Gibraltar, situated at the entrance of the western Mediterranean, has evolved as an international symbol of solidity and strength. It is home to the most spectacular rock monolith in the world, popularly known as the Rock of Gibraltar. Due to its strategic position, Gibraltar has remained a subject of repeated conquest and sieges between the British and Spanish authorities. It has been a British Territory since 1704 when it was ceded forever under the Treaty of Utrecht. In two referendums of 1967 and 2002, the population of Gibraltar rejected the Spanish hint of sovereignty and chose to stay as a British colony. Since 1973 it is a part of the EU under the British treaty of accession.
Gibraltar is incredibly rich and full of surprises at any time of the year with a wide array of natural and historic spectra and varied plant life. The Rock Apes, Dolphins in the Bay of Gibraltar, the Pilot Whales, Killer Whales of the Strait, and other marine mammals can be viewed in great deal here. The country is also home to an outstanding herd of migratory birds of up to fifteen different species. With its welcoming climate and warm people, Gibraltar has emerged as a prominent tourism and business destination.
Gibraltar, an overseas territory of the United Kingdom, is spread over 6.543 square kms. area on the Mediterranean Sea. It is situated in latitude 36°7' North and longitude 5°2V West at the eastern end of the strait which bears its name. The territory is a peninsula on the south-central coast of Spain in the Strait of Gibraltar, connecting the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean between Spain and northern Africa. It is connected to the Spain by a sandy isthmus and a ferry to Morocco. The land border with Spain is of around 1.2 kms. and has 12 kms. of shoreline.
The Rock of Gibraltar with its towering limestone stature is situated over the surrounding countryside. A narrow sandy isthmus connects the end of the Iberian Peninsula to it. The frontier with Spain is to the North. The Eastern side is made up of sheer cliffs, reaching a maximum altitude of 426 metres with sandy beaches forming the perimeter. The western slopes are less steep and much of its lower half is inhabited. The dense upper parts of the rock have been transformed into a nature reserve and shelter the rare Barbary Apes.
The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow outlet, which separates Europe from Africa and provides the only link between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea.
The sub-tropical climate of Gibraltar is constituted of fascinating contrasts. The summers have high temperatures and sometimes invite in droughts. On the other hand cooler weather arrives with the rains any time between October and Christmas. Overall the weather is temperate and affected by the local topography and proximity to the Mediterranean and Atlantic Oceans. Gibraltar is a place of Meteorological extremes.
The Gibraltarians are a mixture of many bloods, nationalities and cultures, mainly of Mediterranean origin. The earlier inhabitants were of Genoese, Maltese, Portuguese, Jewish, British and, to a lesser extent, Spanish origin. The official language is English although Spanish is widely spoken.
The Straight of Gibraltar
Gibraltar is believed to be inhabited from the time of the Neanderthal man. But it was in the month of April of 711 AD when Islamic General Tarik-ibn-Ziyad, the Governor of Tangier made a successful landing on the Rock. Gibraltar came to be known as Jebal Tarik (Mountain of Tarik) from which it takes its present name. The Spanish held the peninsula (1309–33) but did not definitively recover it from the Moors until 1462. The English have maintained possession since 1704 despite continual Spanish claims. The change in reigns and claims continued several times among the British, Spanish and French authorities in the following years.
In World War I, Gibraltar served as a naval station. In World War II its fortifications were strengthened, and most of the civilian population was evacuated. After the war Spain renewed claims to Gibraltar, which was by that time a British strategic air and naval base. The residents affirmed their ties with Britain in an UN-supervised referendum of 1967. In 1981 all residents were granted full British citizenship. From 1969 to 1985, Spain closed its border with Gibraltar, but pedestrian traffic was again permitted during the beginning of 1982.
In 1991, Britain removed its military forces from Gibraltar, while retaining it as a dependency. Tensions between Spain and Gibraltar continued through the 1990s. Finally, the Gibraltar government organised a referendum on 7th November, 2002. The voters rejected the concept of shared sovereignty between Spain and UK and opted for British dependency rather.
View of Gibraltar
Without any agriculture or manufacturing industry, Gibraltar relies heavily on trade and service industries. The economy is primarily service-based. It is largely dependent on financial services, Tourism and Port and Port-related activities. But despite the constraints and lashes of war, economy of Gibraltor flourished heavily.
The GDP per capita in 2000/2001 matched the UK average. It enjoys full employment. The total labour force is around 14,000, of which 10,500 work in the private sector. The Government is a major employer too and salaries over 3,000 employees. The Ministry of Defence is also, traditionally, the dominant sector of the economy and makes a fairly significant contribution employing around 1,000 persons.
Gibraltar has developed as an attractive 'offshore' centre too. With the formation of the Financial Service Commission in 1990, financing different resources became easier. It supervises and authorizes Financial nitty-gritty on matters to do with banking, insurance, investment services, investments funds, company management and professional trust ships.
Gibraltar has remained a maritime centre for well over 3,000 years. The Gibraltar Port Authority administers the Port of Gibraltar and has an impressive list of maritime services tailored for a modem shipping industry. Tourism is a budding industry here.
Gibraltar enjoys a more or less complete internal self-governance but remains under British reign in broader sense. Queen Elizabeth II retains the authority to appoint the Governor of Gibraltar. The Governor commands over the defence services and is highest authority in supervising foreign relations, internal security and financial stability. He also chooses the leader of the majority party in the elected House of Assembly as Chief Minister.
The House of Assembly of Gibraltar is unicameral consisting of total 18 seats. Following the legislative elections, 15 members are elected by popular vote, one appointed for the Speaker, and two ex officio members. All the members serve four-year terms.
The Council of Ministers is appointed from among the 15 elected members of the House and together with Chief Minister they take care of the domestic matters.