Neanderthal footprints discovery in Gibraltar?


This July 2016 video says about itself:

Our Neanderthals – Episode 1

The History of Science and Neanderthal Studies in Gibraltar

© GBC TV (Gibraltar) 2016

This video is the sequel.

From the University of Seville in Spain:

Neanderthal footprints found in Gibraltar

February 13, 2019

The international journal Quaternary Science Reviews has just published a paper which has involved the participation of Gibraltarian scientists from The Gibraltar National Museum alongside colleagues from Spain, Portugal and Japan. The results which have been published come from an area of the Catalan Bay Sand Dune.

This work started 10 years ago, when the first dates using the OSL method were obtained. It is then that the first traces of footprints left by vertebrates were found. In subsequent years the successive natural collapse of sand has revealed further material and has permitted a detailed study including new dates.

The sand sheets in the rampant dunes above Catalan Bay are a relic of the last glaciation, when sea level was up to 120 metres below present levels and a great field of dunes extended eastwards from the base of the Rock. The identified footprints correspond to species which are known, from fossil material, to have inhabited Gibraltar. The identified footprints correspond to Red Deer, Ibex, Aurochs, Leopard and Straight-tusked Elephant. In addition the scientists have found the footprint of a young human (106-126 cm in height), possibly Neanderthal, which dates to around 29 thousand years ago. It would coincide with late Neanderthal dates from Gorham’s Cave.

If confirmed to be Neanderthal, these dunes would become only the second site in the world with footprints attributed to these humans, the other being Vartop Cave in Romania. These findings add further international importance to the Gibraltar Pleistocene heritage, declared of World Heritage Value in 2016.

The research was supported by HM Government of Gibraltar under the Gibraltar Caves Project and the annual excavations in the Gibraltar Caves, with additional support to the external scientists from the Spanish EU project MICINN-FEDER: CGL2010-15810/BTE.

Minister for Heritage John Cortes MP commented, “This is extraordinary research and gives us an incredible insight into the wildlife community of Gibraltar’s past. We should all take a moment to imagine the scene when these animals walked across our landscape. It helps us understand the importance of looking after our heritage. I congratulate the research team on uncovering this fascinating, hidden evidence of our Rock’s past.”

Neanderthals are often depicted as having straight spines and poor posture. However, these prehistoric humans were more similar to us than many assume. University of Zurich researchers have shown that Neanderthals walked upright just like modern humans — thanks to a virtual reconstruction of the pelvis and spine of a very well-preserved Neanderthal skeleton found in France: here.

Africa’s biggest collection of ancient human footprints has been found. Preserved impressions in East Africa offer a glimpse of ancient human behavior. By Bruce Bower, May 14, 2020.

Spanish king quarrels with British government on Gibraltar


This 4 April 2017 video is called Gibraltar accuses Spain of ship incursion.

Both Britain and Spain at the moment have wobbly right-wing minority governments. Both are European Union allies for the time being. Both are NATO military allies. Nevertheless, recently a politician of the ruling British Conservative party threatened Spain with a Falklands/Malvinas style war about Gibraltar.

And now, King Felipe VI of Spain has counterattacked while on a state visit to Britain. Though he did not (yet) threaten to send an ‘invincible’ Spanish armada to England like his predecessor Felipe II did in 1588

From daily The Independent in Britain today:

Spanish king risks diplomatic row after raising Gibraltar during state visit to Britain

King Felipe raises issue during speech in Parliament

Arj Singh, TONY JONES, Andrew Woodcock

Gibraltar has criticised the king of Spain for saying the governments of his country and Britain will find a solution on the Rock’s future that is “acceptable to all involved”.

King Felipe raised the thorny issue as he addressed MPs and peers at the Royal Gallery in the Houses of Parliament during his state visit.

Michael ‘Poundland Pinochet’ Howard Rattles Sabre over Gibraltar: here.

Spanish, British conservative sabre rattling on Gibraltar


This video is called War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739-1748 war between Britain and Spain).

By Alejandro López in Spain:

Aggressive claims by Spain helped provoke Gibraltar flare-up with Britain

6 April 2017

The Spanish bourgeoisie has used the Brexit negotiations between the United Kingdom and the European Union (EU) to provocatively reassert its claims to the British Overseas Territory of Gibraltar.

The 6.7 square kilometre territory was seized by Britain in 1704 for its strategic military importance at the entrance to the Mediterranean. It has since become a major tax haven for the British and international ruling elite. Although the territory’s 30,000 inhabitants rejected Spanish sovereignty in a referendum in 2002, they voted by 96 percent in last June’s Brexit referendum to remain in the EU.

