The 201 Year Old Belgium/France Border Changed by a Farmer

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The Franco-Belgian border marker that was moved.

Luke Jones, Author

Formally established in 1820 by the Treaty of Kortrijk after Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo just 5 years prior, the border between France and Belgium stayed constant… until Monday the 3rd of May, 2021, about 200 years later. When a local history connoisseur noticed that one of the border marking stones had mysteriously moved 2.29 meters (7.5 feet) into French land, ever so slightly expanding Belgium.

The stone laid in a field owned by a Belgian farmer, who when confronted, said that he had been annoyed that the stone was in his tractor path, moved it, and supposedly hoped no one would notice. But someone did. And here we are now. But thankfully, this little incident did not cause any rising tensions between France and Belgium, and was instead met with the correct reactions to an inconvenience like this: simple understanding and cheerfulness from both sides.

The two groups involved are the Belgian town of Erquelinnes, and the French village of Bousignies-sur-Roc, who share the same border as their parent countries. And while something like this can be annoying for private landowners, that didn’t stop the Erquelinnes mayor, David Lavaux, from finding some humor in the situation, saying: I was happy, my town was bigger, but the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn’t agree.” And French mayor, Aurélie Welonek flatly stating: “We should be able to avoid a new border war.”

The shared border of the two settlements. Exact location of the moved stone unknown.

Now what can be done about this incident? Simply, Belgian officials will ask the farmer to move the stone back to its original spot. But if he refuses, this could end up in the Belgian foreign ministry, which would create a Franco-Belgian border commission, which has been unused since 1930. The farmer would also face criminal charges if he did not comply. “If he shows good will, he won’t have a problem, we will settle this issue amicably,” said David Lavaux as his closing statement.