Monday 23 March 2009

Gibraltar & Lisbon Treaty

A while back I wrote that the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Gibraltar have not answered my questions about possible approval of the EU Treaty of Lisbon in Gibraltar.

The geographical scope - Article 355(3) and (4) TFEU - includes the Aland Islands and Gibraltar (additionally Declaration 55), but the Wikipedia article on the Lisbon Treaty reports that these territories with self-rule are to decide on the applicability in their territories.

The Wikipedia information is correct as to Aland, but I had failed to find information to confirm or deny that Gibraltar would need to approve the Lisbon Treaty.


Today I received an answer from the Minister of Justice of Gibraltar D A Feetham, saying that Gibraltar is part of the European Union by virtue of UK membership on the basis that the UK is responsible for the external affairs of the territory. Gibraltar is not a Member State and does not ratify treaties.

Once the Lisbon Treaty is ratified by the UK it will then be applicable to Gibraltar.


I am grateful for the response.

A few remarks:

The answer is official, so the editors of the Wikipedia article on the Lisbon Treaty need to take the position into account.

The autonomy of the Aland Islands is roughly comparable, but there the treaty needs to be approved with regard to its territory and the policy areas pertaining to self rule (and my question did not imply formal ratification).

The answer does not contain any legal references, but if someone has more exact information to share, I am grateful.

The concept ‘external affairs’ is given a wide interpretation for direct applicability, given the subject matter of the EU treaties (a number of internal policy areas, some of which probably are included in Gibraltarian self-rule).

The United Kingdom has ratified the Treaty of Lisbon, so its entry into force awaits the final ratifications by the last member states.

The UK FCO has not responded yet.

Ralf Grahn


  1. Hey Ralf,

    I think you're wrong on Aland. You first say that, "The geographical scope - Article 355(3) and (4) TFEU - includes the Aland Islands and Gibraltar", but then you appear to agree with Wikipedia that territories with self-rule decide on the applicability of the treaty in their territories.

    This just isn't the case. When Finland joined the EU there was a procedure whereby the treaties wouldn't apply to Aland unless the Finish government declared otherwise. But this had to be written into the accession treaty. Lisbon contains no such provision and, consequently, the presumption that contracting parties sign treaties for all territory over which they enjoy sovereignty comes into play.


  2. Michael,

    I agree that the situation is potentially messy and that we may enter grey zones both with regard to EU law and domestically.

    Some additions:

    The presumption during the Lisbon Treaty negotiations was to retain the permanent exceptions contained in the Åland protocol. Article 355(4) TFEU and the protocol.

    Finland has ratified the Lisbon Treay ages ago.

    However, when I last wrote a blog post on Åland on 26 September 2009, the Åland Parliament had still not produced even a committee report on if it is going to approve the application of the Lisbon Treaty in its territory.

    If the treaty enters into force without a decision in Åland, which happens quickly after the last ratification, the situation becomes interesting.

    Finland would probably have to notify the EU and start a process to formalise the new situation. Åland would have no relationship.

    Åland might make a decision soon after the entry into force of the Lisbon Treaty, whereby the formal process might be terminated.


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