Gibraltar: fresh hope – Bulatov alive

After months of impasse, a potential solution that could see both sides back down with dignity emerges in Gibraltar. Meanwhile, missing Automaidan protestor Dmitry Bulatov is found alive if not well in Ukraine though the fate of his colleagues is still unknown.

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GIBRALTAR: NEW HOPE OF A SOLUTION

Frontier technology could save face on both sides.

Gibraltar, the top of The Rock. Photo @NanaHodge.

Gibraltar, the top of The Rock. Photo @NanaHodge.

Apart from a truck load of emergency aid intended for the Philippines which was refused entry just before Christmas – later sent the long way by ship at considerable extra cost – it was relatively quiet at the Gibraltar/Spain frontier over the New Year period.

After peaking at nearly four hours in early December, the longest delay at the frontier in recent weeks has been around two hours – though one of those instances was at midnight on Wednesday, hours before a planned cross-border demonstration.

Around 1,000 people gathered on the La Linea side last night – comprising of Spanish and Gibraltarian citizens protesting against border delays.

On Wednesday a smaller group held a demo on Rond Point outside the European Commission buildings in Brussels.

This week however, new hope of a solution emerged which would also save face on both sides.

The European Commission’s report on the situation in October drew sharp criticism for refusing to apportion blame. But it did recommend practical measures to ease the queues.

The Gibraltar government has already announced tougher tobacco smuggling laws and outbound vehicle checks. The Spanish government has now revealed initial plans to turn the border into an ‘intelligent frontier’.

All Schengen Area countries must upgrade to electronic border checks by 2018. That includes biometric scanners, face recognition technology and an EES, Entry/Exit System to keep track of travellers.

Accelerating the introduction of the new technology in Gibraltar – with financial help from the EU – would give both sides a mutual goal to work towards. When implemented it would also ensure any enhanced checks were genuinely intelligence lead, and remove doubts that they are politically motivated.

Much now depends on how quickly it happens.

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Ukraine: battered, bruised, maybe even crucified – certainly with part of his ear cut off – but Dmitry Bulatov is, at least, alive. The 35 year old Automaidan leader was released late last night after eight days. Much speculation surrounds the identity of his captors – were they official or unofficial security forces? Reportedly they had Russian accents and were most concerned about the source of Automaidan’s financing. Meanwhile, the fate of 26 other missing Automaidan activists is still unknown. Ominously, 26 as yet unidentified bodies were apparently ‘discovered’ today at the city morgue in Kyiv.

Ukraine: battered, bruised, maybe even crucified – certainly with part of his ear cut off – but Dmitry Bulatov is, at least, alive. The 35 year old Automaidan leader was released late last night, eight days after he disappeared (see @DriveEurope, 29 January). Much speculation surrounds the identity of his captors – were they official, or unofficial, security forces? Reportedly they had Russian accents and were mostly concerned with finding out the source of Automaidan’s financing. Police who turned up to the hospital to ‘interview’ Bulatov were met by 150 Automaidaners. Meanwhile, the fate of 26 other missing Automaidan activists is still unknown. Ominously, 26 as-yet-unidentified bodies were apparently ‘discovered’ today at the city morgue in Kyiv. Update: 03.02.14: Bulatov is on his way to Lithuania for treatment. Still no word on the other missing activists, though apparently they are all members of the wider anti-govt movement rather than specifically AutoMaidan.

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