BRUSSELS (AP) — 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 that it makes sense to do so.
While the globe is littered with pieces of territory that are 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.
On the meandering Meuse river, which divides both nations, Belgium gave up a tiny peninsula linked only to the Netherlands and got in return a nearby piece from its neighbor.
“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.
When it comes to size, Belgium is the loser since it will shed a peninsula jutting into the Meuse river where a rich birdlife and flora developed. On the flip side, it will lose 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 – linked only to the Netherlands.
The portion the Netherlands gives up, part of huge lock system on the river, is far smaller.
And even though the two are close neighbors with friendly relations, it still took several years to get through the legal complications.
The Belgian part linked to the Netherlands especially started to pose some problems, it was rumored to be a haven for drug dealers and sexual escapades. About four years ago, passersby stumbled onto a headless body. The Dutch could not go there because it was Belgian territory, and Belgian police and judicial authorities found it extremely tough to get there.
They are 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.
Round trips over water with the prosecutor, the legal doctor and the judicial lab showed something had better be done.