The Netherlands and Belgium redraw their border

The Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bert Koenders, and his Belgian counterpart, Didier Reynders, signed a treaty on Monday, 28 November 2016, adjusting the border slightly between the two countries. Land that used to be in Belgium will now be in the Netherlands and vice versa.

The border has been adjusted to end uncertainty in the area around the River Maas between Eijsden-Margraten (in the Dutch province of Limburg) and Wezet in Belgium. The uncertainty had given rise to law and order enforcement issues.

‘This unique border treaty is an example of our excellent partnership with Belgium,’ Mr Koenders said. “We have shown today that the Netherlands and Belgium succeed as good neighbours and can adjust our borders peacefully.’

Engineering work in the Maas between 1960 and 1980 and a reconfiguration of the river in 1961 led to small islands attaching themselves to the Dutch and Belgian river banks. Presqu’île d’Ilal, an island which prior to the treaty was part of Belgium, is barely accessible to the Belgian police and has become a refuge for criminals in the past year. The border treaty will rectify the current situation.

The treaty was signed during the Belgian state visit to the Netherlands. Cross-border cooperation has been a recurring theme during the visit.

‘The Netherlands and Belgium benefit from working together in many areas,’ explained Mr Koenders. ‘One of them is security. The attacks in Brussels on 22 March cruelly underlined how terrorism can strike in our midst. Only joint action can overcome the threat. I am therefore a firm believer in close cooperation between the Dutch and Belgian intelligence and security services.’

Mr Koenders and Mr Reynders also discussed security cooperation in international organisations such as the UN on Monday. The Netherlands will use its seat in the UN Security Council in 2018 to highlight the importance of counterterrorism, the prevention of violent extremism and the essential role played by women and young people in these efforts. Belgium is a candidate for a seat in the following period, 2019-2020. ‘It would be very nice if Belgium could continue our work,’ said Mr Koenders.

The Netherlands and Belgium are also working closely together with regard to their foreign representations, for example by sharing and posting personnel to each other’s embassies (co-location). The latest co-location project is in Kinshasa. Last week, the Netherlands appointed a deputy ambassador to be based at the Belgian embassy in Yaoundé, Cameroon, where it does not have its own embassy. A Belgian deputy ambassador has been based at the Dutch embassy in Tirana, Albania, since 2011.