2 EU Nations Pull Off Land Swap —Peacefully

Belgium, Netherlands solve a 'jurisdictional nightmare'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Nov 29, 2016 7:51 AM CST
2 EU Nations Pull Off Land Swap —Peacefully
Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, left, turns around as the heel of the shoe of Queen Mathilde of Belgium gets stuck in between the cobblestones as she walks with King Philippe toward the National Monument on the start of their three-day visit to the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Monday.   (Peter Dejong)

(Newser) – The Netherlands and Belgium, with their royals in attendance, on Monday signed a deal for a peaceful exchange of land between them for the mere fact it makes sense to do so. While the globe is littered with pieces of territory jealously held or fought over for historical reasons, the two neighboring nations signed away tiny plots of their land to the other because they were too much of a practical and jurisdictional bother, the AP reports. When it comes to size, Belgium is the loser, as it will shed a peninsula, rich with birdlife and flora, jutting into the Meuse River that divides the nations. On the flip side, it will lose a jurisdictional nightmare that developed over time as the river meandered to turn the portion of Belgium's land—about 15 soccer fields' worth—into a plot attached only to the Netherlands. The portion the Netherlands gives up, part of the river's lock system, is far smaller.

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Even though the two are close neighbors with friendly relations, it still took several years to get through legal complications. The Belgian part linked to the Netherlands especially started to pose some problems, as it was rumored to be a haven for drug dealers and sexual escapades. About four years ago, passers-by stumbled onto a headless body—but the Dutch couldn't go there because it was Belgian territory, and Belgian police and judicial authorities found it tough to get there: They're not allowed to cross into the Netherlands without special permission, and the peninsula had no proper landing zone for boats or equipment arriving by water. "We have shown that Belgium and the Netherlands succeed as good neighbors to adapt their borders peacefully," Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders said at the signing ceremony in Amsterdam. (Read more Netherlands stories.)

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