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IBRU: Centre for Borders Research

Boundary news

Boundary news Headlines

Belgium and The Netherlands show that borders can be peacefully exchanged

(5 December 2016)

In an unusually straightforward and peaceful boundary resolution, Belgium and The Netherlands have agreed to settle an ongoing territorial problem and re-negotiate the boundary between their two countries.

Both countries have agreed to cede small, uninhabited parcels of land to reflect a change in course of the River Meuse.

In a signing ceremony at the Royal Palace in Amsterdam, Belgium agreed to give two parcels of land of around 40 acres to The Netherlands and it will receive around 7 acres in return.

After Belgium gained independence from The Netherlands in 1830, the two countries settled on the River Meuse as their border, which was formalised in the Treaty of Maastricht in 1843. In 1961, however, the river was straightened to make navigation easier, placing parts of each country’s territory on the other side of the river. This has meant that the only way to reach land without crossing into another country has been by boat which has proved very impractical.

After many years of jurisdictional problems, enhanced by the discovery of a headless corpse on a strip of Belgian land that Belgian police had to access by boat so as to avoid travelling through The Netherlands, it was decided to prevent future problems by negotiating a peaceful exchange of the land on either side of the river.

Belgium’s foreign minister, Didier Reynders, said that the agreement reflected excellent Belgian-Dutch relations and was proof that “borders can be peacefully changed.”

The redrawn border is likely to be formalised in 2018 after both countries have ratified a treaty signed by the Dutch and Belgian foreign ministers.