Belgian farmer accidentally moves border with France

The stone was installed in 1819.
The stone was installed in 1819. Photo credit: David Lavaux/Getty

For the first time since the aftermath of World War II, France has lost some of its territory. But this time, no blood was spilled.

A Belgian farmer inadvertently redrew the map when he moved a border stone dating back to the time of Napoleon, BBC News reports. It was on his farm, which straddles the border of the two central European countries, and in the way of his tractor.

"I was happy, my town was bigger," David Lavaux, Mayor of the Belgian village of Erquelinnes, told a French TV station. "But the Mayor of Bousignies-sur-Roc didn't agree."

Bousignies-sur-Roc is a commune on the French side of the border, which was established in 1820 after the Battle of Waterloo, which was fought in Belgium. 

The stone was reportedly installed in 1819. Its new location - 229cm into French territory - was discovered by a local amateur historian, the Guardian reported

The stone hasn't been put back, BBC News reported. Belgian officials say if it isn't, the farmer could face criminal charges.

"He made Belgium bigger and France smaller, it's not a good idea," said Lavaux, urging the farmer to move the stone back - else the Franco-Belgian border commission, which last sat in 1930, might have to be resurrected. 

"We should be able to avoid a new border war," Bousignies-sur-Roc Mayor Aurélie Welonek told French media. "Our two countries get along well, so there were no great concerns at this point."

France's border has been static in recent times, after years of upheaval thanks to its key location in war-ravaged Europe. The last changes were made in 1947, after France and its defeated World War II enemy Italy signed a peace treaty.