Half of a Dutch town is under curfew, half of Belgium is not
by Jérôme – own work, CC BY-SA 3.0

Paradoxical situation in the Dutch town of Baarle-Nassau, where there is a national curfew due to the Covid19 pandemic, while in the Belgian enclaves of Baarle-Hertog no. To cross the border simply cross the road, Dutch citizens can freely go shopping in Belgian shops, carrying a declaration of honor.

The Belgian municipality of Baarle-Hertog, located in Flanders in the province of Antwerp, is actually located in Dutch territory in the province of North Brabant, within the municipality of Baarle-Nassau and constitutes the most complicated case of exclave located in European territory. 22 exclaves in Dutch territory belong to Baarle-Hertog and some of these exclaves contain 7 other Dutch exclaves.

The borders between the two towns, being one inside the other, are very complex and are delimited on the sidewalks and squares by tiles with white crosses and others bearing the letters NL for Holland and B for Belgium, used to mark the passage between the two nations and in the streets, differently, they are delimited with simple lines of gray tiles.

The border is so jagged that in addition to fields, gardens, streets, squares, markets, also warehouses, restaurants and even some houses are divided between two states. And what to do if the door of your house is crossed exactly halfway through the border? The tenant can freely choose where to register, whether in Belgium or in the Netherlands, alternatively it would be possible to find himself with a front door on Belgian territory and another one on Dutch territory and then choose where to take up residence, even if most of the inhabitants own the double passport.

When Dutch law provided for a closing time for bars and restaurants prior to the Belgian one, those located halfway between the two borders solved the problem by moving customers to tables located beyond the Belgian border. Today it would be easy to see a seventeen-year-old Dutchman going to a Belgian pub to have a beer, in fact the minimum age to drink alcoholic beverages in the Netherlands is 18, unlike in Belgium 16.

Even the municipal management of everyday life has become a serious matter: the maintenance of the road surface, the decisions concerning the road system, public sewers and street lighting, who is up to deciding? There are obviously two mayors, but fortunately decisions of this kind are always made using common sense and in harmony with each other.

In 1843 the Treaty of Maastricht established the border between the Netherlands and Belgium, but being in some parts difficult to divide the two states reached an agreement to divide the land in question. In the past, attempts were made to resolve the dispute, but it was so complicated that in 1959 the International Court of Justice attributed the sovereignty of Belgium in the enclaves, generating this curious case unique in the world.