300 Years of the Treaty of Utrecht and the Unsolved Puzzle of the International Law Status of Gibraltar

  • Jiří Malenovský
Keywords: Gibraltar, Spain, United Kingdom, Treaty of Utrecht (Art. X), sovereignty, international borders, United Nations, decolonization, European Union


Due to the different and mutually incompatible interpretations of Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, there is still an ongoing dispute between the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain on the question of the sovereignty of Gibraltar. In the United Kingdom’s view, which is largely shared by legal scholars, Article X of the Treaty of Utrecht grants full and entire sovereignty over Gibraltar to the UK. Meanwhile, the Kingdom of Spain argues that Article X yielded to the crown of Great Britain only the property of Gibraltar’s castle, town and port. Sovereignty over Gibraltar, however, continued to be retained by the Spanish state. In spite of their disagreement, both states started negotiating a form of condominium at the beginning of the 21 st century. In the end, they failed to achieve this goal, which seems to be incompatible with the UN General Assembly resolutions on the decolonization of Gibraltar. The people of Gibraltar, who are the third actor in the Spanish-British dispute, claim their own sovereignty and their right to self-determination. However, according to the UN General Assembly, the decolonization of Gibraltar requires as a precondition that the Kingdom of Spain and the UK solve their dispute on the question of sovereignty. Otherwise the decolonization of Gibraltar cannot occur. Both the United Kingdom and the Kingdom of Spain are European Union members but their inter-state dispute under international law cannot be solved within the EU context. Thus, three hundred years after the signature of the Treaty of Utrecht, the future of Gibraltar remains completely unclear.

Author Biography

Jiří Malenovský



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