Last year sections of the Spanish ruling class calculated that Brexit offered Spain a “golden opportunity,” not only to reclaim Gibraltar but also to possibly become Washington’s new strategic ally in Europe.

Former Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo declared that it would give Spain “an opportunity to have an even more important role than the one we already have with the United States, and don’t forget about one other thing: we’ll be talking about Gibraltar the very next day.”

The renewed moves by Spain have the backing of the EU. Brussels has dropped its traditional neutral position on conflicting Spanish/UK claims on Gibraltar and adopted an aggressive anti-British position—as it has done on every issue of controversy since the result of the Brexit referendum.

Last week, in response to UK Prime Minister Theresa May’s hardline demands on the terms of the UK-EU divorce, the EU sent its 27 remaining members a nine-page document containing its draft negotiating position. It warned, “A non-member of the union… cannot have the same rights and enjoy the same benefits as a member.”

It made clear in a clause in the document that “no agreement between the EU and the United Kingdom may apply to the territory of Gibraltar without agreement between the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom.”

On Monday, the European Commission’s chief spokesman Margaritis Schinas said, “The guidelines presented on Friday have the complete backing of President [Jean-Claude] Juncker and [chief negotiator] Michel Barnier. We will give no more explanations.”

Juncker’s endorsement of the Gibraltar clause comes just a few weeks after his intervention over the status of Northern Ireland in EU-UK negotiations. Juncker and Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny jointly declared that if “at some future time,” there was a vote for a united Ireland, as laid down in the 1998 Good Friday Agreement, “Northern Ireland would have ease of access to join as a member of the European Union again.” The EU also indicated it opposes the re-establishing of a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.

In Britain, the Gibraltar clause led former Conservative Party leader Michael Howard to invoke Margaret Thatcher’s 1982 war against Argentina over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands to declare the UK was prepared to go to war with Spain over Gibraltar. Former minister Norman Tebbit warned that Gibraltar is a “vital Western strategic interest” and suggested “inviting leaders of the Catalan independence movement to London, or even to raising their desire for independence at the United Nations.” It took two days before UK Prime Minister May tried to make a joke of Howard’s bellicose talk.

In contrast, Spain’s ABC newspaper declared, “The Spanish government achieves its first triumph after the opening up of Brexit negotiations.”

El País stated that the clause is “handing the Spanish government the negotiating key it needed in its claims over the territory.”

For El Español, “in what has become a major diplomatic victory, Spain has a powerful ally on its side in its dispute with the United Kingdom over The Rock: the European Union of the 27.”

Soon after, the leaders of three of Spain’s main parties, the ruling Popular Party (PP), the main opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) and Citizens met with high-ranking foreign ministry officials to agree on a joint strategy for Gibraltar.

Amid this tense situation, on Tuesday Spain dispatched a warship into the disputed territorial waters around Gibraltar. The Spanish Ministry of Defence described this as routine operations against illicit drugs and migrants, while the British Foreign Office declared it to be an unlawful maritime incursion.

Unhindered control of the Straits of Gibraltar has always been one of Spanish imperialism’s foreign policy priorities. Its repossession became official government policy during the fascist regime of General Francisco Franco (1939-1978) and following the Transition to democracy, the policy has remained in place under successive governments.

One of the main books dealing with Spanish foreign policy explains, “The Straits of Gibraltar continues to be the main sea route in the world, both because of the number of ships passing through it (80,000 a year, about 220 a day), and because of its tonnage and the presence of ships with nuclear weapons. It acts as a key to the Mediterranean, which is not only important from a military point of view, but also because of the large oil tankers from North Africa and/or the Persian Gulf coming through Suez, which are part of the normal supply of energy to the European countries. Ensuring the free movement and preventing any form of blockade that would affect countries like Spain, which receives 82% of its supplies by sea, is therefore a priority objective.” [Ricardo Méndez and Silva Marcu, “La posicion geoestratégica de España” p.137-138 in La política exterior de España de 1800 hasta hoy (2010).]

Criticisms have been levelled at Spanish Foreign Minister Alfonso Dastis’ other piece of political brinkmanship targeting the UK—his suggesting that Spain would not block Scotland’s application for membership of the EU if it separated from the UK.

His remarks open the Pandora box regarding Catalonia and the Basque Country, which both have strong separatist movements that, like the Scottish National Party, are demanding independence as a first step to seeking EU membership. In Catalonia, a referendum on independence, declared illegal by the Spanish government, has been called in November by the regional Catalan government. The Catalan position can only be strengthened by Dastis’ tacit support for the SNP’s own demand for a second independence referendum.

