Belgium, Netherlands: Peaceful Border Swap

Belgium, Netherlands: Peaceful Border Swap

Throughout history, borders have caused unfathomable bloodshed, ageless feuds and decades-old legal disputes, which makes plans for a friendly exchange of land between the Netherlands and Belgium all the more remarkable.

The reason for such magnanimity? “Because it makes sense to do so,” says Marcel Neven, the mayor of Vise, Belgium.

While Belgium will be losing a splendid piece of nature that juts into the Meuse River dividing the two nations, it will also unburden itself of a jurisdictional nightmare that developed over time as the river meandered to turn the portion of land belonging to Belgium — about 15 soccer
fields worth — into a peninsula linked only to the Netherlands.

Preparatory work has been done, and the two nations’ parliaments should be able to complete a deal sometime in 2016, Neven said, almost two centuries after the 1843 border posts were set. And all with a smile on everyone’s face, even though Belgium will get only a tiny part around a lock that has been built to promote traffic between the two nations.

Belgian military historian Luc De Vos said that friendship between neighbors makes all the difference. “It is possible between Belgium and the Netherlands because these countries have a lot of ties for centuries and after the Second World War, territory was no longer that important,” De Vos said.