The highs and lows of Gibraltar’s 2023: Diplomats fail to agree an EU treaty as Picardo and Sanchez retain office

THE year 2023 has proven to be another milestone in Gibraltar’s post-Brexit limbo but a lot more happened that stole the headlines. Here are the highlights of the year and a sneak preview of what 2024 could bring.

Hope seemed on the cards for Gibraltar from January 2023 with Jose Manuel Albares claiming Spain was ‘very close’ to an EU treaty for the Rock.

But the minister continued to say a similar thing throughout the year, presumably suggesting he was very close to signing his own treaty proposal.

Of course, Gibraltar and the UK had other ideas and continued debating it until the Spanish went to elections.

While many feared a right-wing government with Vox and the PP, it never materialised as the far-right party lost a large chunk of its votes.

Instead, the PSOE formed a controversial partnership with mainly regional parties looking to promote nationalist discourses.

Albares said ‘negotiations continue at a very good rhythm’ after being reinstated and took part in the 14th round of talks in London in December.

But it seemed the airport remains a sticking point, even though we do not know anything from what is the position at the talks.

A change of local government could have brought a twist to that story but it was not to be at the October 12 election.

The GSD was unable to field ten strong enough candidates and even though Joe Bossano looked like he might drop out of parliament after 51 years, he clung to power and with it, his Alliance returned too.

It marks what could be 16 years of the GSLP/Liberals in office, allowing Chief Minister Fabian Picardo to eclipse his predecessor Sir Peter Caruana.

One of the main success stories this year was Christian Santos who left his post as mayor before getting in as minister for youth and culture for the GSLP after winning the election.

Success and failure

In the world of culture, Gibraltar registered a coup to bring former UK Prime Minister Theresa May along with a host of top names for the International Literary Festival.

Nineties Spanish chart success Taxi played charity concerts at the Sunborn while Santos still managed to squeeze in a performance at the UK National Drama Festival, a first for a local director and cast.

Almost a year since the OS 35 ran aground on Gibraltar’s east coast, oil spilled tragically across its western coast during a refuelling incident.

The spread of the spill left various areas affected, including marine nature reserves, forcing authorities to close beaches in mid-summer and volunteers to scrape the thick oil from the rocks.

Gibraltar continued to increase relations with Morocco culturally, economically, educationally and socially.

Visits to Tangiers and receptions locally showed a more mature relationship being developed with the fifth biggest African economy, especially as no deal with the EU remains a possibility.

The weather continued to be a problem as large storms brought flash floods, gale force wind and lightning on the Rock all year, possibly due to climate change.

Leading Spanish and UK universities studied Gibraltar’s Llanito language and discovered its unique worth.

The McGrail inquiry rolled on until the election halted it but everyone will be waiting for April 2024 when it concludes.

The Brexit talks could end in 2024 too, with Albares suggesting the cut-off period for talks could be the EU parliamentary elections in June.

Now get down to Casemates Square for the New Year’s Eve celebrations with live music and your favourite local presenters!


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