El Mundo said that when questioned about Scotland, “a Spanish minister is expected, at this point in time, to put nationalism in its place, which is that of garbage…” Dastis’ comments, it declared, had caused “Tebbit to threaten to take the Catalan cause to the UN.”

ABC posted an editorial, “Dastis’ grave mistake,” warning that “any reference to Scotland’s independence and eventual entry into the European Union from the mouth of a Member of the Government of Spain can be used against our national interests.”

The Gibraltar crisis is also an expression of the growing antagonisms brought about by [United States] President Donald Trump’s open declarations of support for Brexit and for the break-up of the EU, which he has described as a German-dominated economic competitor to the US.

While the UK is interested in defending the “special relationship” with the US after the UK leaves Europe and calculates it will have Trump’s support on Gibraltar and the EU negotiations, Spain is attempting to become the new strategic partner of the US in post-Brexit Europe.

Last week, Spanish Defence Minister María Dolores de Cospedal visited US Secretary of Defence James Mattis in Washington for talks described as successful. This week, Spain complied with Trump’s demand that NATO countries commit at least 2 percent of spending on defence, increasing its military spending by fully 32 percent—from €5.7 billion in 2016 to €7.5 billion in 2017. Two years ago, Spain signed an agreement with the US making permanent its airbase at Moron and naval base at Rota, just 1.5 hours away from Gibraltar. Both bases have played a major role in all US-led wars since the First Gulf War in 1990.

European Council endorses Irish unification in hardline negotiations over Brexit: here.

Gibraltar, Britain, Spain and tax dodging


This video says about itself:

28 September 2016

Gibraltar has been placed on a list of countries which may be considered for detailed tax screening. It follows a new EU listing process aimed at identifying and addressing third country jurisdictions that fail to comply with good tax governance standards.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Gibraltar: the EU’s tax haven

Tuesday 4th April 2017

Tory willy-waving misses the point when it comes to Gibraltar‘s dubious place in the European Union

GIBRALTAR is making headlines again in Britain, following a couple of years of silence.

The last time such a furore was kicked up over the overseas territory was when Labour’s then leader Ed Miliband warned it — along with other British possessions — that if he won the election in 2015 it would have six months to compile a public register of offshore companies to assist a clampdown on tax havens, or face “international action.”

That didn’t go down any better with Chief Minister Fabian Picardo than this week’s mention of the Rock by European Council president Donald Tusk has.

Tusk’s statement that no EU-British agreement would apply to Gibraltar unless Spain gives it the green light has prompted willy-waving Tories to threaten a Spanish equivalent of the Falklands war, while Picardo accused the EU chief of behaving like a “cuckolded husband taking it out on the children.

“Gibraltar belongs to the Gibraltarians and we want to stay British,” he declared.

It’s a bit rich for the foreign secretary who helped launch the entirely unprovoked invasion of Iraq to accuse anyone else of “19th-century jingoism,” but Jack Straw is right that Gibraltar’s British status is seen as an affront to Spanish sovereignty by most Spaniards, and right that threatening military action is “frankly absurd.”

British nationalists assert that the right of Gibraltar’s residents to stay British is a matter of democratic principle, and there can be no doubt that the vast majority do want to remain subject to Britain.

The most that can be said for this argument is that it beats basing our claim entirely on the 1713 Treaty of Utrecht, when the enclave was ceded to Britain “in perpetuity” in return for London abandoning its campaign to replace a French king of Spain with an Austrian one.

In some respects politics has moved on since those days. Gibraltar’s population may wish to be British, but overseas territories whose wealth depends on companies using them to avoid tax due elsewhere do not have an inalienable right to keep doing so.

Picardo has always rejected the charge that Gibraltar is a tax haven, but look at the facts: this tiny strip of land has more registered companies than households, including 8,464 offshore companies — not bad for a population of just over 30,000.

As Britain’s former ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray points out, over a 10th of the workforce is employed in the online gaming industry, based there purely to avoid taxes, and the territory imposes “no inheritance tax, no VAT, no capital gains tax and low income and corporation tax.”

Tax advisers Darwin Tax describe Gibraltar as “the tax haven of the European Union” and assure clients: “A Gibraltar company which is owned and controlled by non-Gibraltar residents is not subject to Gibraltar taxation.

