Our Spanish cousins are at it again. In addition to harrying the UK over Gibraltar, Madrid now has presented a proposal to the United Nations to extend the Spanish continental shelf, at Portugal’s expense, in its aim to secure gas and oil exploration rights.
Spain claims sovereignty over the natural resources in a maritime area of nearly 300 square kilometres west of the Canaries which covers Portugal’s ‘Islas Selvagens.’
Spain is preparing to make 'the greatest expansion of sovereignty since Christopher Columbus', according to an inflammatory comment from Luis Somoza Losada from the Instituto Geológico y Minero de España.
Portugal views the petition as opportunistic but is playing down its importance as behind the scenes negotiations continue.
The Spanish document was sent in on December 17th and its proposal covers a sea area of 296.5 square kilometers located to the west of the Canaries.
According to Spanish daily 'El País', the area for which Spain claims sovereignty over all natural resources includes a vast 10,000 square kilometer area to the southwest of Madeira, which also is claimed by Portugal.
Also according to 'El País', Spain and Portugal should agree to a judgment by the UN as in 2009 Portugal submitted an expansion proposal which includes part of the same area located southwest of Madeira.
The Ilhas Selvagens are a traditional point of conflict between the two countries. The Portuguese territory lies between Portugal’s Madeira and the Canaries which are Spanish. Portugal claimed the then uninhabited islands as her own in 1438 and currently maintains the strategic presence of some nature wardens.
In July, 2013, Spain stated to the UN that it did not accept that the islands are part of the Portuguese exclusive economic zone as the islands were nothing more than rocks.
Portugal says the island are not rocks, they are islands and even sent the President of the Republic Cavaco Silva on a two day visit in July 2013 to play with some sea bird chicks and wander around a bit just to make the point.
Spain does not question that the islands are Portuguese, but does not agree that these should entail an exclusive economic zone. Spain says the islands are Portuguese, but the rights to the sea around the islands should be Spanish.