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4 November 2014updated 18 Nov 2014 12:24pm

Six things you didn’t know about Gibraltar

Rounding up the best insights from the New Statesman’s Gibraltar Hub so far. . . 

By New Statesman

1.  98 per cent of Gibraltarians voted to remain British in 2002

Journalist Helen Wade, in her opening piece to launch the New Statesman’s Gibraltar Hub, explored what self-determination really means for the people of Gibraltar:

“[Gibraltar’s] burgeoning nationalism was cemented in the years following the 2002 referendum on joint sovereignty proposals by the Blair government when 98 per cent of Gibraltar’s population voted to remain British. Sharing sovereignty with Spain? British Gibraltarians were never going to buy that and the proposals were kicked into the long grass. In the 23 years I’ve lived away from my homeland, Gibraltarians have come into their own, confidently punching above their weight for such a tiny dot on the world map.” 

  1. Homosexuality was illegal in Gibraltar until 1993

Civil rights activist Felix Alvarez spoke to the New Statesman in March about his long battle for gay rights in Gibraltar. It was a struggle that began in personal suffering and eventually led to the landmark legalisation of civil partnership in 2014:

“’Why was Gibraltar still so behind at the end of the 20th century?” Alvarez asks. “My analysis is that our preoccupation became survival. Survival and sovereignty. All the politics of the past decades has concerned itself with this. The gay issue was sidelined.’”

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  1. General Franco closed the border between Spain and Gibraltar for 16 years

In this moving photo essay, published in two parts in April, local historian Tito Vallejo explained the long history of the Gibraltar-Spanish border and the impact of its closure for people on both sides:

“The closure of the Gibraltar/Spanish border between the years 1969 and 1985 was a period which had enormous political and social impact on the small territory I call home. The full story of what led to these extraordinary circumstances, and what unfolded during and after, are perhaps not well known to the casual reader. Despite the numerous belligerent sieges Gibraltar has undergone, no official border fence existed between Spain and Gibraltar till the year 1910. Before this date there were just two lines of British and Spanish sentries in their boxes looking at each other from a certain distance. Between them lay the neutral ground, a no man’s land.”

  1. Gibraltar is one of the largest employers in Andalusia

Fabian Picardo, Chief Minister of Gibraltar, revealed the vital role that Gibraltar plays in sustaining the regional economy of southern Spain during an interview with the New Statesman in June:

“‘Gibraltar creates about 10,000 jobs in the hinterland, and we could easily see that number become 20,000 or 30,000 in a region with 40 per cent unemployment,’ Picardo says. ‘I recently learned that Gibraltar, as an employer, is the third largest in Andalusia. And yet we’re getting whipped daily by Madrid rather than thanked and encouraged to do more.’”

  1. The Port of Gibraltar delivers more than 4m tonnes of bunker fuel each year

Commodore Bob Sanguinetti, the new captain of the Port of Gibraltar, revealed just how well the port is doing when writing in July:

“Gibraltar is the largest bunkering port in the Western Mediterranean.  Over four million tonnes of bunkers were delivered in 2011, a 500 per cent increase since 1990, and bunkering is now the main activity within the Port of Gibraltar.  The market for bunkering is extremely competitive… despite this challenge, those behind the Port of Gibraltar continue to apply proactive and resilient approaches to the marketing of services, which has helped Gibraltar to maintain an edge against its competitors and become the third busiest bunker port in Europe.”

  1. Gibraltar became an international football contender after joining UEFA this year

The Gibraltar Football Association (GFA) is one of the oldest in the world. Dennis Beiso, chief executive of the GFA, shared the inside story of how the national football team broke into the European league. Charlotte Simmonds wrote:

“Perhaps it isn’t surprising that Gibraltar’s trials on the pitch mirror the territory’s wider fight for autonomy, European recognition and an international voice. Is it fair to say this diplomatic impasse has left a footprint on the field? ‘There’s no getting away from the fact that football is the most political of all sports,’ Beiso affirms. ‘Being recognised by Uefa has been critical in increasing the level of awareness of Gibraltar and strengthening our own identity.’”