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Belgium and the Netherlands swap land on 1 January

Intergovernmental agreement between Belgium and the Netherlands about the change of the state border entered into force on 1 January 2018.

The Dutch-Belgian border has been slightly redrawn on the Meuse river near Maastricht. A three-hectare peninsula switches from Dutch to Belgian ownership, while Belgium hands over 16 hectares of land to the Netherlands. The affected areas have no inhabitants or properties.

The uninhabited peninsulas garnered a dark reputation over time. Residents complained that the small areas were used for illegal parties, drug deals, and prostitution.

Around four years ago, things came to a head after a couple walking on one of the peninsulas stumbled across a headless body.

They informed the Dutch authorities, but police in the Netherlands were unable to investigate as the body was found on Belgian territory.

On the other side, Belgian authorities had a difficult time getting to the crime scene. Belgian police are not allowed to cross into the Netherlands without receiving special permission, so they had to travel by boat.

Belgian and Dutch royals signed off on the deal last November, over 170 years after the countries’ borders were originally agreed in 1843.

In 2016, Belgium’s Foreign Minister Didier Reynders hailed the deal, saying it was a sign of good relations between the two countries.

“The agreement shows that borders can also be exchanged peacefully,” he said.

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