“The non-resident status of the company is supported by the Gibraltar Companies Ordinance. If such company does not carry on any trade or business in Gibraltar, all taxes are avoided.”

As the only “offshore centre” which is actually part of the EU, Gibraltar is uniquely attractive to capitalists who need their companies to be registered in the EU but also want to avoid their obligations to any of its member states. The losers are the citizens of Spain, Britain and other countries whose treasuries miss out on taxing the profits of companies that operate in their territories, employ citizens they educated, use their infrastructure and sell in their markets.

Whatever differences socialists may still have on the EU, it should not be hard to agree that Gibraltar’s tax status is an anti-democratic disgrace.

It should be brought to an end, along with the anti-social privileges granted to corporations in the rest of Britain’s network of offshore tax havens.

Also from the Morning Star, 4 April 2017:

Len McCluskey, general secretary of the Unite union, which has thousands of members in Gibraltar, said the government had not grasped the implications for local workers, who rely on being able to cross the border with Spain every day.

He condemned “sabre-rattling and warmongering” by some Tory rightwingers.

Conservative Prime Minister Theresa May has refused to condemn the comments by Michael Howard that her government would be prepared to go to war with Spain over Gibraltar: here.

UK accidentally invaded Spain in 2002, reveals former First Sea Lord: here.

British, Spanish conservative Gibraltar sabre rattling


This video says about itself:

The War of Jenkins’ Ear was a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that lasted from 1739 to 1748, with major operations largely ended by 1742. Its unusual name, coined by Thomas Carlyle in 1858, relates to Robert Jenkins, captain of a British merchant ship, who exhibited his severed ear in Parliament following the boarding of his vessel by Spanish coast guards in 1731. This affair and a number of similar incidents sparked a war against the Spanish Empire, ostensibly to encourage the Spanish not to renege on the lucrative asiento contract (permission to sell slaves in Spanish America).

One might think, now it is the 21st century, not the 18th. Robert Jenkins died long ago. Spain does not have American colonies any more, so British slave traders can no longer sell African slaves to them. The British and the Spanish governments are European Union allies (for as long as the Brexit negotiations have not been concluded). They are both in the NATO military alliance. The British Tory government party and the Spanish Partido Popular are conservative sister parties.

Yet, in 2013 both governments did military sabre rattling against each other about Gibraltar.

In 2016, British Royal Navy warships were ‘sent to Gibraltar to protect it from Spain’ during Brexit negotiations.

And today, from Reuters:

A former leader of [Prime Minister Theresa] May‘s Conservative party, Michael Howard, said she [May] would even be prepared to go to war to defend the territory, as then prime minister Margaret Thatcher did with Argentina over the Falkland Islands 35 years ago. …

“Thirty-five years ago this week another woman Prime Minister sent a task force halfway across the world to defend the freedom of another small group of British people against another Spanish-speaking country,” he said on Sky TV’s Sophie Ridge on Sunday. “I’m absolutely certain that our current prime minister will show the same resolve in standing by the people of Gibraltar.”

The opposition Labour party said such “inflammatory” comments would not help Britain get what it needed from the Brexit negotiations. “Sadly it’s typical of the botched Tory approach which threatens a bad deal for Britain,” the party’s foreign affairs spokeswoman Emily Thornberry said.

Spain’s foreign minister Alfonso Dastis refused to talk about veto rights when it comes to Gibraltar in an interview on Sunday, but said he viewed the EU’s stance very positively.

“When the United Kingdom leaves the EU, the EU partner is Spain, and in the case of Gibraltar the EU is therefore obliged to take the side of Spain,” he told El Pais.

As if the British government bombing Syria and Iraq, helping the Saudi autocracy bomb Yemen; Spanish neo-colonial soldiers in Africa; and the threat of war between nuclear armed NATO and nuclear armed Russia, or China are not already bloody warmongering enough …

Gibraltar bird migration update


This video about a booted eagle says about itself:

Wild Gibraltar Part 4

8 November 2013

The final instalment of Wild Gibraltar featuring a truly unique spectacle – a bird camera.

Cameras are mounted to the back of birds of prey as they soar over Gibraltar for a genuine ‘birds’ eye’ view.

