Last November Britain and Spain reached a breakthrough agreement concerning the future of Gibraltar. In the short run, both sides benefit. But the agreement creates ominous potentials for the future of this region. Spain agreed to lift the blockade on Gibraltar that the late General Francisco Franco imposed 15 years ago. Since February 15, there has been free movement of people and traffic across the narrow strip of flatland that connects Gibraltar to the Spanish mainland. To a great degree, Spain, a fledgling democracy, had no choice but to lift the blockade. Madrid hopes to enter the European Community January 1, 1986. Gibraltar is British territory, and EC law requires that all member countries have open borders with one another. In return, the British negotiators, for the first time, agreed that the tricky question of sovereignty will be open for discussion in future negotiations. At the same time, the British stressed that " the wishes of the people of Gibraltar" will be respected. About 30,000 British subjects live on Gibraltar. They are overwhelmingly against becoming Spanish citizens. "For us, this really opens a process of decolonizing the Rock," a Spanish Foreign Ministry spokesman said. Spain's state radio and television added it was "the first time since 1713, the end of the War of the Spanish Succession, when Spain lost the Rock, that the British government had ever agreed to tackle sovereignty. Some of the Spanish outspokenness was dismissed as being merely for home consumption. Spanish officials privately admit they do not expect a rapid return of the colony. Admitted one: "We know we are not going to get Gibraltar back tomorrow. It is much rather a case of a generation." Nevertheless, Spanish officials are concerned whether a slow reversion process will really work. They may not be able to control public pressure demanding quicker results. British and other NATO military officials are also queasy. Gibraltar is an important strategic base. Spain is a member of NATO, but a reluctant one. A majority of Spaniards want Spain to pull out. What if Spain leaves NATO and politically turns further left? The Soviets, even now frequent visitors to the Rock, would love to see a Spain in sympathy with them, and in possession of such a potential choke point to the entire Mediterranean.
Where U.S., Soviets Work Together
There is a spot on earth where the Soviets and the United States cooperate in a political-social venture: Ethiopia. Ethiopia, a staunch Moscow ally, is suffering from a massive, 10-year drought. Millions of its people are victims not only of drought, but of internal political upheavals that have brought on poverty, starvation and now death. In the drive to rescue some of these Ethiopians, the United States and the Soviets — and many other nations, too — are working together to carry food and other relief supplies to the starving. Soviet aircraft transport supplies with fuel paid for by the United States. Reporters have seen 100-pound sacks of wheat being loaded onto Soviet MI-8 helicopters at Kembolcha, Ethiopia. The sacks were stamped "Furnished by the People of the United States of America." This microcosm of cooperation demonstrates what is possible when nations put aside, even partially, mutual distrust and their basic antagonisms in order to solve human problems.
Dilemma Over Nuclear Wastes
By the year 2000 France will be obliged to find graveyards for more than 2.8 million cubic feet of radioactive waste. According to the Atomic Industrial Forum, France generates a higher percentage of its electricity by nuclear power than any other country. In 1983 the figure was 37 percent. Some say it may rise as high as 70 percent by 1990. Since France's only nuclear waste dump, at La Hague in Normandy, will reach its maximum capacity by the end of this decade, additional nuclear waste storage sites must be selected immediately. One potential disposal site is the area of Le Plan de Lom, near the village of Saint-Jean-de-Ia-Blaquiere in southern France. But Mayor Jean Brusque is not happy at the prospect of having his fine wine-producing area declared a nuclear dump. Said the mayor: "I'm not a geologist, but I read that water is the No. 1 enemy of nuclear wastes. It is capable of contaminating everything in the case of a leak... now what do you find on Le Plan de Lom? The wells of Rabieux, which provide drinking water for the region. We are perhaps peasants, "said Mayor Brusque, "but don't take us for suckers." The disposal site proposed for Le Plan de Lom would be for moderately radioactive by-products of nuclear processing. These by-products-used filters, resins and contaminated clothing — have a radioactive life of less than 30 years Still remaining is the far more complicated problem of storing nuclear wastes of high radioactivity lasting millions of years.
Allergic to the 20th Century?
A new disease has emerged in North America. Doctors call it "environmental illness" or "20th-century disease." The condition produces violent reactions to synthetic materials, common chemicals, car exhaust and other by-products of 20th-century technology. Essentially, the disease is a malfunction in the immune system. Dr. Irvine Korman, a specialist in environmental medicine, describes the illness as "the flip side of AIDS... these people's immune systems hyperact, whereas AIDS patients' underreact. Victims become highly sensitive to chlorinated tap water, food additives, detergents, hair spray, toothpaste and other man-made products. Symptoms include headaches, fatigue, muscle pains, depression and fainting. The victim's body is unable to cleanse itself of the chemical buildup. Authorities attribute these environmental allergies to the rising amount of toxins in air, water and food. Although the human body normally adapts to a moderate level of contaminants, illness results if individual tolerance levels are exceeded.