Gibraltar is set to become part of the EU’s borderless Schengen area at the end of the year

Rock of Gibraltar – Paul Biris/Moment

Gibraltar could be part of the EU’s borderless Schengen area by the end of the year, says one of the territory’s top ministers.

In an interview with The Telegraph, Vijay Daryanyani, Gibraltar’s tourism and business minister, said he hoped a landmark new treaty allowing freedom of movement between the territory and the EU would be signed “in the coming months”.

He said such an agreement could bring significant economic benefits to Gibraltar and Spain, allowing Spanish workers entering the territory, residents of the Rock crossing the border to shop, and tourists coming from the EU to travel without problems.

However, he maintained that there would be no sacrifice of sovereignty. “There will be no concessions of any kind on sovereignty, jurisdiction or control. That is one of the things that Gibraltarians and the Government are 100% sure of,” he said.

Negotiations to secure a treaty have been ongoing since a temporary deal allowing freedom of movement for up to four years was finalized in December 2020, just hours before the UK was due to leave the EU.

Treated in a few months

Daryanyani, a key figure in the talks, said: “We think we are in a good place. And we hope that we can have a treaty in the next few months. We’d like to think we could get somewhere by the end of this year.”

He said it would mean that 16,000 Spaniards who cross the border daily to work in Gibraltar hospitals, hotels, restaurants and other businesses could travel to the territory without passport checks. “We have more jobs than people, we need them to come to Gibraltar to work,” he said.

There would be reciprocal benefits for Spain. “Gibraltarians spend a lot of money in that part of Spain. We give them a lot, they buy kitchens, they buy furniture. There is a whole range of economic activities going on thanks to Gibraltar in that area,” said Mr. Daryanyani.

He wants aviation to be part of any treaty as it would mean the Rock would not only be a destination for the British, but “open up a lot of different possibilities for marketing Gibraltar as a tourist destination across Europe”.

It would mean that tourists could fly to Gibraltar from Paris, for example, from where they could visit Spain as part of Schengen or take a 45-minute ferry ride across the strait to visit Morocco.

“So if we could have where aviation would be in the treaty, that would open up access through Schengen for direct flights from Gibraltar to Madrid to Barcelona to Paris to Rome,” he said.

“It would create a lot of economic activity, in terms of tourism, but of course other business possibilities.”

Pandemic Driven Destination

He said Gibraltar’s status as a holiday destination had been boosted by the pandemic, earning it a place on the UK travel green list after becoming one of the first countries to fully vaccinate its population.

However, he admitted that the territory needed to increase its hotel supply from its current capacity of 800 if it was to fulfill its ambition. “We realize we need to build more hotels to accommodate leisure travelers,” he said.

It is planning a possible doubling of capacity in the next five years with “strong interest” from three or four hotels to open there, Daryanyani said.

“People have realized that Gibraltar can be a very good holiday destination. There is a lot of interest and I think this has been due to the pandemic, ”she added.

The free movement of goods was “under discussion” but “the key is the movement of people first,” he added.

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