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Spain's Gibraltar border controls 'over the top', says UK
thinkSPAIN , Monday, December 10, 2012

BRITISH authorities have set up CCTV cameras at the border of Spain and Gibraltar to investigate the 'excessive' searches carried out by Spanish officials on vehicles, which lead to long queues.

The UK has already complained to the European Commission, claiming Spain is being 'disproportionately' vigilant at the border as a 'tit-for-tat' in the face of hurdles imposed by Gibraltar for Spanish fishermen.

But the EC said it could not find any evidence to suggest Spain was applying European laws 'incorrectly'.

Vice-chief minister of the Rock, Joseph García, said there had been a period in October during which the 24-hour-a-day vigilance at the border was 'over the top', and that the Gibraltarian government had sent statistics to Brussels showing the average waiting time in the customs queue in the direction of Spain for every day of the last year.

This average wait on October 9, 12 and 14 was vastly exceeded, according to the government of Gibraltar, and frequently took more than six hours just to cross the border.

With hundreds of residents in Spain working on the Rock, this means most of the queue is made up of people simply trying to get home from the office – and who can spend nearly as long in a nose-to-tail gridlock as they would in a normal day at work.

They have now set up the CCTV camera so that the 'evidence' the EC said it did not have would be there.

The British government has sent a formal letter of grievance to Spanish authorities, saying such 'extreme' measures of vigilance 'have no place' at the border between two fellow EU member States, and that they consider it is simply a way of Spain's expression its discontent over the restrictions the UK places on Spanish fishermen in the waters off the shores of this British-owned enclave.

But although the EC has said it is 'conscious' of the 'inconvenience' faced by those moving between Gibraltar and Spain, it is unable to take any action without proof and that even if they had this evidence, the Commission is not in a position to be able to supervise border controls applied to 'territories outside the EU'.

Gibraltar does not form part of the customs' union of Europe, nor is it part of the 'border-free' areas that fall within the Schengen Convention.

Regular travellers across the Gibraltar-Spain border who suffer the queues as part of their daily commute and have been spoken to by say part of the problem is the high frequency of cigarette-smuggling, due to the Rock being a tax haven, as well as trafficking fake, contraband cigarettes.

They say they regularly see occupants of vehicles being caught with excessive quantities of cigarettes whilst they wait in the border queue.

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