From the debbiejay Twitter account today:

1/2 8 Griffon Vulture, 15 Bee-eaters, Booted Eagle, Bonelli’s Eagle, Little Bittern, Night Heron, Bonelli’s Warbler #gibraltarbirding

and also:

2/2 Pied & Collar[e]d Flycatcher, Woodchat Shrike, Pallid Swifts, Nightingales, Crested Tits, Purple Swamp Hen, Spotless Starlings #gibraltarbirding

British, Spanish Gibraltar sabre rattling


This video says about itself:

The War of Jenkins’ Ear was a conflict between Great Britain and Spain that lasted from 1739 to 1748, with major operations largely ended by 1742. Its unusual name, coined by Thomas Carlyle in 1858, relates to Robert Jenkins, captain of a British merchant ship, who exhibited his severed ear in Parliament following the boarding of his vessel by Spanish coast guards in 1731. This affair and a number of similar incidents sparked a war against the Spanish Empire, ostensibly to encourage the Spanish not to renege on the lucrative asiento contract (permission to sell slaves in Spanish America).

By Paul Mitchell in Britain:

Britain and Spain escalate dispute over Gibraltar

22 August 2013

The Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition government in Britain and the Popular Party (PP) government in Spain are escalating the dispute over Gibraltar as part of an effort to whip up nationalist sentiment and deflect attention away from the social crisis in both countries. In addition the PP and the Spanish monarchy are embroiled in corruption scandals, which have seen support for the two institutions plummeting.

Gibraltar is a British overseas tax-haven, which is inhabited by just 30,000 people and connected to the Spanish province of Andalucia. It occupies a strategic position at the entrance to the Mediterranean and was formally ceded to Britain in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht, following its seizure by a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet during the War of the Spanish Succession.

The dispute was sparked last month when boats from Gibraltar dumped concrete blocks with spikes into the sea to create an artificial reef, which Spain says will prevent fishing vessels casting their nets in the area. Its construction provoked a furious response from the PP government, which described it as “a violation of international law in Spanish waters” and “an environmental attack”.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government would “take the necessary measures to defend the interests of Spanish citizens”. Rigorous border checks were imposed, which have led to hours-long delays.

The Spanish government indicated that it might impose a “congestion charge” on traffic crossing the border and restrict British access to Spanish air space and the refuelling of ships. It is also considering appealing to the International Court of Justice or the United Nations (UN), and seeking support from Argentina, which is currently a two-year non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and could use its position to put Gibraltar on the agenda alongside the Falkland/Malvinas islands.

On Friday, British Prime Minister David Cameron told European Commission President José Manuel Barroso of his “serious concerns” over the legality of the border checks and demanded a monitoring mission be sent “urgently”. Gibraltar’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo, declared, “This is an unseemly political row and it is causing a breakdown of the European treaty right at our border. The sooner the EU [European Union] can intervene and make Spain see sense the better”. Picardo insisted that “hell will freeze over before the government of Gibraltar moves any of those blocks”.

On Sunday, more than 40 Spanish fishing boats accompanied by coastguard vessels staged a protest near the reef, claiming they had already lost £1.5 million [$US 2.3 million] in income. Royal Gibraltar Police Chief Inspector Castle Yates accused the boats of crossing into Gibraltarian waters before being “pushed” out again. “About 38 Spanish fishing boats and seven or eight pleasure craft converged in the area of the western anchorage”, Yates said. “We had our own police cordon along with the Royal Navy and we corralled them in the area of the south mole. They tried to breach the cordon several times but they were not successful”.

On Monday, the British government said it was gathering evidence in preparation for a possible legal challenge in the European courts. Admitting this could take years, however, a spokesman for the Cameron government indicated that it was considering further action, including putting restrictions on Spanish tourists coming to Britain.

On the same day, three British warships, including the frigate HMS Westminster, sailed into Gibraltar harbour en route to a training exercise in the Persian Gulf. Julie Girling is the Conservative Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the South West England constituency that was expanded in 2003 to include Gibraltar. She declared, “I think what the people of Gibraltar have really appreciated with the arrival of Westminster today, and the two support ships, is that it is flying the flag, it is saying ‘we British people support the Gibraltarians, we are not abandoning you’, and that has been very, very welcome”.

Girling continued, “People should consider going to places other than Spain on their holidays while this conflict continues, instead of giving their support to a hostile government”, before she warned, “if things can’t get solved through diplomatic means then citizen action is called for”.

Another MEP for the constituency, Graham Watson, president of the European Liberal Democrat and Reform Party, demanded that the EU mission continue until Spain agrees “to only carry out checks that are proportionate to the threat posed”. “Anything short of this is unacceptable”, he said. Watson has called for checks on Spanish seafood entering Britain and on Spanish aircraft leaving UK airports.

Writing in the Wall Street Journal Tuesday, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo declared that the UN had not recognised any right to self-determination in the case of Gibraltar and that negotiations “have been on hold for too long”.

