European Commission to send delegation to Gibraltar

Brussels, Aug 19 (EFE).- European Commission President Jose Manuel Durao Barroso and Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy made plans Monday for an EC delegation to visit the Spain-Gibraltar border amid controversy over new controls instituted by Madrid, the commission said.

Barroso and Rajoy "agreed that a Commission fact finding mission should as soon as possible examine in loco the border control/movement of people and goods questions," the EC said in a statement.

The EC president and the Spanish prime minister discussed the Gibraltar situation in a telephone call on Monday.

As he did in a similar conversation last week with British Premier David Cameron, Barroso, according to the EC statement, "expressed his hope that Spain and the UK will address these matters in a way that is in line with their common membership in the EU."

Rajoy invited the EC to send a team to the Spain-Gibraltar border to make the "appropriate verifications with a global focus," a source in the Spanish government said after the prime minister's exchange with Barroso.

Brussels took up the issue amid complaints from members of the European Parliament and EU citizens about hours-long waits to cross the border at Gibraltar since Madrid imposed new checks.

Spain insists the border controls are legal and necessary because neither Britain nor its Gibraltar colony is part of the Schengen Area, which allows passport-free travel across borders, and because London chose to exclude the Rock from the European Customs Union.

The EC has said that while Spain has the right to control its borders, the checks must be proportionate.

Some 6,700 Gibraltarians live and have an address in Spain but do not list it as their tax residence.

Gibraltar, a territory of 5.5 sq. kilometers (2.1 sq. miles) at the entrance to the Mediterranean Sea, has been held by Britain since 1704 and became a British Crown Colony in 1713 under the Treaty of Utrecht.