Local Heart, Global Soul

November 27, 2017

Let’s Change, Let’s Not, Let’s Change, Let’s Not…

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Baarle-Nassau / Baarle-Hertog enclave and counter enclave situation has been around since 1190. The next logical question would be: “Why not have both countries resolve this odd territorial entity some time in the next eight hundred years? I found some text the answered this question:

“What is remarkable is that the partition of the territory did not change across all succeeding historical events. Many opportunities presented themselves to eliminate the Baarle enclaves over the course of the last 800 years, but none succeeded.

* 1327 – 1339 – There was no Lord of Breda. The Land of Breda belonged directly to the ducal domains. The fiefs held from the Lord of Breda were now held from the Duke in Brussels. We can still see the mix up with “real” ducal fiefs like those of Baarle-Hertog in the registers in Brussels.

In 1334 a number of villages, including Baarle-Breda, were pawned to Van Liedekerke. During the short period 1327 – 1334 it would have been easy to erase the enclaves in all those villages, but it did not happen.

* 1388 – The Duchess of Brabant was in need of money to wage war. To raise these funds she sold or pawned a number of ducal domains. In 1388 her jurisdiction over the enclaves in the Land of Breda was pawned to the Lord of Breda. The pawn was never redeemed.

However, the jurisdiction over Baarle belonged since 1356 to her sister Maria of Brabant (Land of Turnhout) and was therefore not a part of this transaction. Thus while most enclaves disappeared already in 1388, those in Baarle escaped.

* From around 1500 the Kings of Spain were Lord over the 17 Provinces in the Low Countries previously ruled by Burgundy. The 80 Years War split these 17 Provinces into the Republic of the 7 United Provinces and the rest, known as the “Southern Netherlands”. The northern part of the old Duchy of Brabant was annexed by the Republic which acquired the status of occupied territories under the name “Staats Brabant”. In 1648 Spain and other countries officially recognized the Republic.

As far as Baarle is concerned, Henry III was followed as Count of Nassau and Lord of Breda by René of Chalons, Prince of Orange (in France) and then by William of Orange, the central figure in the Dutch revolt against Spain. From there the line runs down to Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands in our own day.

* In the North the Republic of the 7 United Provinces survived up to 1795. Then from 1795 to 1806 these provinces form the so-called “Batavian Republic” with “Bataafs Brabant” (the former “Staats-Brabant”) as a normal province. From 1806 to 1810 they form the Kingdom of Holland; from 1810 they are part of the French Empire until they are liberated at the end of 1813 with William of Orange as sovereign.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

* In the South the rule of the Spanish King gives way to that of the Austrian emperor. Then in 1793 comes annexation by France, first as part of the Republic and then of the Empire, with liberation at the end of 1813, when the Congress of Vienna decides that the North and South shall be united under King William of Orange I as the United Kingdom of the Netherlands.

* 1830 – The two are split again: in the South we have the Kingdom of Belgium; in the North the Kingdom of the Netherlands. One half-province (the eastern part of greater Luxemburg) becomes a separate Grand Duchy initially under William I but from 1890 under its own Grand Dukes.

* 1648 – With the Peace of Munster of 1648, one of the treaties of Westphalia putting an end to the 30 Years War and also to the 80-Year-War of the Netherlands against Spain, it was decided that the portion of Baarle under the Count of Nassau should be added to the “Generaliteitslanden” (The United Provinces), because this part belonged to the Baronie de Breda; and that the portion of Baarle belonging to the Land of Turnhout should be added to the Spanish Southern Netherlands (the present Belgium).

In this way the enclaves survived the Peace of Munster.

* 1789 – In the Treaty of Fontainebleau of 1785, between the Dutch Republic and Emperor Joseph II, a committee was ordered to make proposals for the exchange of territories so that the enclaves would disappear. Protests from Baarle-Hertog delayed the work of the committee so much that nothing happened before the annexation of the Southern Netherlands by France.

* 1830 – Between 1810 – 1832 the whole of the Netherlands (North and South) was measured and mapped for the land taxes imposed by the French Empire and later the Kingdom of the United Netherlands. Each “village” became a cadastral municipality.

It was then thought wise to make one cadastral municipality “Baarle” and the maps and registers were made on that basis.

But Baarle-Hertog was part of the province of Antwerp and Baarle-Nassau was part of Noord-Brabant. So a formal provincial border correction was needed.

Everything was prepared and agreed upon informally. The provincial government of Noord-Brabant agreed to the proposals on July 5th and the Antwerp provincial government planned to do so in September 1830. In the summer of 1830, however, there occurred the Belgian Revolution. So the unified cadastral municipality had to be split up once again. This was done by colouring the Belgian parcels on the cadastral maps.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

But some parcels were forgotten in this process, and some could not be dealt with so easily since they were partly Belgian and partly Dutch: these had been thrown together into single parcels because the mapmakers had assumed that the partition of the village would shortly disappear.

* 1843 – The Treaty of Maastricht of 1843 delimited the boundary between the Netherlands and Belgium, but even then it was found impossible to compromise on the territory of Baarle. It was instead decided to leave things as they stood, for it was impossible to define the boundary between boundary poles 214 and 215 (about 50 km).

Instead of defining a boundary, it was accepted that the nationality of 5732 parcels be established one by one (the colouring on the cadastral maps). A part of these parcels constitute the (at least) twenty Belgian enclaves, presently Baarle Hertog, which are situated either within the territory of the Dutch municipality of Baarle-Nassau or, in the case of the agrarian region of Zondereigen, in the surrounding land.

Most of them lie about five km beyond the Belgian border, but there is also a small enclave of Baarle-Nassau inside Belgium and even a Belgian parcel within a Dutch parcel within a Belgian enclave surrounded by Dutch territory. This bizarre situation has obviously led to a number of difficulties – hence the repeated attempts at normalization.

* 1875 – A new committee, set up by Belgium, began its exploration of the possibilities for an exchange of territories in 1875. Only in 1892 was a draft agreement between the both countries ready, but it was not accepted by both parliaments.

* 1996 – In 1996 plans were made to form bigger municipalities in the Netherlands and in Belgium. So Baarle-Hertog would become a part of Turnhout and Baarle-Nassau would form together with Alphen and Chaam a new entity (the “ABC-municipality”).
This implied that the distance between the two centers of municipal government, now about 200 meters, would increase to 15 kilometers. This would make the long-existing strong contacts between both municipalities rather impossible. Both the Dutch and the Belgian parliaments voted against the disappearance of the municipalities of Baarle-Nassau and Baarle-Hertog. So they still exist although they are in population terms among the smallest municipalities of both countries.

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

(photograph © Kiwidutch)

The Story of Baarle


  1. This is a clear explanation to my posed question on the previous post! Rather amazing actually, I shouldn’t have thought it would be so difficult to sort out. It is a very interesting piece of history. Thank-you!!

    Comment by Ellen — November 28, 2017 @ 12:04 am | Reply

    • Ellen,
      They have clearly tried over the centuries but it’s so complicated that it never happened. That said the man in the Tourist Information office said that now this anomaly generates tourism so no-one wants to change anything! They love it just the way it is.

      Comment by kiwidutch — November 29, 2017 @ 7:12 pm | Reply

  2. Some of those pavement markers have me wondering – how would things like property taxes work when part of your building is in one country and another part is in another country?!

    Comment by Carrie — November 28, 2017 @ 10:12 pm | Reply

    • Carrie,
      Tomorrows post explains exactly how this works… it’s where your front door is located (and that shifts as the tax rates do!)

      Comment by kiwidutch — November 29, 2017 @ 7:14 pm | Reply

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