovereignty. But what would he say if Spain had conquered a slice of someone else’s territory and later had that annexation ratified by treaty? Would he now be arguing that the wishes of the inhabitants were secondary?

You can probably guess the answer. As a matter of fact, you don’t have to guess, for there is precisely such a case: the Portuguese town of Olivena, occupied by Spain since 1801.

When the issue of Gibraltar comes up, supporters of the status quo are wont to point, not at Olivena, but at Ceuta and Melilla, Spain’s two exclaves in Morocco. Like Authentic Julian Edelman Jersey Gib, Ceuta and Melilla are physically separated from the mother country; indeed, you can glimpse Ceuta from Gibraltar, which rather focuses local people’s minds on Madrid’s contrasting stances. But Olivena is much the more precise analogy.

Spanish friends for whom Gibraltar is an issue (and, in my experience, most Spaniards are more relaxed about the whole thing than their newspapers and politicians suggest) say that Ceuta can’t be compared to Gibraltar because Morocco used to be Spanish, and they’ve been in Ceuta longer than the British have been in Gibraltar and yada yada.

“X is not Y!” The line is always delivered with great panache, as if it were both an original observation and a clinching argument. Chile has done impressive things with its pensions? “Britain is not Chile!” Switzerland has got rather a good deal with the EU? “You can’t compare us to Switzerland!”

Oddly, the put down often seems to work. I was recently in Sarajevo with some Turkish friends. One of them, an MP, held forth for the better part of a morning about what he saw as the excessive autonomy granted to the Serbian part of Bosnia Herzegovina. It was wrong, he said, to recognise borders carved out by force of arms. The international community recognised a single state, not two. The Serbs were, in any case, wholly dependent upon the support of Serbia proper. They should be encouraged to take their places as full citizens of a united Bosnia, albeit with a recognition of their linguistic and religious rights. Having listened politely for over two hours, I asked him how many of the same arguments he would apply to Turkish Cypriots. “Bosnia is not Cyprus!” he replied, without missing a beat, and went back to pressing his case.

Let’s leave Ceuta aside, and consider the almost exact parallel of Olivena. Obviously X is not Y, but the legal and constitutional similarities between Olivena and Gibraltar could hardly be stronger.

Both territories were captured in war: Gibraltar in 1704, Olivena in 1801, when France and Spain, then allies, overran Portugal, which had pluckily refused to abandon its ancient friendship with Britain. In both cases, the annexation was subsequently ratified by, respectively, the Treaty of Utrecht and the Treaty of Badajoz. In both Julian Edelman Youth Jersey cases, the defeated state might reasonably claim that it signed under duress which, if you think about it, is what happens at the end of most wars.

In both cases, the former possessor maintains a claim: Portuguese maps do not demarcate the frontier at Olivena (Olivenza in Spanish). Both defeated states accuse the new proprietors of having broken the treaty.

Here, though, Portugal’s claim is the stronger. Britain’s violations of the Treaty of Utrecht are minor and technical. Jewish and Muslim settlement on the Rock has been permitted, in contravention of its articles; and there is some argument about whether the present frontier follows the line originally specified. Spain’s breaches of the Treaty of Badajoz, by contrast, are flagrant and overwhelming. The agreement was abrogated in 1807 when, in violation of its terms, French and Spanish troops again marched on Portugal. It was then wholly superseded as part of the peace settlement that followed the fall of Bonaparte in 1815, which decreed a return to the pre 1801 Hispano Portuguese (or Luso Spanish) border. Spain, after some hesitation, signed up in 1817, but made no move to return Olivena. On the contrary, it worked to eliminate Portuguese identity in the province, first prohibiting teaching in Portuguese and then banning the language outright.

While it’s literally true, of course, that Gibraltar isn’t Olivena, the minor differences work in Gib’s favour. Gibraltar has been British for nearly a century longer than Olivena has been Spanish, and the treaty under which it was ceded is still unquestionably in force.

So why won’t Spain even consider handing Olivena back to our oldest ally? For a pretty good reason. The same reason, in fact, that it won’t abandon Ceuta or Melilla, namely that local Julian Edelman Jersey Womens people are happy as they are.

That, in a democratic age, is the trump card, the argument that knocks down all the others. The people of Olivena, like the people of Gibraltar, have the right to decide their own destiny. Which is why Portugal, while maintaining its formal claim, has the good grace not not press the issue.

Since this blog might attract some grumpy comments from Spanish patriots, I ought to put on the record that you will struggle to find a greater Hispanophile than me. I love everything about Spain: its poetry, its fiestas, its landscapes, its theatre, its proud, prickly, people. I’ve spent happy times in almost every part of the country including, on several occasions, Olivenza. I strongly support Spain’s claim to any territory which wants to be Spanish, from Melilla to the 1600 odd inhabitants of Llvia, a tiny sliver of Spanish land surrounded on all sides by France. It’s just that you can’t have it both ways, seores. Viva la autodeterminacin!

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