…for something completely different (credit to Monty Python of course).
But let’s start with the fluff.
World records and stamps
Gibraltar set a new world record on National Day – in philately – with the issue of a set of stamps commemorating the 75th anniversary of the evacuation of Gib during the Second World War.
The £2 stamp has the most legible words ever printed on a stamp with an amazing 2,183 words. I suspect you may need a good magnifying glass.
May 2014 marks the beginning of the 75th anniversary of this mass-migration. Within a matter of weeks over 70% of the total population of Gibraltar was evacuated to French Morocco. Gibraltar’s women, children, elderly and infirm, were torn apart from husbands, fathers, and sons in a time of intense danger. They accepted that hardship with immense courage and as an act of duty and loyalty to Britain.
But after a few months in Morocco, the population was on the move again, this time to Jamaica, Madeira and, the UK, where according to some older Gibraltarians we’ve spoken to, their hardship consisted of suffering being put up and fed at Claridges…
Here’s a serious take on it though from a BBC site:
The first days of July 1940 witnessed further dramatic developments which would have a very profound effect upon the Gibraltar evacuees. The French no longer wanted them in Morocco, the Governor of Gibraltar refused to have them back for safety reason and London was against their being sent to the United Kindgom. They had become the “Unwanted Evacuees”.
The full piece is well worth reading.
This week it was the turn of the RAF, with a set of stamps (part of a series) issued about four RAF squadrons. Gibraltar regularly issues a diverse range of stamps, others this year have included local dolphins, endemic flowers, the Red Arrows, WW1 centenary, and Shakespeare’s 450th anniversary.
Gib stamps are, according to the Gib Stamps web site, highly collectible and the Gibraltar Philatelic Bureau sends stamps to more than 60 countries. In fact it could be more than 80, because someone missed the inconsistency when they were proofreading and both figures are cited.
The final designs are sent for approval by the Gibraltar Government and then the Governor’s Office who pass them on to Buckingham Palace for the approval by Her Majesty the Queen. According to official sources, the Queen always reviews proofs of all stamps issued by the Commonwealth countries as she is one of the world’s most prominent collectors.
Given there are 53 independent countries and sovereign states, and then the British Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies, that’s a lot of stamps for Liz to check.
And, continuing with the UK/Gib relationship, I read the UK government’s response to a Foreign Affairs Committee’s report, entitled interestingly, Gibraltar: Time to Get Off the Fence.
So, a few quotes from the fence.
We have been robust in challenging Spanish incursions into British Gibraltar Territorial and delays at the border. In particular, our strategy of seeking the intervention of the European Commission to resolve the border delays has resulted in follow up action, as we set out in our detailed response to the recommendations.
Robust? I’m really not interested in bureaucratic letters and follow-up action, I don’t want a three hour, or longer, queue in summer when I have two dogs in my car.
The Government remains unreservedly resolute in its commitment never to enter into arrangements under which UK sovereignty over Gibraltar would pass to another State against the wishes of the people of Gibraltar, and not to enter into a process of sovereignty negotiations with which Gibraltar is not content.
Given that 99% of the population of Gibraltar has twice voted to retain British sovereignty I remain bemused why the issue is even being discussed.
The Government is pleased to report that the European Commission has now dismissed the questions raised by Spain on environmental grounds over the North-West Artificial Reef, bunkering activity and a number of reclamation projects.
Well, that’s some good news.
All elements of the situation, including the maritime security capabilities available to the Royal Navy Gibraltar Squadron, are kept under review. We are ready to provide additional assets to the Squadron or augment our broader maritime posture as necessary.
And what does it take to become ‘necessary’? We have a Guardia Civil vessel colliding with a Royal Gibraltar Police one in British Gibraltarian Territorial Waters, the UK government admits the Spanish incursions are illegal and dangerous, so what are they waiting for?
We are in no doubt that Spain’s measures at the border in 2013 were politically motivated and that it continues to use the border as a coercive tool against Gibraltar. This is entirely unacceptable behaviour by an EU partner and should not be tolerated by the UK. [written by the committee]
The Government agrees disruption into and out of Gibraltar is unacceptable and has no place at a border between EU partners. Spain’s border checks are disproportionate, politically motivated, and therefore illegal.
…the Commission has publicly stated that they have “serious concerns” about the lack of progress that Spain has made in addressing their earlier recommendations. Critically, the Commission has said that checks giving rise to waiting several hours to cross the border are “disproportionate”.
Well yes, so can we have some action please instead of sending letters for 12 months? I have no issue with the GC looking for tobacco smugglers (invariably Spanish) but that doesn’t mean looking at every single vehicle, or carrying out checks in line rather than drawing vehicles to the side which was the previous policy.
I’ll end with a comment from the committee that to me, sums up the current situation perfectly.
We consider that the pressure currently being applied on Gibraltar by Spain, through the imposition of delays at the border, unwarranted maritime incursions, and diplomatic pressure in international institutions amounts to a campaign of harassment and intimidation.