Alberto Navarro Gonzalez made his remarks prior to a visit to London by Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos. The Spanish representative is due to meet with Geoff Hoon, Secretary of State for Europe, during his visit in a bid to reach a number of agreements relating to El Penon Airport, located within the British overseas territory, as well as concerning the pensions of Spanish citizens living there. Mr Alvarez also said leaders will address issues including the increasingly tense situation in Iran and the Middle East at the General Affairs Council of the European Union, scheduled to be held next Monday (July 17).
At this time he said he would also be in a position to specify the date of the meeting between Mr Moratinos and Mr Hoon.
The Secretary of State was speaking at a conference entitled Europe 20 years after the accession of Spain to the European Community, held at the European Summer School of the University of Malaga (UMA).
The 15-day event has featured speakers in a wide range of disciplines, including legal, economic and financial.
Mr Gonzalez said European citizens are aware that many of their concerns, ranging from employment to health, terrorism, immigration, climate change and Third World poverty, needed European answers, stressing his belief that Spain alone could not cope with these “challenges”.
He added: “In a globalised world, with very rapid changes and with increasing interdependence, it is better to be in Europe, protected by the European umbrella, and that is why many countries such as Turkey, Croatia, Ukraine and others from the Balkans want and continue to ask to join the European Union.”
In a possible reference to Brexit as well as the Catalan independence movement, he also claimed Europe “helps to avoid pro-independence temptations and market ruptures” within member countries.
Mr Gonzalez also underlined his support for the approval of the EU’s Services Directive, due to be finalised soon in the Finnish presidency of the European Parliament, and which he said would liberalise this sector, on which 80 percent of the Spanish economy depends.
The Services Directive would help ensure the rules “are for all”, Mr Gonzalez said.
He also lamented the tendency to decentralise and send powers to the regions as “not good”, suggesting it must be accompanied by a reinforcement of ministries which have the power to respond to the concerns of citizens and reinforces what he referred to as “inter-territorial solidarity”.
Gibraltarians remain committed to the United Kingdom although also voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum.
Chief Minister Fabian Picardo said last year: “The concept of joint sovereignty or any dilution of our sovereignty is a dead duck.”
The Cadiz region is home to large numbers of foreign nationals who claim residency in Gibraltar, meaning they are not subject to taxation in Spain.
Agustin Rosety Fernandez de Castro, a Vox candidate standing in Cadiz in the Spanish general election earlier this year, caused a stir with comments during the campaign, when he said: “The Military Colony of Gibraltar parasitises the region.
“Gibraltarians live in Sotogrande and La Linea de la Concepcion and they do not pay taxes. They even get the VAT refund on their purchases.
“While we recover Gibraltar we will make them pay taxes or go live with the monkeys.”
Gibraltar has been a British overseas territory since 1713.
The battle of Trafalgar, arguably Britain’s greatest ever naval victory, saw Admiral Horatio Nelson defeat a combined force of French and Spanish ships off the Gibraltar coast in 1805.
(Additional reporting by Maria Ortega)