“The UN has clearly established, in several resolutions, that the colonial situation in Gibraltar must end and that this should be achieved through negotiations between Spain and the UK”, he added.

García-Margallo announced that the Spanish government had initiated proceedings to end the environmental hazard of bunkering (refuelling of ships at sea) off Gibraltar and was also implementing measures to combat the territory’s tax fraud.

“According to the British tax authorities, Gibraltar has 21,770 registered companies, of which only 10 percent pay taxes. As Gibraltar has a population of only 30,000 people, it is obvious that most of these companies are formed by non-residents relocating to avoid taxes. This situation is especially harmful to the countries in which these companies actually operate”, García-Margallo explained.

The minister said, “We are willing to accept the creation of ad hoc forums in which other authorities, such as the Gibraltarian government and the regional government of Andalusia, could participate”.

However, a British government spokeswoman rejected García-Margallo’s overtures, declaring, “Sovereignty is clear in our minds”. Talks could take place over fishing practices, she said, but not over Gibraltar’s status or the fate of its territorial waters.

Gibraltar row: Spanish warship disrupts Royal Navy parachute exercise: here.

Royal Navy warships ‘must be sent to Gibraltar to protect it from Spain’ during Brexit negotiations: here.

Britain and Spain, NATO allies’ Gibraltar war?


This video says about itself:

Aug 13, 2013

It seems dark clouds are gathering over relations between the UK and Spain. London is considering unprecedented legal action over Madrid’s lengthy checks at the border into the British territory of Gibraltar. Downing Street claims they’re politically motivated. Royal Navy war ships are also expected to drop by the strait, although it’s claimed on scheduled exercises.

Not only are Spain and Britain European Union and NATO allies. British Prime Minister David Cameron‘s Conservative party is also officially a sister party of the governing Partido Popular in Spain (which has among its politicians nostalgics for the Franco dictatorship).

By Paul Mitchell in Britain:

British navy sails for Gibraltar as tensions escalate with Spain

14 August 2013

A rapid reaction force comprised of nine British Royal Navy vessels set sail Monday for the Mediterranean for the start of a four month exercise in the Persian Gulf. Three of the ships will dock in Gibraltar, where tensions over fishing rights have erupted into a major diplomatic crisis.

Gibraltar, classed as a British Overseas Territory and inhabited by 30,000 people, connected to the Spanish province of Andalucia, occupies a strategic position at the entrance to the Mediterranean. It was seized in 1704 during the War of the Spanish Succession by a combined Anglo-Dutch fleet and was formally ceded to Britain in 1713 by the Treaty of Utrecht.

The dispute was sparked last month when Gibraltar’s boats dumped concrete blocks with spikes into the sea to create an artificial reef, which Spain says will prevent fishing vessels casting their nets in the area. Its construction provoked a furious response from the Spanish Popular Party (PP) government, which described it as “a violation of international law in Spanish waters” and “an environmental attack.”

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said his government would “take the necessary measures to defend the interests of Spanish citizens.”

Rigorous border checks were imposed, which have led to hours-long delays. In a sideswipe at Gibraltar’s role as one of the world’s leading tax havens, Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel García-Margallo declared that he wanted to strengthen “Spanish and European legislation relating to the fight against smuggling, tax fraud and environmental protection” and was considering a €50 ($67) charge for each crossing. Restrictions on flights into Gibraltar’s airport have been stepped up.

The Gibraltar government criticised Margallo’s statements as “clearly reminiscent of the politics and tactics deployed by the fascist regime led by Franco in the 1950s and 1960s,”—a reference to Spain’s closure of the border under General Franco’s dictatorship.

Last week, British Prime Minister David Cameron stepped in, stating that he was “seriously concerned” about the situation and the British Foreign Office intended to “use all necessary measures to safeguard British sovereignty.”

Despite UK officials and naval chiefs insisting that the Gibraltar docking was planned months ago, the deployment comes just days after Gibraltar Chief Minister Fabián Picardo warned that there could be another Falklands War unless gun boats were sent to protect Gibraltar. He told the Daily Express, “We all recall how Argentina took the absence of the right sort of Royal Navy vessels in the South Atlantic in the Eighties as encouragement to invade.”

“I believe we need a much greater Royal Naval presence in our waters,” Picardo declared.

Over the weekend Conservative Party London Mayor Boris Johnson wrote in the Daily Telegraph, “Perhaps it really is a coincidence—as the Foreign Office claims—that we have just sent a fleet of warships to Gibraltar.”

