Gibraltar can become part of the EU’s borderless Schengen area by the end of the year, says one of the territory’s highest ministers.
In an interview with The Telegraph, Vijay Daryanyani, Gibraltar’s tourism and business minister, said he hoped a historic new treaty allowing freedom of movement between the territory and the EU would be signed “within the coming months”.
He said such an agreement could bring major economic benefits to Gibraltar and Spain, enabling frictionless travel for Spanish workers entering the territory, for Rock residents shopping across the border and for tourists arriving from the EU.
However, he argued that there would be no sacrifice of sovereignty. “There will be no concessions on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. “That is one of the things that Gibraltarians and the government are 100 per cent sure of,” he said.
Negotiations to secure a treaty have been ongoing since a temporary deal allowing freedom of movement for up to four years ended in December 2020 just hours before Britain left the EU.
treaty within months
Mr Daryanyani, a key figure in the talks, said: “We think we are in a good place. And we hope that we can get a treaty in the next few months. We would like to think we can get somewhere by the end of this year.”
He said it would mean 16,000 Spaniards who cross the border daily to work in Gibraltar’s hospitals, hotels, restaurants and other businesses would be able to enter the territory without passport checks. “We have more jobs than people, we need them to come and work in Gibraltar,” he said.
There will be mutual benefits for Spain. “Gibraltarians spend a lot of money in that area of Spain. We give them a lot, they buy kitchens, they buy furniture. There’s a whole range of economic activity going on because of Gibraltar in that area, Daryanyani said.
He wants aviation to be part of any treaty, as it would mean the Rock would not only be a destination for Brits, but would “open up a whole range of different opportunities to market Gibraltar as a destination across Europe”.
It would mean tourists could fly to Gibraltar from, say, Paris, from where they could visit Spain as part of Schengen or take a 45-minute ferry across the strait to visit Morocco.
“So if we could have where aviation would be in the treaty, then it would open up access throughout Schengen to direct flights from Gibraltar to Madrid to Barcelona to Paris to Rome,” he said.
“It will create enormous economic activity, in terms of tourism, but of course other commercial opportunities.”
Destination reinforced by the pandemic
He said Gibraltar’s status as a holiday destination had been boosted by the pandemic, earning a place on Britain’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 offer from the current capacity of 800 if it was to meet its ambitions. “We realize we need to build more hotels to accommodate leisure travelers,” he said.
It plans a potential doubling in capacity over the next five years with “firm interest” from three or four hotels to open there, Daryanyani said.
“People have realized that Gibraltar can be a very good holiday destination. There is a lot of interest, and I think this has arisen because of the pandemic, he added.
Free movement of goods was “under discussion” but “the key is movement of people first”, he added.