There could have been a tricky diplomatic incident when it was discovered the other day that the area that Belgium covers had been increased at France’s expense. The 620km border between Belgium and France was ratified by the Treaty of Kortrijk in 1820 and physically marked a year before by stone pillars strategically positioned along the line.
Sadly, over time the stones have been neglected and overgrown with vegetation, but a group of Frenchmen have taken to wandering around their local area in northern France, following the border and checking each stone they encountered against its original location. Imagine their horror when walking in the woods near Bousignies-sur-Roc, they discovered that the marker there had been moved 7.5 feet, reducing France and enlarging Belgium.
One of the group, Jean-Pierre Chopin, alerted the authorities and the local Belgian mayor agreed that the marker wasn’t where it should have been. It appears that a farmer from Erquelinnes had got fed up with the stone getting in the way of the tractor and moved it, giving little thought to the international ramifications of his actions.
In an attempt to resolve the contretemps, the errant farmer has been ordered to put the stone back in its original place or face a criminal charge. If he refuses, there is a possibility that a Franco-Belgian border commission, which has been dormant since 1930, may have to be convened to resolve matters.