Equality Rights group GGR - Citizenship in Democracy EQUALITY RIGHTS GGR

News and Information from Gibraltar on Equality, Human, Gay and Social Rights

Sunday, January 29, 2006

GGR Chairman tells EU "Gib Government must comply with the law!"

In a statement today, Equality rights group GGR has informed the press that Chairman Felix Alvarez presented a formal complaint concerning the Gibraltar Government to Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini (pictured left with Mr Alvarez).

“Mr Alvarez brought to the Commissioner’s attention the fact that under Council Directive 2000/43/EC of 29 June 2000 and further to Chapter III, Article 13 of same, there is an unequivocal requirement for the designation of a body or bodies for the promotion of equal treatment of all persons without discrimination on the grounds of racial or ethnic origin. Furthermore, Mr Alvarez pointed out to Commissioner Frattini that under Section 54 (1) (a) of Gibraltar’s Equal Opportunities Ordinance 2004, the Government of Gibraltar reflected this need, even though it does so in language which leaves some doubt as to its real intentions as Mr Caruana chose to use statutory language which speaks of the establishment of an equal opportunities commission “if any”. Mr Alvarez therefore brought the matter to the Justice Commissioner by way of officially informing the EU that the Government of Gibraltar has to date neither established the statutory body nor, indeed, made any information either publicly or privately available regarding this matter. Mr Alvarez therefore requested action on the part of the EU to take steps to ensure the Gibraltar Government complies with their legal obligation,“ the statement says.

For his part, Felix Alvarez stated that “Mr Frattini expressed grave concern regarding Government’s non-compliance with this aspect of EU law and confirmed that he would be taking steps to secure the earliest enforcement of this matter.” Mr Alvarez ended by saying that “It is the duty of Government to take the law seriously and not ignore its requirements.”

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Caruana didn't lift a finger - but EU President WILL now review offending Regulation!

Arriving in Gibraltar on Thursday evening following a trip to the European Commission in Brussels and meeting with Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini, Social Affairs Commissioner Vladimir Spidla and MEPs Glyn Ford (Labour), Michael Cashman (Labour), Graham Watson (LibDem) and Neil Parish (Conservative), Equality Rights group GGR Chairman Felix Alvarez commented on the outcome of talks (picture shows Alvarez with Commissioner Spidla (centre) and MEP Graham Watson (right).

"First of all let me say that I am gratified not only by the fact that other affected citizens in Gibraltar have chosen to make their voices heard both locally and in Europe on this matter, but also that British parliamentarians are supporting us too. As a result of discussions I have had with MEPs Cashman, Ford, Watson and Parish there will now be questions tabled at both the EU and British Parliaments regarding this unacceptable EU decision. A letter is also being signed by the same parliamentarians to both Monarch and British Airways asking them to confirm they will offer no less a level of service to disabled people flying from Gibraltar than from any other European airport. And in relation to my meetings with Commissioners Frattini and Spidla, these ranged across a number of issues which I will address in the coming days. However, top of the agenda was my concern regarding the rights of Gibraltar's disabled following the recent Regulation. I made clear my views that the exclusion of the disabled from this measure was something which should not have occurred, constituted an unacceptable politicisation of their rights within the Sovereignty framework and may possibly constitute an illegality under Article 230 of the EC Treaty, and that I would be actively considering the possibility of legal action against the EC. I therefore questioned the legality of this Regulation and I have received a personal assurance from Mr Frattini that he will be reviewing this Regulation with President Barroso with a view to reversing its effect on Gibraltar's disabled. Meanwhile and despite this review, I shall be meeting with concerned Gibraltarians to consider whether further action should be taken. We believe there may be redress available via the frameworks already in place. And if Government felt an ounce of remorse or concern they would put their legal resources at the service of such redress in order to keep the pressure up on the EU. I would be willing to work alongside them in the interests of Gibraltar's disabled," Mr Alvarez stated.

