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The Most Complex Border in Europe (Video)


In Baarle-Hertog, a small town on the border of Belgium and the Netherlands, a unique and perplexing phenomenon can be observed. Crossing a road determines which country you are in and consequently the laws you follow, your seat at the United Nations, and even your potential involvement in wars. This intricate border situation is the most complex in Europe, but how did we arrive at such a peculiar arrangement? To comprehend the origins, we must reflect on the Peace of Westphalia, a significant collection of treaties established after the devastating Thirty Years' War. These agreements introduced the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, granting countries the right to have distinct laws and religions. It was a departure from the idea that local communities should determine their own governance, as opposed to centralized authorities.

Interestingly, the current system of nation-states emerged due to Europe's historical colonization of the world. As European powers expanded their influence, they exported the concept of Westphalian sovereignty, which subsequently shaped borders in other regions, including Africa. Despite Africa's diverse cultures and trading ports, the borders drawn were based on European colonial territories. The intricate border situation in Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau serves as a reminder of the historical contingencies that shaped our present world.

Top image: A border between Belgium and Netherlands in Baarle-Hertog. Public Domain.

By Robbie Mitchell

Robbie Mitchell's picture


I’m a graduate of History and Literature from The University of Manchester in England and a total history geek. Since a young age, I’ve been obsessed with history. The weirder the better. I spend my days working as a freelance... Read More

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