Gibraltar could be part of the EU’s borderless Schengen area by the end of the year, says one of the territory’s senior ministers.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Vijay Daryyanyani, Gibraltar’s minister of tourism and affairs, said he hoped a new historic treaty allowing freedom of movement between the territory and the EU will be signed “in the coming months”.
He said such a deal could bring great economic benefits to Gibraltar and Spain by allowing frictionless travel for Spanish workers entering the territory, Rock residents shopping across the border, and tourists from the EU.
However, he argued that there would be no sacrifice of sovereignty. “There will be no concessions whatsoever on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. This is one of the things that Gibraltar and the government are 100% sure of, “she said.
Negotiations to secure a treaty have been underway since a temporary agreement allowing freedom of movement for up to four years was finalized in December 2020 just hours before the UK left the EU.
Treated in a few months
Daryyanyani, a key figure in the talks, said: “We think we are well under way. And we hope to have a treaty in the coming months. We’d like to think we could get somewhere by the end of this year. “
He said it would mean that 16,000 Spaniards who cross the border every day to work in Gibraltar’s hospitals, hotels, restaurants and other businesses would be able to travel to the territory without passport checks. “We have more jobs than people, we need them to come and work in Gibraltar,” she said.
There would be mutual benefits for Spain. “The Gibraltar people spend a lot of money in that area of Spain. We give them a lot, they buy kitchens, they buy furniture. There is a whole range of economic activities going on because of Gibraltar in that area, ”said Daryyanyani.
He wants aviation to be part of any treaty as it would mean that the Rock would not only be a destination for the British, but “would open up a whole host of different possibilities to market Gibraltar as a tourist destination across Europe”.
It would mean tourists could fly to Gibraltar from Paris, for example, from where they could visit Spain as part of Schengen, or take a 45-minute ferry trip across the strait to visit Morocco.
“So if we could have where aviation would be in the treaty, then that would open Schengen-wide access to direct flights from Gibraltar to Madrid to Barcelona to Paris to Rome,” he said.
“They would create enormous economic activity, as far as tourism is concerned, but obviously other commercial possibilities”.
Destination driven by the pandemic
He said Gibraltar’s status as a holiday destination was bolstered by the pandemic, earning it a spot on the UK’s green travel list after becoming one of the first countries to fully vaccinate its population.
However, he admitted that the territory needed to increase its hotel offering from the current capacity of 800 if it was to fulfill its ambitions. “We understand that we need to build more hotels to accommodate leisure travelers,” she said.
It is planning a potential doubling of capacity over the next five years with a “firm interest” of three or four hotels to open there, Daryyanyani said.
“People have realized that Gibraltar can be a great holiday destination. There is a lot of interest and I think this is due to the pandemic, “she added.
The free movement of goods was “under discussion”, but “the fundamental thing is first of all the movement of people”, he added.