Gibraltar seems to be winning the argument with Spain over longstanding border queues after an EU report calls the delays ‘disproportionate’.
Meanwhile, Range Rover launches the Holy Grail, a car as good on road as it is off. Also, a roundup of the weekend’s Crossing the Channel news: injuries and damage during Sunday’s storm; route closures UK – France and Spain; new immigration rules may mean drawn out check-in procedures, while EVO drives an F40 through the Swiss Alps.
EU BACKS GIBRALTAR OVER FRONTIER DISPUTE
Says border delays are ‘disproportionate’
The European Commission appears to be siding with the Gibraltar government over the border delays plaguing the British Overseas Territory for the past two years.
Inspectors from the Commission visited the frontier last month to follow up progress since their first inspection in September 2013. The subsequent report said there were ‘serious concerns’ about the lack of progress on the Spanish side, and that the long delays were ‘disproportionate’.
A statement, quoted by the local GBC News, said the Commission had, ‘serious concerns as to the lack of progress on the Spanish side during the second visit, and the complaints that continue to reach the Commission pointing out persistent long waiting times on both entry and exit to/from Spain. The Commission considers that checks giving rise to waiting several hours to cross this border are disproportionate.’
However, the Commission declined to comment on the recently announced plan – to give Spanish citizens priority passes across the frontier – until it had more information.
Meanwhile, evidence is mounting that the delays really are politically motivated, as the British government has always maintained.
After a period of relatively few delays, locals waited up to five hours to cross the border in the days following a meeting about the queues between the British and Spanish prime ministers at a Brussels summit in July.
At the same time, frontier data for July, supplied by the Gibraltar authorities, said there were outgoing queues every day in the month, except for the two days during the Commission inspectors’ visit.
A second EU investigation, by the Environment directorate-general, said there was no evidence of any laws being broken over ships refuelling, land reclamation or the artificial reef. All three had been the subject of complaints by the Spanish government.
Finally however, a report from the EU anti-fraud office OLAF says there is evidence of wholesale tobacco smuggling from Gibraltar into Spain according to today’s Daily Mail. It is said that, based on the number of cigarettes officially imported into Gibraltar, each and every citizen smokes nine packets a day.
UPDATE 12 August – the estimated outbound crossing time built up to more than three hours last night after delays of around one hour for most of the day. See below.
roundup: CROSSING THE CHANNEL: three crew members were (lightly) injured and fourteen cars damaged on a Condor Ferries crossing from Weymouth to the Channel Islands during yesterday’s poor weather reports the Dorset Echo. Condor says the wave heights were within safe limits but for a ‘highly localised’ patch near the Casquets Lighthouse. The incident is bound to refuel the perennial argument over when and whether it is safe for ferries to set sail during rough weather. New identity checks mean cross-Channel passengers will wait up to six times longer to board ferries and trains said the Daily Mail on Saturday. Coincidentally, or not, all the short-crossing operators warned of delays of up to one hour at border controls in France over the weekend. The contract to run the Newhaven-Dieppe ferry runs out at the end of the year and no new operator has been signed to continue the service. The council in Dieppe has been saying for some time that subsidy bill is too high. The BBC says 1,000 jobs are at risk. Newhaven is the closest ferry port to London. Locals say many businesses in the town are dependent on the route. Finally, the Bournemouth Daily Echo says LD Lines will pull out of the Poole-Santander/Gijon routes less than a year after they opened. No bookings are being accepted after the end of August. LDLines admits the routes are under review. The company competes with Brittany Ferries’ cruiseferry and economie sailings UK-Spain. The latter particularly has been very successful this summer.
EVO Magazine drives a Ferrari F40 on Susten, Grimsel and Furka passes in the Swiss Alps:
GIBRALTAR FRONTIER WATCH: up to 60mins outbound at 14:00, built up to more than three hours by 19:30.
CONDOR FERRIES rescheduled services, Commodore Clipper on course to return 26 August.