Photo: Public Domain
Below is a lead in and a hyperlink to a story published byMailonline last month providing some back ground and updating developments on what is one of the most bitter disagreements among the European allies and members of the European Union. The control of the "Sea Gate" of Gibraltar is vital to the Western World. It has been in the secure and able hands of the British for hundreds of years but it was originally Spanish territory ceded in a long ago war.
Some precedent in international law published in the twentieth century and continuing into the twenty first tends to support a view that territorial acquisition by conquest is recognized, but not considered permanent. The United States has followed this concept for more than 100 years with some important exceptions. Following the concept of "free determination of nations", the United States did not return to Spain the Philippines after the Spanish American War, but instead occupied the islands for over half a century and then acknowledged and defended their independence once declared and recognized. Puerto Rico likewise was not returned to Spain, nor yet has been acknowledged as independent based on this same principle. The people of Puerto Rico have initiated plebiscites but always on the question of maintaining commonwealth status with the United States or going independent. So far the commonwealth status is favored by the majority, there appears to be some interest in U.S. statehood, a small but committed independence movement and virtually no interest in a return to Spanish rule.
The Falklands Island conflict illustrates another aspect of this area of international law. There, the long recognized concept of "effective settlement and administration" was determined to be the operative principle of international law and it was successfully defended by force of arms against Argentina. Argentina claims the Falklands based on proximity, and the fact that prior to settlement by the British, a predecessor political entity to Argentina claimed the then unsettled islands. Settled international law is clear that merely sighting or landing on unsettled land, not clearly under the administration of a recognized state does not invest title. Effective settlement and administration is the most definitive proof of title in such cases.
And so with Gibraltar, Spain has a prior claim on title based on former possession and fortification. But Spain, in that long ago war fought against the prevailing rule of international law, freedom of the seas. While in control of this vital "sea gate" she attempted to control, vice safe guard international access to and from the Mediterranean to the Atlantic. In battle the Sea gate fell to the British who have in fact effectively settled the "rock" which is not only a fortified stronghold of NATO and the EU but also a very small Common Wealth city state whose inhabitants very much don't want to be under Spanish rule. Great Britain has only used the rock to assure international access, with the exception in World War II against the Nazi and Fascists regimes.
Great Britain is the more stable of the two competing claimants, has the soundest claim under international law, is obligated to consider the desires of the actual inhabitants, and is the more trust worthy and capable custodian of this globally important "sea gate". The position of the AAIS's experts is that Great Britain would be acting irresponsibility if it relinquished control of Gibraltar to Spain. Of course our position was identical relative to the United States ceding control of the Panama Canal to Panama. Obviously the powers of the day disagreed and now the Panama Canal, a globally important seas gate, built by the United States and of hyper importance to the security and economic viability of the United States and the West is being operated under contract by a Chinese state owned corporation.
The international community has to care about who controls the "sea gates" and their collective security. At the out break of World War II Great Britain and the United States controlled the Sea Gates around the world. Today only Gibraltar remains in seriously reliable hands. What no one could take by force from the English speaking peoples we gave up in response to political agitation and claims with no basis in international law. We have obviously tired of being the peace keepers, but we have no reliable relief in sight. Here is a thought; Gibraltar has been in British hands since 1713. That's about 63 years longer than America has been an independent nation. Below is the lead in and hyperlink to the Mailonline story for a look at the most recent developments in the situation: