Territorial disputes: Gibraltar (Part 2) [Post 32]

Gibraltar and the many views

There are many academic and non-academic articles in English and Spanish (at least) about Gibraltar. Today we focus on academic studies about this TERRITORIAL DISPUTE.

The first article introduces Gibraltar, its historical context and some issues at stake: territorial waters, natural resources, and defense. With this article, the reader will see that Gibraltar, Spain and the United Kingdom bring to the game other actors such as the European Union and NATO.

The second article refers to the different views about the dispute depending on origin. This comprehensive study demonstrate how the same reality is presented in different manners to the public depending on whether they are in Gibraltar, Spain or the United Kingdom.

The third article presents what at the time seemed to be the path to a definitive solution: the principle of “two flags, three voices.” Indeed, it is much easier to achieve a provisional solution than a permanent settlement. However, easier does not mean better.

The last article leaves many questions open. With Brexit fast approaching, what will happen with Gibraltar?


“Britain stresses that Gibraltar was ceded to the Crown by the Treaty of Utrecht in1713 […]. However, under the Treaty of Utrecht, Spain has right of “first refusal” should Britain decide to relinquish sovereignty over Gibraltar.”
“In the historical context, regional disputes have rendered delimiting maritime zones difficult but have prevented a single state from gaining sovereignty over an entire stretch of water.”
“Despite UK and Spanish membership, full usage of Gibraltar’s facilities by NATO states has been retarded.”
“Since the 1980s, both British and Spanish governments had hoped NATO membership, and EU integration with EU citizenship would lessen the intensity of the Gibraltar problem.”
“The British Government supports the principle of right of self-determination, but in Gibraltar’s case, because of the Treaty of Utrecht, this means that Gibraltar could become independent only with Spanish consent.”

SFL and CDA: Contributions of the Analysis of the Transitivity System in the Study of the Discursive Construction of National Identity (Case Study: Gibraltar) by Ángela Alameda-Hernández
“[…] the three corpora from the Gibraltarian, Spanish and British press were concerned with the Gibraltar situation, but each of them approached it in different ways, as the examination of the patterns of processes, participants and circumstances have revealed. The analysis allowed us to draw some social and political conclusions on the discursive construction and representation of the Gibraltar issue. On the one hand, the analysis of the Gibraltarian newspapers allowed us to understand how Gibraltar presented itself to the world, the self-image it portrayed; while on the other hand, the analysis of the Spanish and British newspapers allowed us to understand how this issue and the community of Gibraltar were perceived and represented from the outside, that is, from the two relevant angles involved in the situation of this territory.”

 Case Study: Gibraltar

The Tripartite Forum of Dialogue: Is this the Solution to the ‘Problem’ of Gibraltar? by Peter Gold


Following the abortive attempt by Britain and Spain to negotiate the joint sovereignty of Gibraltar in 2001–02, the incoming Spanish Government in 2004 proposed the establishment of a Forum of Dialogue, in which for the first time Gibraltar would take part as an independent third party. This Forum was designed to achieve cooperation across a number of issues, including the use of the airport, frontier traffic flows, pensions for former Spanish workers in Gibraltar and telecommunications, and by September 2006 proposed solutions were reached on all of them. The paper explores the Forum process and its achievements, but concludes that, given the fundamental differences in the ultimate objectives of the Forum participants and in particular Spain’s sensitivity to Gibraltar’s status, the agreements may only prove to be a means of managing the Gibraltar ‘problem’ rather than resolving it. Finally, the article considers whether the Forum model offers any lessons for other disputes in the region where sovereignty is contested.

The Tripartite Forum of Dialogue: Is this the Solution to the ‘Problem’ of Gibraltar?

Explaining the European Union’s Changing Position towards the Gibraltar Question after the Brexit Referendum by Ugur Burc Yildiz and Anil Camyamac


Having previously remained impartial on the Gibraltar question between Spain and Britain since both were member states, the European Union suddenly changed its position after the Brexit referendum in favor of the Spanish government at the expense of breaching international law. In doing so, the European Union, for the first time, created a foreign policy on the long-standing Gibraltar question. This article explores the reasons behind the creation of this foreign policy in support of Spain. The European Union feared that the idea of Euroscepticism may escalate among remaining member states after the Brexit referendum because of wide-spread claims that it would dissolve in the near future, fuelled by far right political parties. The European Union therefore created a foreign policy regarding Gibraltar in Spain’s favor in order to promote a “sense of community” for thwarting a further rise in Euroscepticism. While making its analysis, the article applies the assumption of social constructivism that ideas shape interests, which then determine the foreign policy choices of actors.

Explaining the European Union’s Changing Position towards the Gibraltar Question after the Brexit Referendum

NOTE: This post is based on Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Territorial Disputes and State Sovereignty: International Law and Politics,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2020 (forthcoming). Previous published research monograph about territorial disputes and sovereignty by the author, Jorge Emilio Núñez, “Sovereignty Conflicts and International Law and Politics: A Distributive Justice Issue,” London and New York: Routledge, Taylor and Francis Group, 2017.

NEXT POST: What do Gibraltarians want?

Tuesday 05th November 2019

Dr Jorge Emilio Núñez

Twitter: @London1701


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s