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EU Court dismisses Gibraltar waters case

Colony's government also under fire for not asking for help with Tuesday's blaze

The European Court has thrown out a lawsuit filed by the Gibraltar and UK governments asking the justices to declare some of the waters surrounding the colony exclusively British Gibraltar territorial waters.

In a decision handed down on Wednesday, the court said the case was "inadmissible on procedural grounds."

The Gibraltarian government was trying to get the court to overturn a European Commission 2008 ruling that listed the waters as Spain's protected site under EU law. From an ecological standpoint, the waters are seen as valuable and must be protected because they are transit routes for sea creatures such as dolphins and turtles, the EC said.

Gibraltar's Chief Minister Peter Caruana said his government would appeal the court's decision. "There are absolutely no circumstances in which the Gibraltar Government will permit British Gibraltar Territorial Waters to be treated, administered or governed for EU or any other purposes other than as waters of exclusive British sovereignty, under the exclusive jurisdiction and control of the Gibraltar government and Gibraltar authorities and subject to the exclusive application of Gibraltar laws," Caruana said in a statement.

José Ignacio Landaluce, the Popular Party mayor of Algeciras, applauded the decision, saying it "was more evidence" that Spain does have jurisdiction over waters "that have never been in dispute."

Beach damage

The spill from Tuesday's explosion of two storage tanks in Gibraltar's port has washed ashore on Algeciras' beaches, affecting some six kilometers of coastline, ecologist groups said Thursday. Authorities had to close the beach because of the fuel.

According to environmental groups, the situation has gotten worse despite cleanup efforts organized by the Andalusian government and city officials. More than 70 people are cleaning up the beaches at Getares, Rinconcillo, Punta de San García and the Straits National Park, the groups said.

Mayor Landaluce blasted Gibraltar's government for not asking Spain for help in dealing with the emergency.

"From the first moment, they refused Spanish help until the fire reached the other tanks and the situation got out of control," Landaluce said.