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Gibraltar, Ceuta, Melilla, Catalonia and Basque Country

Gibraltar was ceded to Britain by Spain legally according to the terms of the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713. Surely this treaty ended any reasonable Spanish legal claim to it. Ceuta, Melilla and the rest of the colonized islands are military occupied by the Spanish military. Whilst The UK government give the rights to its people to decide their fate, as in the case of Scotland, Spain completely ignore any democratic referendum requested legitimately by the people from Catalonia or Basque Country. The right to self-determination is a basic supra-legal human right. Its scope includes sovereignty, the freedom to decide on political structures and independence in terms of economic resources and so forth. Referendums are the concrete ways to express this right, a right completely ignored by the Spanish government.


As according the international law, The Government of Gibraltar called a referendum on 7th November 2002 to establish the popular support for a proposal to share sovereignty of the territory between Spain and the United Kingdom. The result was a massive rejection of the concept by an extraordinary majority of 98.48%. A clear message had been sent to the world that day, and that a democratic politician at his own peril described the result as irrelevant... The result is one of democracy at work in its purest form... The vote is the result of the will of the people of Gibraltar, and that the concept of "joint sovereignty" is a dead end. Surprisingly Spain ignored the will of the local people saying that Gibraltarians has no rights’ to vote.

I cannot help but acknowledge the similarities between a modern day Spain and Hitler’s Germany Pre-Nazi era.  A country in dire socio economic turmoil, governed by a Nationalist Socialist party masquerading as democrats, who see fit to implement laws to target a specific minority. – Kaelan Joyce

Social Aspects: The people of Gibraltar feel very British and would never accept being Spanish under any condition, as showed in the referendum where 98.48% voted for a continuous British sovereignty. The Gibraltarian GDP per capita (43,000 (2006 est.))  is almost 3 times higher than that of Andalusia (17.000 (2012 est)). Gibraltar is considered today to be one of the safest city in the world and the unemployment is less than 3% compared to almost 35% of unemployment (60% young) in Andalucía.

Catalonia and Basques country

The Catalan independence, or separatism movement, is a political movement derived from Catalan nationalism, which supports the independence of Catalonia or the so-called Catalan countries from Spain. Support for Catalan independence is based on the thesis from 19th Century that Catalonia is a nation, derived from contemporary political and cultural ideology based on the History of Catalonia, the Catalan language and Catalan traditions.

Spain does not accept any referendum of any sort in Catalonia or Basque countries where people are screaming for independence, but where Spain has declined all kind of discussions or negotiations and completely ignoring the basic legal human rights that were settled by the international committee.

Catalonia’s National Day: Every year larges demonstration of millions of Catalans demonstrate peacefully and voice their demand for independence from Spain. Up to 2 million people marched through downtown Barcelona, with banners such as “Catalonia, Europe’s new state”. The demonstration saturated Barcelona’s city centre with the entire Passeig de Gràcia Boulevard, adjacent streets, Via Laietana Street and Marqués de l’Argentera Avenue, packed with people and Catalan flags, in one of the largest demonstrations ever held in Europe. In fact, many people stay in the same spot for the entire demonstration, as they cannot move due to being blocked in by the crowds.

The flags are Catalan independence flags (which have a triangle with a star) and participants are constantly shouting pro-independence chants in a peaceful and festive way. The Catalans say they are tired of having to “pay for Spain’s excesses” while there is “hostility towards Catalonia”.

The support for Catalonia’s independence has significantly increased in the last few years, fuelled by the economic crisis but also by the Spanish nationalists with their attacks against the Catalan language and its attempts to recentralise Spain. Still Spain ignores the requests to open any sort of discussions or negotiations with the local government of Catalonia.

The situation in Catalonia is worse than colonial. When the Spanish were fighting the colonies they were fighting people who spoke their own language. When they lost them they were losing countries that had been Hispanicized, and the problem for them with Catalonia is that it's supposed to be a part of Spain and yet it's less Spanish in many ways than many Latin American countries. The Spanish administration is trying to limit the use of Catalan in schools, by interfering in all sorts of ways with the Catalan administration. – Matthew Tree

We are confident of the outcome – independence, a retired primary school teacher. "We have talked at length and in detail with all the main political parties in the regional parliament except the People's party [of the Spanish prime minister], which refused. – says Folch.

