This is a TNB Public Service Announcement. Don’t change your country’s border without the knowledge of the government.
We at TNB were not aware this message needed to be provided. We were wrong. Recent events in France have demonstrated the need for this friendly reminder.
After Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815, negotiations were begun to define France’s borders. One of those was held with the United Kingdom of the Netherlands. Large stones were placed to mark the border between the two nations, and the border was officially erected along the path of those stones in 1820. Ten years later, the Belgian Revolution led to the creation of the new nation of Belgium using, in part, the old border between the UKotN and France.
While the border between Belgium and the Netherlands can be confusing, with land occasionally swapping between countries and the Dutch municipality of Baarle-Nassau having irregularly shaped Belgian enclaves within it – some of which in turn contain smaller Dutch enclaves – the border between Belgium and France has remained fairly constant since its creation.
This was the case until recently, when a history buff, visiting the border markers, noticed that one had been moved about eight feet into France’s territory, slightly expanding the size of Belgium and diminishing France by an equal amount.
The culprit and reason were quickly ascertained: the farmer who owned the land at the border had found the stone got in the way of his tractor when attempting to work the field. The practical solution? Move the stone.
The mayors of the two towns on the border have spoken about the incident, and currently there are no hard feelings. The Belgian mayor of Erquelinnes, David Lavaux, was interviewed about it for French TV channel TF1. “He made Belgium bigger and France smaller, it’s not a good idea… I was happy, my town was bigger. But the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn’t agree.” The French mayor, Aurelie Welonek, echoed those sentiments while adding, “We should be able to avoid a new border war.”
Authorities are seeking the farmer who owns the land and intend to ask him to replace the stone at the correct location. As failure to do so might result in the seating of a new Franco-Belgian Border Commission, refusal by the farmer would be unwise and would likely result in severe consequences. In all likelihood, the stone will simply be moved back, and France will be restored of its few square feet, back to the size and glory it possessed last year.
Question of the night: Which European country would you most like to visit?