A Belgian farmer, annoyed by a stone blocking the path of his tractor along the edge of his property, moved the marker, and he inadvertently set off an international border dispute in the process.
Actually, it’s more of an international border chuckle, as long as the marker is returned to its original location. The stone he moved represents the border between Belgium and France, and it’s been in place for about 200 years. The farmer’s actions added about 7.5 feet to the Belgian side — for those going by the stone, that is.
“We have no interest in expanding the town, or the country,” David Lavaux, mayor of the Belgian town of Erquelinnes, told French TV channel TF1. “He made Belgium bigger and France smaller. It’s not a good idea. I was happy my town was bigger, but the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn’t agree.”
“We should be able to avoid a new border war,” Aurelie Welonek, the mayor of the neighboring French village, told La Voix du Nord.
The altered border was discovered two weeks ago by an amateur historian taking a walk in the forest. He was able to see the marker in a new position, moved from the location where it had been placed in 1819 following Napoleon’s defeat at Waterloo five years earlier.
Officials plan to contact the farmer and ask him to return the marker to its original position. Failure to do so could force the Belgian government to convene a Franco-Belgian border commission, something that hasn’t happened in 91 years.
The farmer could face criminal charges if the dispute gets heated. But neither French nor Belgian officials see any of that happening.
“If he shows goodwill, he won’t have a problem. We will settle this issue amicably,” Lavaux said.
The border between the countries stretches about 390 miles and was formally established in 1820 under the Treaty of Kortrijk.
Officials know exactly where the marker should be placed. As part of the 200th anniversary of their placing, all of the border markers were precisely geo-localized, Lavaux said.
He has no concerns that the incident will become anything more than an amusing story. “It would be best not to create an international incident,” Lavaux said.
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