UK and Spain must cooperate to manage protected nature sites in Gibraltar waters, says European Environment Commissioner - La Treizième Étoile: A blog on EU politics
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UK and Spain must cooperate to manage protected nature sites in Gibraltar waters, says European Environment Commissioner

Sunday, 17 June 2012
The European Commissioner for the Environment Janez Potočnik has said both the United Kingdom and Spain must cooperate in their management of EU protected sites around the disputed Rock of Gibraltar.

Mr Potočnik said the two governments should have informed each other about their intentions before designating nature sites in disputed territory and added that both sides had legal obligations to protect the designated site of specific cultural interest (SCI). [UK: UKGIB0002 ‘Southern Waters of Gibraltar' and ESP: ES6120032 ‘Estrecho Oriental’]

Whilst it would appear that neither Spain nor the United Kingdom formally undertook this step for the sites they proposed in the disputed territory, the emphasis now must be on the two Member States to cooperate in finding a practical way forward in managing the sites in order to deliver the requirements of [the directive] on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora, as such designation implies,Mr Potočnik said on behalf of the European Commission.

The Commissioner was responding to a parliamentary question from Liberal Democrat MEP Sir Graham Watson, who asked the Commission in May about Spain’s failure to notify the UK before filing its designation for a SCI site (E-004503/2012). Britain and Gibraltar are challenging the Spanish designation on the basis that these are British waters and only the UK has jurisdiction. Spain on the other hand says the waters are Spanish.

The Commissioner’s statement – naturally – does not address the issue of sovereignty although it accepted that both Britain and Spain had conservation areas in Gibraltarian waters.

The Gibraltar Chronicle reports that the Gibraltar Government has rejected Mr Potočnik’s statement and has said it would raise the matter further with the European Commission.

The dispute rumbles on.

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