– Do you really believe that Gibraltar is guilt free with respect to money laundering?
– Yes, clearly all of the community guidelines on issues of financial services- including money laundering- are applied and implemented in Gibraltar. The Commissioner for the Internal Market in the previous Commission, Michel Barnier, was questioned in 2014. He confirmed our position at the European Parliament. This is one of the issues where existing information is not correct. And part of the campaign we are now using in Brussels is aimed at trying to correct that impression.
– Has the UK ever called attention to subjects around smuggling or money laundering?
– We have a clear policy in the UK. They have their skills and we have ours. In the smuggling of snuff, the European Commission issued a series of recommendations to eliminate it. They were written in November 2013. When we had the second community inspection at the border, they saw in those six months that we had implemented everything they asked, even though it was quite complicated. We had to do some administrative reforms, further legislative and structural reforms at the border and at the gate. We have built an area to control vehicles leaving. And the Commission considered that we had fulfilled all requirements. What is now clear is that the Spanish side must also meet the recommendations.
– Can you categorically say now that there is smuggling and money laundering in Gibraltar?
– I can say that we are applying all the rules. Can you also for example, ask if Spain is free of smuggling or money laundering? Can you say that about the United Kingdom or France? It is impossible to say it is not. What I can say is that the system that exists to control it and prevent it is one of the strongest in Europe.
– You speak of Gibraltar sometimes like a country, but legally it is a colony.
– Yes, yes … there is a list of colonies at the United Nations, which names non-self governed territories, 11 of which are British. One of our tasks as the Government is trying to remove Gibraltar from the list- a legal decolonization. The relationship we have with the UK Government, with the power enjoyed by the Parliament of Gibraltar, means Gibraltar is not a colony. We think that the United Nations list is outdated and should be replaced.
– Is there a British grant to Gibraltar?
– No, the last British subsidy to Gibraltar occurred in 1986. That was a development which gave aid to all territories. Since then we have not received any. The whole economy of Gibraltar generates revenue from tourism, the service industry and cruises. The UK does not give us anything.
– What is the strong point of Gibraltar´s economy?
– The economy mostly relies on tourism revenues. 12 million tourists coming into an area with a population of 30,000 inhabitants produces huge revenues. Most tourism comes from the border with Spain. We also have air connections to several cities in the UK that are expanding because much of the tourism also goes through the airport. And the cruises bring hundreds of thousands of affluent tourists who spend money in shops, restaurants and bars. This allows us to employ more people. We have 10,000 workers living in Spain and working in Gibraltar.
– In the future, do you expect anything from the Popular Party?
– We want to have good relations with the People’s Party. For three years we have been trying and it has been quite difficult. In 2004, a forum for discussions between Spain, Gibraltar and the United Kingdom was created. Things that made life better on both sides of the border were agreed. After that came the PP, in 2011, and they took the position that they did not want to talk with Gibraltar, withdrew from the forum and a climate of harassment was created. It would be good for everyone to return to a policy of dialogue.