There's a Six-Hour Queue at the Border, Unless Spain Win at Footie ; European Times: GIBRALTAR AND CEUTA

Article excerpt

THE PILLARS of Hercules bracket the Straits of Gibraltar, and so do two enclaves, British Gibraltar in Spain, and Spanish Ceuta in Morocco. At Europa Point at the southern tip of the Rock you can stand and look across at Ceuta. But it's look, don't touch - Madrid forbids direct air or sea links with Gibraltar.

It is a 10-minute drive from the southern end of the Rock to the frontier at La Linea, the last functioning land border in united Europe. While Britons coming from Spain are waved through with as little fuss as a Glaswegian disembarking at Euston, the queue to enter Spain from Gibraltar is long. Indeed, Spanish Customs ensure that no matter how many cars are in it, the queue is at least an hour long. It can be up to six hours - especially, locals claim, when Spain's football team is not prospering.

The official Spanish excuse is that Gibraltar is a hive of smugglers and tax-evaders. However, they make little secret of the truth: they think the way to the hearts and minds of Gibraltarians is through a firm grip on their cojones. As anyone but a Spanish foreign ministry mandarin with an axe to grind might suspect, the results are counterproductive.

From La Linea, it is another hour and a half to the port of Malaga for the two-hour hydrofoil trip to Ceuta. Once there, it's another 10-minute taxi ride to the Moroccan border. And there are no queues. Here, at the outer limits of the European Union, where illegal immigrants and hashish flow across the border in large quantities, the traffic both ways runs smoothly.

At the town hall of the autonomous city of Ceuta, I ask an official if there were any problems with Moroccan or Spanish Customs at the border. Not really, it appears. Now and again there are queues, but he shrugs: "It's just the Moroccans being Moroccan, nothing political. …