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Gibraltar (jĭbrôlˈtər), British overseas territory (2015 est. pop. 34,000), 2.5 sq mi (6.5 sq km), on a narrow, rocky peninsula extending into the Mediterranean Sea from SW Spain. Most of the peninsula is occupied by the Rock of Gibraltar (Lat. Calpe), one of the Pillars of Hercules, which guards the northeastern end of the Strait of Gibraltar, linking the Mediterranean with the Atlantic. The town of Gibraltar lies at the northwest end of the Rock of Gibraltar. The peninsula is connected with the mainland by a low sandy area of neutral ground. West of the peninsula is the Bay of Gibraltar, an inlet of the strait. There is a safe enclosed harbor of 440 acres (178 hectares). The rock, of Jurassic limestone, contains caves in which valuable archaeological finds have been made. It is honeycombed by defense works and arsenals, which are largely concealed. A tunnel bisects the rock from east to west.
During the many years that Gibraltar was a British fortress, most of the area was taken up by military installations, and the civilian population was kept small. Many of the laborers lived in the Spanish border town of La Línea. The population now consists of people of Spanish, Italian, English, Maltese, Portuguese, German, and North African descent. More than three quarters of the population is Roman Catholic; there are Protestant, Muslim, and Jewish minorities. English is the official language, and Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese are spoken.
The town is a free port, with some transit trade. Financial services, shipping, and duty-free shopping are economically important, and Gibraltar is also an online gambling center. The climate is mild and pleasant, and tourism is also a significant industry. Gibralter must import most of its fuel, manufactured goods, and foodstuffs. About half the territory's workforce live in Spain.
Gibraltar is governed under the constitution of 1969. The monarch of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, represented by a governor, is the head of state. The chief minister, who is the head of government, is appointed by the governor with the approval of the House of Assembly. Of the 18 members of the unicameral House of Assembly, 15 are elected by popular vote and three are appointed; all serve four-year terms. Gibraltar is largely self-governing.
The name Gibraltar derives from the Arabic Jabal-al-Tarik [mount of Tarik], dating from the capture (711) of the peninsula by the Moorish leader Tarik. 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 British post was besieged unsuccessfully by the Spanish and French (1704), by the Spanish (1726), and again by the Spanish and French (1779–83).
In World War I, Gibraltar served as a naval station. Many refugees fled there in the Spanish civil war (1936–39). In World War II its fortifications were strengthened, and most of the civilian population was evacuated. It was frequently bombed in 1940–41, but not seriously damaged.
After the war Spain renewed claims to Gibraltar, which, as a British strategic air and naval base, continued to be a major source of friction between Britain and Spain. The residents affirmed (1967) their ties with Britain in a UN-supervised referendum, and in 1981 all residents were granted full British citizenship. From 1969 to 1985, Spain closed its border with Gibraltar, although pedestrian traffic was again permitted across beginning in 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, however, as Spain accused Gibraltar of being a hotbed of drug trafficking, tobacco smuggling, money laundering, and tax evasion. A 1997 Spanish proposal for joint British-Spanish sovereignty was rejected by the Gibraltarian government, and a referendum in 2002 on shared British-Spanish sovereignty almost unanimously approved of that rejection.
In 2006 Gibraltar, Spain, and Britain signed an agreement intended to ease crossing the Spanish border and traveling by air to Gibraltar and to improve telephone service in Gibraltar. The same year a new constitution for the colony was approved that increased its government's autonomy. A dispute over fishing grounds led to new tensions with Spain in 2013. Following the 2016 British vote against remaining in the European Union (Gibraltan voters overwhelmingly approved remaining), Spain again called for joint British-Spanish sovereignty over Gibraltar. An agreement reached in Dec., 2020, called for Gibraltar to be integrated by treaty into the EU's Schengen area (see Schengen Agreement) after Britain fully quit the EU at the end of 2020.
See studies by H. S. Levie (1983) and G. J. Shields (1987).
a territory in the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula, at the Strait of Gibraltar. It includes a rocky peninsula that rises to a height of 425 m and a sandy isthmus that links the rock to the Iberian Peninsula. Gibraltar is a British crown colony and serves as a British naval and air base. Gibraltar is separated from the Spanish city of La Linea by a neutral zone. It has an area of 6.5 sq km and a population of 27,000 (1969), excluding those who travel to work from Spain each day (about 6,000 persons).
There is an artificial harbor for the mooring and coaling of transit ships, as well as docks, warehouses, and petroleum storage facilities. Among the enterprises serving the public and the garrison are coffee-processing and tobacco concerns, fish canneries, creameries, and garment factories. About one-half of the imports are petroleum products; there is a tourist trade.
According to the Constitution of 1969, executive authority in Gibraltar is exercised by the governor, who is appointed by the British monarch (the governor is also the commander in chief of the armed forces). Assisting the governor is an advisory body—the Gibraltar Council. The legislative body —the Gibraltar House of Assembly—consists of a speaker appointed by the governor and 15 elected members. The attorney general and the financial and development secretary are ex-officio members of the House of Assembly. There is also a Council of Ministers.
History. Gibraltar was known to the ancient Greeks and Romans by the name Mons Calpe. In the eighth century it was converted by the Arabs into a fortress called Jabal al-Tarik (Mt. Tarik) after the Arab conqueror Tarik ibn Zaid. The name Gibraltar is a corruption of the Arab name for the fortress. In the period 1309-33 and from 1462 to the early 18th century the Spanish controlled the fortress. In 1704, during the War of the Spanish Succession, Gibraltar was captured by the English. Under the Treaty of Utrecht of 1713, Gibraltar became a possession of Great Britain, which used it as a strong point for colonial expansion in India, Africa, and the Middle East.
In the 18th century the Spanish government repeatedly attempted to regain Gibraltar either through agreement with Great Britain or by forcible seizure. The most persistent siege of Gibraltar, which lasted four years (from June 21, 1779 to Feb. 6, 1783), ended in total failure. The importance of Gibraltar increased with the construction of the Suez Canal (1869). On May 16, 1907, Great Britain, France, and Spain concluded an agreement to maintain the status quo in the Strait of Gibraltar. During World Wars I and II, Gibraltar was a major British military base.
After World War II the question of Gibraltar became a source of sharp dispute between Great Britain and Spain, which lay claim to Gibraltar. Negotiations between the two countries were not successful. Attempting to confirm its rights to this territory, the British government held a referendum on the future of Gibraltar on Sept. 10, 1967. A majority of the voters in the referendum, which was held under conditions of British colonial rule, voted to maintain the existing status. However, on Dec. 19, 1967, the UN General Assembly declared that the referendum ran counter to UN resolutions and recommended that Great Britain and Spain continue negotiations on the decolonialization of Gibraltar.
In May 1969 a new constitution was adopted that strengthened Great Britain’s control over Gibraltar. As a result ofelections held on July 30, 1969, a coalition government wasformed, headed by Chief Minister R. Peliza and consistingof the Unity Party, which advocates Gibraltar’s inclusion inthe British Commonwealth, and independents. Attemptingto exert pressure on Great Britain, the Spanish governmentclosed the land border with Gibraltar, thereby denying accessto Spanish workers; the frontier between Spain and Gibraltarwas completely closed. These restrictions, however, weresomewhat reduced in 1970.