British Foreign Minister William Hague on Wednesday reaffirmed the British “commitment” to Gibraltar in a meeting with the territory’s chief minister, Fabian Picardo.
Picardo met Hague at the Foreign Office as part of an official visit to Britain lasting from Tuesday to Friday. The chief minister is scheduled to meet UK Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday.
Hague spoke of “the strong bonds between the UK and Gibraltar and the UK’s commitment to stand by the people of Gibraltar,” according to a statement from the UK Foreign Office.
The statement added that in Wednesday’s meeting the two men discussed the “unacceptable delays” at the border between Gibraltar and Spain due to stricter border controls by Spanish security forces.
“Mr Picardo’s visit has provided an opportunity for a series of detailed meetings on issues including the unacceptable delays at the Spanish/Gibraltar border,” said the Foreign Office.
The Gibraltarian government had previously announced that Picardo would speak in London about “the current abuses by the Spanish authorities at the Gibraltar frontier and the statements from senior Spanish politicians threatening further measures against Gibraltar.“
The controversy between Spain and the British colony began more than a month ago with the laying of a number of concrete blocks in the Bay of Algeciras by the Gibraltarian authorities. The territory, which was ceded by Spain to Great Britain in 1713 and has an autonomous government under British sovereignty, took this measure without prior warning that they were going to build an artificial reef, which impedes the Spanish fishermen fishing in these waters.
Soon after, the Spanish government began applying controls at the border, which resulted in long delays, and which led to protests by both the Gibraltarian and the UK governments.