“Maybe it’s just a fluke that HMS Illustrious is about to bristle into view on the southern coast of Spain, complete with thousands of Royal Marines and other elite commando units.

“But I hope not. I hope that one way or another we will shortly prise Spanish hands off the throat of our colony, because what is now taking place is infamous.”

On Monday, Britain announced it was considering legal action against Spain.

In response, the Spanish government said it was considering taking the matter to the International Court of Justice or the United Nations, where it will seek support from Argentina. The latter is currently a two-year non-permanent member of the UN Security Council and could use its position to put Gibraltar on the agenda alongside the Falkland/Malvinas islands.

The marked escalation of the dispute over territorial limits and fishing rights, which has seen many tit-for-tat incidents over the years, is taking place between two countries supposed to be partners and allies in the European Union and NATO. Behind the sabre-rattling, both governments are exploiting the issue to stir up nationalism to detract from the savage austerity measures they are imposing at home.

Spain, mired in recession, has carried out sweeping privatizations, labour reforms and tax increases that have had terrible consequences for workers’ jobs, wages, working conditions, pensions and basic social rights. Unemployment is 27 percent (50 percent amongst young people). In La Línea de la Concepción, the Spanish town bordering Gibraltar, about 10,000 of its 65,000 inhabitants are without work, compared with 4,000 five years ago. Last year, public servants were not paid their salaries for months on end.

The Spanish fishing fleet has been devastated by declining fish stocks, tighter quotas on catches and rising operating costs. “We have now reached a crisis point, with a generation of fishermen whose boats are owned by banks and who have no fish to catch,” a fishing industry spokesman said. “95 percent of the owners here have a mortgage on their boat, which many simply can no longer afford.”

Rajoy is posturing as the leader of a united nation, attacking the opposition Socialist Party (PSOE) for not giving full support to the government because it made a call for dialogue with the UK. Rajoy has been photographed embracing King Juan Carlos, who is fully involved in the dispute.

The UK is also experiencing the deepest and most protracted economic downturn in a century. The Conservative Party/Liberal Democrat coalition government has imposed £166 billion in budget cuts since its election in 2010. Welfare provision is under constant attack, and public services have been slashed. Cuts to the National Health Service budget of 20 percent have led to the closure of hospitals and vital health care services and an increasing use of the private sector.

Hundreds of thousands of public sector jobs have been lost, and a further 144,000 job cuts are planned by 2015-2016. The decline in wages is even greater than that resulting from the Great Depression of the 1930s—an unprecedented 6 percent in real terms over the last five years. Employment is scarce, with much of that available temporary and low-paid. The use of zero-hour contracts has mushroomed.

In contrast Gibraltar’s economy has grown by 30 percent since the 2008 global economic crash by attracting companies with its low tax regime. The number of hedge funds based there has grown from 20 in 2006 to 150 today, worth £3 billion. Picardo has made attracting them a key aim of his administration and was in London last week telling multi-millionaire fund managers that they would only have to pay £30,000 a year income tax, whatever they earn.

The escalating tensions between London and Madrid have exposed long-standing pretensions that Gibraltar’s status could be resolved diplomatically, through the medium of the European Union (EU). Since talks began in 1986 after Spain’s entry into the EU, negotiations have been bitterly opposed by the outcrop’s government. In January 2007 a new constitution was agreed with the British Government, without any reference to Spain, which renamed the House of Assembly the Gibraltar Parliament and decreased the Governor’s powers, but did not affect the issue of sovereignty.

Gibraltar reef protest flotilla repelled by Royal Navy and police vessels: here.

Gibraltar general strike remembered


This video from Gibraltar says about itself:

Gibraltar frontier demonstrations 25 May 2012

On Friday 25 May 2012 demonstrations were held on both sides of the frontier between Spain and Gibraltar. Both demonstrations had one thing in common. Everyone has had enough of the Spanish government‘s harassment. In Spain, cross border workers are fed up of having to endure queues sometimes taking up to 4 hours to cross. In Gibraltar ordinary citizens who do not even cross over are affected by the queues of cars which are sometimes so long that they bring traffic in Gibraltar to a complete stop.

The Spanish government has always used this as a means of harassment. One could say that the length of the queue is directly proportional to the Spanish government’s mood.

On the Gibraltar side the demonstration was organised by a newly founded group called The Gibraltarian Struggle against Spanish Nationalistic Oppression (GSSNO). It has been created to ensure that the voice of courageous Gibraltarians are heard around the world.

