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Aitor Martínez: Future of Gibraltar is for UN and views of its people

Soraya Fernández

Aitor Martínez

“A territory cannot change flags without taking its population into account”

Aitor Martínez

The lawyer from La Línea de la Concepción, Aitor Martínez, an expert in International Law, predicts a soft Brexit, supports the Tripartite Forum for Dialogue and argues that the future of Gibraltar is better served within the UN framework rather than in Europe.

His CV is impressive. Aitor Martínez, in his 37th year, is a renowned lawyer, specialising in International Law with a brilliant professional career and a promising future which is sure to bring him great success, he has an outstanding international reputation. He comes from La Línea de la Concepción.

For the last five years he has been in charge of the International Law department in Baltasar Garzón’s law firm and has “a finger in every pie”, as he himself says.

For years, he has been handling the defence of Julian Assange, now a personal friend of his, who has spent over six years confined in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London as a result of the WikiLeaks case. He has also taken charge of the defence of Hervé Falciani, the Italian-French engineer who has since 2009 being collaborating with several countries, providing information about the accounts belonging to more than 130,000 alleged tax evaders, who are believed to be keeping money in Swiss banks. Other cases include some arising from the former Argentinian dictatorship, or the case of the policemen implicated in the Superintendent Villarejo scandal, among many others which his practice deals with.

Aitor Martínez
Aitor Martínez

Talking to him is fascinating because he puts his heart into everything he says and does. This was plain to see when Reach-Alcance took the opportunity to interview him during his recent stay in La Línea.

It was an appropriate time to talk about Brexit, and the future of the fraternal towns of La Línea and Gibraltar, a future he is optimistic about, although he admits that it will not be easy.

He defines Brexit as “a shot in the foot that the United Kingdom has inflicted on itself” and attributes the victory of the ‘yes’ vote in the referendum to negative voting. “Thinking that the United Kingdom can do better financially out of the internal market makes no sense. However, in the end, the populist discourse of the British right took its toll on the working classes and, without any coherent explanation, Brexit won”, he says.

He attributes the fact that the yes vote did not prosper in Gibraltar to the Gibraltarians not wanting to lose their privileges, “they want to keep on enjoying their current situation and their strategic location”.

Aitor Martínez foresees a soft Brexit; in fact, he claims that a hard Brexit would make no sense: “It’s not in Europe’s nature to be vindictive and the United Kingdom will be allowed to be a preferred partner, in the same way as Switzerland and Norway, both of which are part of the Schengen area and the last one part of the European Economic Area.

Both countries have, preferential agreements in the financial realm, and I understand that, in the end, the United Kingdom will leave and exist in a hybrid situation as in the case of these countries. I do not foresee a hard Brexit scenario”.

Aitor Martínez
Aitor Martínez

He also has a very clear opinion about the future of Gibraltar: “The future of Gibraltar is better served in the UN framework rather than in Europe. It is still subject to the Special Committee on Decolonisation and it is still a colony and its status will have to be regularised at some point. The fact that it remains on the list is anachronic. I do not know what its eventual status will be, whether it will be co-sovereignty, British sovereignty, Spanish sovereignty or it will become an independent territory, but it is time for it to be defined”.

To this effect, he argues that the three parties; Gibraltar, the United Kingdom and Spain will have to reach an agreement. Therefore, he opts for restoring the Tripartite Forum for Dialogue fostered by the former Spanish minister of Foreign Affairs Miguel Ángel Moratinos.

Moreover, he acknowledges that the co-sovereignty proposal does not fit in with what Gibraltarians demand; which is self-determination. “We must take into account that the Spanish aspirations are legitimate in terms of territory, but that the right of self determination of the people does exist. To this day, it is impossible for a territory to change its flag without taking their views of its own people into consideration.

It would be a blatant violation of the right of self-determination. A person cannot have his passport and flag changed without having first having voted on what he wants to be. It is a basic principle. We are asking for it to happen in the Sahara, so why shouldn’t they vote here?”.

In this sense, he recognises that the Gibraltarians want a self-determination which has not been agreed upon between the United Kingdom and Spain and that it would even infringe the Treaty of Utrecht, but he advocates finding a way out “taking everyone into consideration, not only the States, but the people involved. Here, dialogue is fundamental”.

That is why he insists on the Tripartite Forum for Dialogue, “not only regarding the specific agreements reached, but also structural agreements in the future. Gibraltar´s situation, even though, for better or worse, situated within the whole Brexit issue, is not a defining question in the EU but one for the UN’s Special Committee on Decolonisation”.

He considers that the Sánchez Government should reactivate the Tripartite formula, something which it has not done so far, “because it is of fundamental importance and I think it is the only solution”.

While a solution is sought and Brexit becomes a reality, Aitor Martínez considers that the free circulation of people at the customs border is fundamental. “Gibraltar will try to get preference, although I think it will be institutionally complicated for it to remain within Europe”, he states.

After this analysis, he is essentially optimistic about the future, since he insists that he does not foresee a hard Brexit: “With absolute certainty, there will be preferential agreements. Countries which have applied for membership of the EU already have Neighbourhood Co-operation Treaties, so why shouldn’t Gibraltar have them too, as it has an unquestionable link with Spain. It is that kind of sensitivity that has to be shown by the Council of Europe , and I am sure it will be when the time comes to negotiating the United Kingdom´s exit”.

It is that kind of sensitivity that has to be shown by the Council of Europe , and I am sure it will be when the time comes to negotiating the United Kingdom´s exit”.

What do you think?