Douglas Alexander – 2014 Parliamentary Question to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office

The below Parliamentary question was asked by Douglas Alexander on 2014-04-03.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, how many meetings the Minister for Europe has held with the European Commission to discuss incursions by Spanish government vessels into British-Gibraltar territorial waters in the last two years.

Mr William Hague

We are confident of UK sovereignty over British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) under international law, a matter over which the European Commission has no locus to intervene. As a result the the Minister of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, my right hon. Friend the Member for Aylesbury (Mr Lidington), the Minister responsible for Europe, has not had any meetings with them in the last two years where the sole purpose was discussing Spanish incursions into BGTW.

However, my right hon. Friend has raised on a number of occasions, at a senior level in the European Commission, the adoption by the European Commission of a proposal from the Spanish government to designate a site of community importance (SCI) under the EU habitats directive (92/43/EEC). The SCI in question overlaps virtually the whole BGTW area. Spain has used this fact to justify certain incursions on the grounds that they are enacting obligations in relation to EU environmental legislation.

The British Government maintains that the purported site known as the Estrecho Oriental was unlawfully designated and, in any event, cannot have any legal effect in BGTW due to UK sovereignty over this territory. We have made our position on this clear to the European Commission and the Spanish government.