The organiser has stated that Gibraltarians have suffered enough harassment, oppression, ridicule and pain throughout the generations to put up with it any longer. Spain likes to call itself a civilized country – its time the world was shown just how civilized it is.

On the Spanish side of the border Juan Jose Uceda, spokesman for ASCTEG, a cross-border worker association said that what cross-border workers wanted was the free flow of people and vehicles across the border, without discrimination.

By Luke James in Britain:

McCluskey to mark walkout anniversary

Wednesday 28 November 2012

Unite general secretary Len McCluskey will join celebrations in Gibraltar tomorrow to mark the 40th anniversary of a historic week-long general strike.

The 1972 walkout ensured that public-sector workers in Gibraltar received the same pay and conditions as employees on mainland Britain.

Bosses had offered workers a derisory below-inflation pay rise of 40 pence.

But, backed by colleagues in the private sector, unions organised island-wide action and won a pay deal that was four times more than the original offer.

Mr McCluskey said that the trade unionists who took part in that landmark dispute ensured a fairer future for the island [rather: peninsula], which is known as “the Rock.”

He said: “The trade union movement has a proud history in Gibraltar and today the unions continue to deliver justice and fairness to workers on the island regardless of nationality.

“It is right that we should pay tribute to the leaders and the workers who fought for fairness and justice.

“Forty years later Gibraltarians continue to enjoy many of the rights which the trade unions secured all those years ago.”

Unite is the largest trade union in Gibraltar, representing workers in both the public and private sectors.

As part of his visit Mr McCluskey will meet Gibralta‘s chief minister and Gibraltar Socialist Labour Party leader Fabian Picardo.

Mr Picardo, who has led a coalition government since December 2011, has taken action to grant Gibraltan nationality to workers of Moroccan origin, who had been refused recognition by previous conservative administrations.

See also here.

Whales’ synchronised swimming when endangered


This video is about Long-Finned Pilot Whales (Globicephala melas).

From Phys.org:

Pilot whales use synchronised swimming when they sense danger

November 23, 2012

An international team of scientists have observed the behaviour of various groups of cetaceans in the Strait of Gibraltar and Cape Breton in Canada belonging to the Globicephala melas species, which are also known as long-finned pilot whales. These results show that these whales use synchronised swimming when they identify the presence of an external threat.

There are 300 pilot whales inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar. Here these cetaceans remain throughout the entire year in the water of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic. But, little is known about their social structure. Headed by the University of Aberdeen (United Kingdom) in collaboration with the Doñana Biological Station (CSIC) and Conservation, Information and Study on Cetaceans (CIRCE) group, the study analysed the patterns of association between individuals within this whale community. The aim was to provide a long-term vision of their social system. “The important point is that we compared two different populations: one inhabiting the Strait of Gibraltar which is exposed to predators (boats in this case) and another with an ecotype where there are not so many boats (Cape Breton in Canada). The pilot whales are social species and we were interested in seeing how mothers teach their young, for example. We observed that they use synchronised swimming when in danger,” as explained to SINC Renaud de Stephanis, researcher of the Biological Station of Doñana and coauthor of the study published in the journal Behavioural Processes. Between 1999 and 2006 the scientists gathered samples in an area of 23,004 km in the Strait of Gibraltar and took 4,887 images of the dorsal fins of whales to compare them with those in Canada.

“They swim in complete synchrony both in the Strait of Gibraltar and Canada. When sea traffic or whale watching vessels are nearby, the whole group collectively reacts to such external stimuli. When we arrived at the watching area they were swimming at their normal rhythm but after 10 or 15 minutes near to them, the mothers and their young began to swim in a synchronised manner in alert position. This is a sign of affiliation to the group,” adds the expert. According to the researcher, these cetaceans also have a social structure formed by permanent partnerships. This means that they spend their life with the same whales and they do not interchange between different groups, as in the case of bottlenose dolphins. Thanks to the study we now know that the presence of vessels also disturbs diving behaviour. “As such, when we began observing the whales up close, they tended to spend quite some time on the surface. However, the longer we spent nearby, the longer they stayed under water. This behavioural change could affect their energy levels, since they then have to make more of an effort to protect themselves and their young. In turn this limits hunting time, which means that they cannot feed their young properly,” concludes the researcher.

More information: Valeria Senigaglia, Renaud de Stephanis, Phillippe Verborgh, David Lusseau. “The role of synchronized swimming as affiliative and anti-predatory behavior in long-finned pilot whalesBehavioural Processes 91 (2012) 8-14.