A potentially huge diplomatic problem has been dodged after a Belgian farmer moved the border with France by accident and enlarged his country by about 1000 square metres.
Thankfully, authorities had a sense of humour about it.
The border between the two countries stretches 620 kilometres and the stone markers that define it have been in place for over two centuries.
One of the large stones, however – put in position in 1819, shortly before the Treaty of Kortrijk was signed – was recently spotted as being placed 2.29 metres away from its original spot.
The farmer – who is from the town of Erquelinnes – is believed to have moved the stone on his land to a more convenient place, unsuspecting of the potential for an international diplomatic incident.
Farmer accidentally shifts Belgium's border with France 😬 https://t.co/6wZqKnP1uI
— BBC News (World) (@BBCWorld) May 4, 2021
The displaced border stretched along his field amounted to an accidental land expansion on his side of around 1000 square metres.
In an interview for CNN David Lavaux, the city’s mayor, said:
“We know exactly where the stone was before, right next to a tree.”
“In 2019, during the 200th anniversary, they were geo-localised very precisely.
“The stones were placed there in 1819 following the defeat of Napoleon, and the year is inscribed on them.”
He went on to add:
“It should be resolved tomorrow, we are about to find the person that moved the stone, so we can avoid any troubles. I still have to verify who the land owner is.”
A farmer accidentally moved a 200-year-old stone marker and extended Belgian’s territory by 7.5 feet. 😬https://t.co/Rdsbw4bSm0
— Complex (@Complex) May 5, 2021
Mr Lavaux also noted that local authorities on both sides of the border wanted to resolve the situation swiftly and even found the whole situation funny.
“We laugh about this more than anything else, it is not very serious,” he said. “We’re going to put back the border where it belongs. Our intention wasn’t to make Belgium bigger and France smaller!”
A farmer in France accidentally moved the country's border with his tractor, making Belgium 7.5 ft bigger.
They could technically face charges for moving a historic marker, but the local Belgian mayor hopes to resolve the issue "amicably," reports @guardian.
📷: David Lavaux pic.twitter.com/H4sw4StcGS
— AJ+ (@ajplus) May 4, 2021
Aurélie Welonek, the mayor of the French town of Bousignies-sur-Roc, which had its territory cut by the farmer, spoke to Internep (a French media outlet) in an interview that also featured Mr Lavaux.
“Our two countries get along well, so there were no great concerns at this point,” she said. “I fully trust my Belgian counterpart who did what was necessary with the farmer. We asked him to move the stone back, and should he not cooperate, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would get involved.”
A Belgian farmer nearly started an incredibly minor international incident after he accidentally moved a border stone marking the separation between his country and France to pass with his tractor.https://t.co/CeDJRjLlX1
— New York Daily News (@NYDailyNews) May 4, 2021
The two towns are situated almost midway on the Franco-Belgian border, with Erquellines being home to nearly 10,000 residents and Bousignies-sur-Roc to around 400.
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