"As Chairman of an NGO, I travelled to Brussels in face of the fact that the Chief Minister has not lifted a single finger to support Gibraltar's disabled. And in that moral failure all Gibraltarians were disabled because what hurts our fellow citizens hurts us all! He could so easily, as a bare minimum, and as I indeed suggested on GBC, have registered a protest with the EU via the UK Government, but evidently opted not to do so. All he did was to issue a press release in which he more or less threw up his hands in the air and said that yes, this was one more of those nasty EU air measures and that Government considered it to be illegal. If this is true and Mr Caruana felt this to be illegal, why did he not start legal action to redress it instead of sitting back and doing nothing? And to say this was just one more such measure is nothing short of an insult: this Regulation has played football with the dignity and feelings of the disabled. This is certainly not "just one more" of those measures. It is very different in character and nature: it is human in its core effect. Mr Caruana is very much mistaken if he believes he can save face in the future by pulling political rabbits out of his Tripartite Talks hat and saying "I told you it would all go away!" This is an issue that will remain scorched in the minds of many Gibraltarians - how a Chief Minister was unwilling to stand up for his own people at a moment where help was really needed, and instead put politics before all! Sadly, it begs the question: how often is this happening and with how many other different citizens and issues? Let us be clear: Felix Alvarez is just an ordinary citizen, noone of particular importance in the overall scheme of things. Yet an unimportant person is capable of getting the European Union to reconsider its position, is capable of meeting the highest level Commissioners and does not need to be a Caruana to do that! Whilst my visit to the European institutions has been the first of a Gibraltarian civil society representative, there is certainly no reason why it should be the last. And I certainly encourage other NGO representatives to look to the EU to ensure that our european rights are safeguarded. That can only happen if we ourselves engage in that process and, in so doing, ensure the EU itself is engaged on our behalf! It is positive politics that we need to take hold of and use to our advantage as Gibraltarians! We must break the distance between Gibraltar and Brussels and turn that to our advantage."

Saturday, January 21, 2006

GGR: "We shouldn't even be having to do this Petition!"

GGR’s Abuse Issues Coordinator, Annette Vallejo, has today announced that the group’s Sex Offenders Petition campaign has once more started to collect signatures of support – “a Petition we shouldn’t even be having to do!”

“In the coming weeks and months we will be visiting all areas of Gibraltar. We shall be starting by going door-to-door in the housing estates and then work our way towards the South District. We currently have approximately 3,500 signatures and although we do not have a specific target figure in mind, we will continue until we are satisfied that all those people who want the opportunity of expressing their discontent with the Government’s total failure to do something about this issue have been able to do so.”

“We agree with the many people who constantly express the view that it is ridiculous that we should even have to go around Gibraltar asking for signatures on a Petition that should never have needed to happen had Government done its job. This kind of Register should have been in place years ago!” Ms Vallejo ended.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Alvarez to meet EU Commissioner next week

Equality Rights group GGR has today revealed that Chairman Felix Alvarez (left) will be flying to Brussels at the end of this week in order to meet with Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini following the recent exclusion of disabled Gibraltarian travellers from Europe-wide measures which make travelling non-discriminatory and more accessible.

“I have been shocked by the political cold-heartedness towards Gibraltarians that this European move has demonstrated,” Alvarez added, “It is for this reason that shrugging shoulders and doing nothing was just not an option and I said so. Now with the help of Graham Watson MEP I shall be meeting with Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini to raise the matter in the clearest of terms. I will be asking some very direct questions regarding this latest move and would trust the Commissioner will be willing to consider the views of Gibraltarian European citizens. As Chairman of an NGO, I will certainly take this as far as I am capable within my means. However, Government, political parties and concerned citizens should work together to bring as much pressure as possible to bear on the European authorities: the disabled cannot be used for a game of political football!”

Monday, January 16, 2006

EU air disability moves against Gib "wholly unacceptable"

Felix Alvarez, Chairman of Equality Rights group GGR, has reacted to news of an EU air measures Regulation to come into law this Summer and which allows that provision for disabled air passengers contained in that law be disregarded as far as Gibraltar is concerned, by saying that “this is wholly unacceptable from all points of view, whether moral, legal or political.”

“As Chairman of a human and equality rights organisation in Gibraltar I am not willing to stand idly by and simply watch this happen. Gibraltarians must demand their rights whether at the level of the EU, Westminster or Convent Place – and that is the whole meaning of democracy! This particular issue affects the welfare and dignity of an important section of Gibraltarian and other travellers, namely the disabled, and it cannot be right for Member States to play politics with issues of this sort. I have gathered together members of my Executive in order to study and decide what sort of action we might be able to take in defence of disabled Gibraltarians’ rights and we will announce this in due course. What cannot be on the cards is for us to simply do nothing about this. Nor, indeed, to remain silent where the Gibraltar Government fails to support and listen to the needs of its own citizens! Our commitment is to progress for Gibraltar wherever it may be and whoever we may need to take on!”