Farmer Moves Marker On French-Belgium Border, Causes International Incident
It’s an international incident that is bordering on bizarre: A Belgian farmer inadvertently has increased the size of his country after moving a marker on the country’s border with France about 7.5 feet.
The unidentified farmer only intended to create more room for his tractor, but, as a result, Belgium is now a teensy bit larger than when the original border was set 101 years ago, according to the BBC.
“He made Belgium bigger and France smaller. It’s not a good idea,” David Lavaux, mayor of the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, told the French TV channel TF1. “I was happy, my town was bigger, but the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc [in France] didn’t agree.”
The 390-mile border between France and Belgium was formally established in 1820 under the Treaty of Kortrijk, which was signed after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo in 1815. The stone has the date 1819, which is when the border was first marked out, according to the BBC.
A group of Frenchmen first noticed the border was bungled last month while they were checking the markers against a map of the original locations.
One of the men, Jean-Pierre Chopin, told The New York Times they immediately suspected something was awry when they came upon the misplaced marker.
“All the markers are typically placed in a very precise manner, but this one was raised up on higher ground. It just looked strange,” Chopin said.
A quick check of the map revealed the stone went farther into France than it should be.
“It’s a really isolated spot,” Chopin said. “Almost no one passes by there, so it might never have been discovered to have been moved.”
Lavaux now plans to send a formal letter to the farmer demanding the stone be placed back where it belongs.
If that doesn’t happen, the farmer could face criminal charges, but Lavaux is optimistic diplomacy will prevail.
“If he shows good will, he won’t have a problem, we will settle this issue amicably,” he said, according to the BBC.
If no agreement is reached, Lavaux said, the matter will be turned over to Belgium’s foreign ministry which would set up a commission with France to resolve the dispute, a move the Times said was last required in 1930.
Aurélie Welonek, the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc, is optimistic her country won’t have to take up arms against Belgium.
“We should be able to avoid a new border war,” she told the French newspaper La Voix du Nord.
You can see the basics of the border battle in this French-language video below.
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