Farmer Moves the French Border to Make Room for His Tractor Increasing the Size of Belgium
"Our intention wasn't to make Belgium bigger and France smaller!" Erquelinnes mayor David Lavaux said
Belgium got a little bit bigger recently after the country's border with France was altered by a local farmer who decided to move a centuries-old marker that was in his tractor's way.
Two weeks ago, an amateur historian was walking in the forest near Erquelinnes, a village in Belgium, when he noticed that a stone used to mark the border with neighboring France had been moved by about 7.5 feet, The Guardian reported.
The stone dates back to 1819, having been put in place ahead of the Treaty of Kortrijk that formally established the 390-mile border between the two countries in 1820.
Erquelinnes mayor David Lavaux has joked about the new, slightly-larger size of his town — but ultimately wants the border stone returned.
"We have no interest in expanding the town, or the country. He made Belgium bigger and France smaller. It's not a good idea," he said on a local French TV station, The Guardian reported. "I was happy, my town was bigger. But the mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn't agree."
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Lavaux added that the mishap can be settled "amicably" if the farmer agrees to return the stone to its original spot.
If he "shows goodwill, he won't have a problem, we will settle this issue amicably," Lavaux said.
Bousignies-sur-Roc mayor Aurélie Welonek said in another French news interview that the countries "get along well, so there were no great concerns at this point," CNN reported.
"I fully trust my Belgian counterpart who did what was necessary with the farmer," she said. "We asked him to move the stone back, and should he not cooperate, then the Ministry of Foreign Affairs would get involved."
While authorities do not anticipate a problem returning the stone to its rightful location, the farmer could face criminal charges if he does not comply, The Guardian pointed out.
Lavaux told CNN that officials were verifying the identity of the farmer who moved the stone, and that the issue should be resolved this week.
"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!"