Brussels to send mission to Gibraltar as tensions simmer

Reuters News
Posted: Aug 19, 2013 10:36 AM
Brussels to send mission to Gibraltar as tensions simmer

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The European Commission said on Monday it would send a fact-finding mission to Gibraltar to help defuse tensions over the Mediterranean enclave between Britain and Spain.

The creation of an artificial reef off Gibraltar has triggered protests from Spanish fishermen who say it blocks their access to some waters. Spain has toughened its border checks, leading to long queues for workers and tourists.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy and Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso spoke over the phone and agreed the Commission would send a fact-finding mission "as soon as possible" to investigate border control.

"President Barroso expressed his hope that Spain and the UK will address these matters in a way that is in line with their common membership in the EU," the Commission added in a statement.

Early on Monday, British warships arrived in Gibraltar for scheduled exercises.

Although British, Spanish and Gibraltarian authorities have said the navy's arrival at the British overseas territory was long-scheduled, some in Spain see it as provocative.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; Editing by Andrew Heavens)