Social aspects: Catalonia and the Basques countries are by far the richest regions.  The corruption is better controlled in compare to other regions. The local people (Catalans) are very nationalist and lately, the majority seems to want to be independent from Spain.

Ceuta and Melilla

For these two military controlled colonies the situation for the local Berber-Moroccan people is terrible, living in poverty and without right to work or express their legitimate opinions.

It is not surprising to see Moroccans voice their frustration that Spain applies double standards, since it is calling for the "descolonization" of Gibraltar, while it clings to its sovereignty to Ceuta and Melilla, as well several islands just off the Moroccan mainland.

I am born in Ceuta, lived and studied in Ceuta and due to my ethnic origins being Berber, I am unable to get a job or any descent accommodation. They send all the local Muslim population to suburbs such as the suburb of El Principe. They prefer introducing people from Spain and margining the local people. – Mohamed M.B

The situation in Ceuta and Melilla does not seem to be unanimous, and the opinions are varied from person to person, depending on their ethnic background. “ The Spanish attitude towards the people of Gibraltar seems to be the same as the attitude shown to the Moroccan local people of these two colonies”, commented Mohammed before he continued his journey in the dangerous street of El Principe.

Madrid and the bilateral talks: Not only does Spain’s call for ” bilateral talks” contradict Madrid’s response to Morocco’s pleas to open discussions over the future of colonized Moroccan territories, but it also conflicts with the ruling of the PP anti-Morocco stand on the Sahara conflict. The president of PP conveniently forgot the existence of a democratically elected government in Gibraltar and ignored the requests of the thousands of Gibraltarians.

As Spain and the UK spat over Gibraltar, the Moroccan government should restate its position in support of a trilateral talks to include Gibraltarians with Morocco as an observer. Madrid must understand that Morocco can undermine any potential bilateral talks “over the future of the Rock” , even though not remotely possible at this stage, if Moroccans demand an honest and mutually respectful negations with Spain over the future of Ceuta, Melilla and nearby Islands are not met. Morocco and the Government of Gibraltar are in the same boat.

Moroccan diplomacy: If the UK Prime Minister David Cameron stood firm at the UN in defending his countries right to Gibraltar, why does Spain’s Premier refuses to discuss the future of Ceuta and Melilla?

Moroccan diplomats must demonstrate, clearly and eloquently, Morocco’s stakes and concerns for the political future of the Falklands, Gibraltar, Ceuta, Melilla and Catalonia as they relate to Rabat’s own geo-political needs. The Spanish prime minister, who called on the United Kingdom for a "direct and sincere dialogue" on the “decolonisation” of Gibraltar, refuses to use the same logic to address Moroccan demands for the descolonisation of Ceuta, Melilla and nearby Islands.

The PP, who at times defend the self-determination rights of the “Sahrawi people” in the south provinces of Morocco, ignored the existence of Gibraltarians, Catalans and Basques during his speech at the UN. Furthermore, Madrid depicts Gibraltar as a colony while refuses to use the same analogy when referring to Moroccan land occupied by Spain.

Spain is in no position to complain when “the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland recalls its sovereignty over Gibraltar and the Territorial Waters surrounding it”. After all, the UK position and diplomatic speech are the same as the PP’s spin language used by Madrid whenever Morocco asks Madrid to open a dialogue over the decolonisation of Ceuta, Melilla and nearby Islands.

The Spanish government should be more concerned with unemployment, Madrid’s economic woes, as well as the possibility of a break up of Spain, which would be the case if Catalonia split from the rest of the country.

Social Aspects: Ceuta and Melilla are richer and more secure cities in comparison to the neighbour cities, such as Tangier and Tetouan.  Even though the local people feel Moroccan, they prefer being “Ceuties” under the spanish flag (as they don’t feel part of any of these countries) and so enjoy the security and the rights that they would not have being Moroccan. Morocco needs improving in many aspects in order to gain the trust of the local people of these two colonies.

I prefer being Spanish for now as I am a mother of 3 girls. I feel comfortable and safe in Ceuta and my girls have no problem walking around safety. In Tangier where my parents live my children cannot walk 5 meter without being disturbed, touched, or sexually harassed in the streets. The government in Morocco is not doing a good job against corruption or neither securing the safety of its citizens – Sara Ahmed B.

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