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Gibraltar: Territorial Waters

Volume 497: debated on Monday 12 October 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what reasons the Government provided to the European Court of Justice in support of its application for leave to join Gibraltar in its action against Spain in respect of territorial waters; and if he will make a statement. (291556)

On 7 August 2009 the Government requested permission from the Court of First Instance to intervene in support of the Government of Gibraltar (GoG) against the European Commission seeking annulment of Commission Decision 2009/95/EC in so far as it includes a Site of Community Interest (SCI) proposed by Spain which overlaps with British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) (case T-176/09). It should be noted that at this stage, in requesting permission from the court to intervene, we have not submitted our substantive written intervention. We are currently awaiting a response from the court to our request.

The UK is the only state competent to include a site within BGTW on a list of SCIs submitted to the Commission. We have placed on record that the UK does not recognise the validity of the Spanish listing.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what reasons the Government did not apply to join Gibraltar's action in the European Court of Justice regarding Spain's claim to Gibraltar's territorial waters until after the deadline for such applications; and if he will make a statement. (291637)

At the end of 2008 Spain put forward a “Site of Community Importance” (SCI) under the habitats directive which encompasses British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW). As the Commission only consulted each state bilaterally on the sites it put forward, the UK discussed only our own proposed sites (including two in Gibraltar) with the Commission. We therefore discovered the existence of the Spanish site in BGTW only after the complete list of sites across the EU was published in February 2009.

The Government have however, within the time allowed, requested permission to intervene in support of the Government of Gibraltar legal case against the European Commission relating to a Site of Community Interest (SCI) proposed by Spain which overlaps with British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) (case T-176/09). We await a response from the court to our request.

The case does not concern a Spanish claim to BGTW. In fact the case involves an Article 230 application before the Court of First Instance by the Government of Gibraltar for annulment of Commission Decision 2009/95/EC, made under the habitats directive, to the extent that the listing of the Spanish SCI, Estrecho Oriental, includes British Gibraltar Territorial Waters (BGTW) and an area of the high seas beyond BGTW.