Brussels, 15 November 2013
Commission reports on the border situation in La Línea (Spain) and Gibraltar (UK)
Today the European Commission sent letters to the authorities of Spain and the United Kingdom addressing the issues raised by the border and customs controls between Spain and Gibraltar.
During the past years, the Commission has received a series of complaints about the checks made by the Spanish authorities at the border with Gibraltar. To better understand the specificities of the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción, the Commission organised a technical visit on 25 September 2013.
On the basis of its observations during this technical visit and of the information provided by both authorities, the Commission has not found evidence to conclude that the checks on persons and goods as operated by the Spanish authorities at the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción have infringed the relevant provisions of Union law.
The management of this crossing point is nevertheless challenging, in view of the heavy traffic volumes in a relatively confined space and the increase in tobacco smuggling into Spain. The Commission believes that the authorities on both sides could take further measures to better address these challenges, and is addressing three recommendations to both Member States.
In its letter to Spain, the Commission recommends: 1) to optimise the physical space available on the Spanish side of the crossing point in view of ensuring a greater fluidity of traffic (and in particular to review the traffic organisation on entry into Spain and on exit from Spain in order to increase the number of vehicular lanes for travellers or to make better use of the existing lines); 2) to optimise risk-based profiling: carrying out more targeted checks, based on a refined risk analysis, in order to reduce the large amount of random border controls and 3) to develop the exchange of information with the United Kingdom on tobacco smuggling.
In its letter to the United Kingdom, the Commission recommends: 1) to develop risk-based profiling (in particular Gibraltar should ensure non-systematic and risk analysis-based checks on travellers and their belongings upon exit from Gibraltar at the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción); 2) optimising legislation and safeguards in view of contributing to an efficient fight against tobacco smuggling and 3) develop the exchange of intelligence on tobacco smuggling with Spain.
Lastly, as for any border crossing point, the Commission is of the opinion that the results in fighting smuggling and cross-border crime as well as maintaining a smooth flow of traffic can best be achieved through daily cooperation between the authorities working on each side of the border. The Commission thus encourages all relevant authorities to strengthen their constructive dialogue with their counterparts for this purpose.
The Commission will continue to monitor the situation at the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción and has asked to receive information from both authorities within six months on how the recommendations have been taken into consideration.
The Commission reserves the right to reconsider its position should the situation change or evolve and also to pay another visit to the crossing point of La Línea de la Concepción if appropriate in the future.
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