Brussels, 24 September 2013
Gibraltar: European Commission sends a technical fact finding mission
On the 25 September, the European Commission will send a technical fact-finding mission to La Línea (Spain) and Gibraltar (UK).
Why is the Commission going to the borders?
Concerns have been raised by citizens, members of the European Parliament and the Government of Gibraltar regarding border checks, in particular alleged excessive waiting times. The Spanish authorities have raised concerns regarding an increase in tobacco smuggling from Gibraltar to Spain.
In order to clarify this situation, the Commission is sending a technical fact-finding mission to assess the situation on both sides of the border. The Spanish and British authorities have cooperated with the Commission in the organisation of the visit.
Who will participate in the mission?
Experts from the European Commission services for Home Affairs, Customs Union, Justice and the European Anti-Fraud office (OLAF).
What areas will be assessed?
The technical mission will cover the aspect of border controls and customs controls, including smuggling.
The delegation will look at installations and checks carried out at the entry and exit of persons and goods on both sides of the border as well as issues related to alleged smuggling.
Will the environment aspects be examined?
Not by this mission. The Commission is assessing in parallel the complaints made by Spain regarding the dumping of concrete blocks, the bunkering activities in the Bay of Gibraltar and the re-sanding in the context of the Eastside project.
How will the Commission present the findings of the mission?
The Commission will carry out an assessment on the basis of the information obtained during the visit and the information already provided. Based on this assessment, the Commission will decide if further action is necessary. There is no legal deadline for the Commission to complete this assessment.
Has the Commission organised similar missions in the past?
Commission services have previously carried out technical fact-finding missions to other Member States in response to complaints from citizens, although mainly at the internal borders (Denmark, Sweden, and Netherlands). Regular evaluations of the external borders (and other areas of the Schengen acquis) are carried out by Member States together with experts from the Commission in the framework of the Schengen evaluation mechanism. The Council and the European Parliament recently reached an agreement to revise the current system. The revised mechanism will be coordinated by the Commission in cooperation with the Member States from the second half of 2014.
What is the status of Gibraltar within the EU?
Gibraltar has a unique status within the EU. Gibraltar has been in the EU since 1973 as part of the UK's membership (by virtue of Art 355 of TFEU). EU law is applicable in Gibraltar. However, its membership is distinct to that of the UK as Gibraltar is excluded from 4 areas of EU policy: Customs Union, Common Commercial Policy, Common Agriculture Policy, Common Fisheries Policy and requirement to levy VAT. Gibraltar is not part of the Schengen area either. Spain is therefore requested to carry out checks on persons and on goods. These checks must, however, fully respect EU law and remain proportionate.