Shengen? This morning the Gibraltar Chronicle reported on the current state of negotiations in regard to frontier fluidity and Gibraltar being included in the Shengen area. As with everything politic, everything is last minute, tweaks are needed and more often than not the final outcome satisfies no one except the politicians who can say they worked hard in creating it. Yes I am being cynical and perhaps cynicism is exactly what Gibraltarians should have because if this seems too good to be true then it probably is. Our Chief Minister Fabian Picardo as well as Deputy Chief Joseph Garcia both laud this possible agreement and how we all want it to be so. Even Keith Azopardi likes it but with caution. However Madrid, in the form of Ms Arancha Gonzalez Laya the Spanish Minister for Foreign Affairs, does seem to have an “at odds” opinion in regard to who exactly will have their boots on the ground. The CM says no.
What is the issue? The UK/Gibraltar have agreed to continue cross border relations continue as normally as possible and this has been agreed with Spain in the interim. Of course there still needs to be a formal agreement. Ms Gonzalez Laya recently had a meeting with Frontex officials to discuss what role they might play in relation to Gibraltar becoming part of Shengen. The agreement sees A four year implementation period during which Spain would have responsibility for Shengen checks BUT Frontex officers would be the boots on the ground. Beyond those four years is where it becomes problematic especially if Spain take the role then Gibraltar’s red line of NO Spanish officials on Gibraltar soil would be crossed. This doesn’t mean that Spanish officials in Frontex uniforms wouldn’t be on the ground in Gibraltar. You can be sure they will. To you and I this is a simple thing. Spanish control ends at the border and if we are agreed and part of Shengen then strictly speaking there is no need for a border apart from ensuring the security of the nation. This still means Frontex will be in Gibraltar. What do Frontex do?
Frontex. In a nutshell they are headquartered in Warsaw, Poland, and tasked with border control of the European Schengen Area, in coordination with the border and coast guards of Schengen Area member states. That seems straight forward because we have our own Border & Customs Agency here in Gibraltar as do the Spanish on their borders. I may be naive but if we become part of Shengen then our shoreline becomes the EU border and the frontier is just an EU internal border so where do Spanish officials go if not into Frontex uniforms. This is the classic fear the UK out voters talked about. The country comes under the EU and if Gibraltar wants to remain, no needs to remain in Shengen then we have to agree to what they say is required. We are not alone however borders are an issue for many countries.
Borders, a problem for Europe since time immemorial. After WWII borders became sacrosanct countries were more determined to protect themselves and what they perceived as their territory. But the formation of the EU meant borders politically faded and the Maastricht Treaty all but removed the notion of borders completely. Since that time borders have again become an issue. Take for instance the split between the Czech Republic and Slovakia, the Velvet Revolution they called it whereas Yugoslavia literally ripped itself apart with around 100,000 deaths. Closer to home Catalonia continue to strive to separate from Spain likewise Pais Vasco with its terror campaign by ETA until an agreement was reached for it to cease. The United Kingdom itself has Scotland under the SLP arguing with itself after the referendum of 2014 when 55.3% said no to leaving the UK and 44.7% wanted independence. Everywhere on the planet there are disputes in regard to borders. It was Trump who wanted to build the wall and the Mexican government were happier because it created order and stopped much of the human trafficking and drugs. Joe Biden in one executive order scrubbed that and is actively encouraging immigrants changing the laws that now threatens the unity of the Union itself with Florida and Texas overruling his decisions and taking it to the courts. Everywhere we look today borders are being created or manned after years in some cases decades of fluidity.
Where does that leave the EU and Shengen? Your guess is as good as mine but I’m thinking Ms Gonzalez Laya knows what her supporters want her to do with our border we might need a good barrister.