Farmer triggers 'border war'

Farmer triggers 'border war'

In a week that has seen two Royal Navy gunboats deployed to Jersey to repel an angry flotilla of 60 French fishing boats, news reaches these shores of another dispute between our nearest continental neighbours and Belgium.

For it would seem a Belgian farmer has unintentionally caused a stir after redrawing his country's border with its French cousins – when a stone, marking the boundary between the two countries, got in the way of his tractor. So the quick-thinking landowner moved it out of the way (as we all would do) – moving it inside French territory and thereby triggering an international ‘incident’.

According to Sudinfo, the Belgian news website, a local history enthusiast was walking in the forest when he noticed the stone marking the boundary between the two countries had moved 2.29 metres inside French territory. In imperial measurements this is about seven and a half feet.

Moves underway

Thankfully, instead of causing an international uproar, like the row between Britain and France over fishing rights, the incident has been greeted with smiles on both sides of the border.

‘He made Belgium bigger and France smaller,’ David Lavaux, mayor of the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, told reporters.

The border between France and what is now Belgium stretches 620km (390 miles). It was formally established under the Treaty of Kortrijk, signed in 1820 after Napoleon's defeat at Waterloo five years earlier. The stone dates back to 1819, when the border was first marked out.

‘I was happy, my town was bigger,’ the Belgian mayor added with a chuckle.

Moves are now underway to get the farmer to return the stone to its original location. If he refuses, he could face criminal charges.

Tony Yorke is Deputy Editor of Sorted magazine.