The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations?

The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations?

I am in Baarle-Hertog, which is in a bit of
Belgium, inside the Netherlands. And if I cross this road, without being run over, I
am now in Baarle-Nassau, which is in a bit of the Netherlands, inside a bit of Belgium,
inside the Netherlands. This is the most complicated border in Europe. So: how did we get here? I don’t mean, how did we get to this border,
that’s a series of land swaps and treaties over a few centuries. But how did we get to
the fact where a row of studs in the ground — elsewhere it’s marked for tourists but
here, just a series of studs going down the centre of this road can determine the country
you’re in, the laws you follow, you r seat on the United Nations, whether you go to war.
How did we get to that?? Well, I’m about to gloss through several centuries
of history in a few minutes, so apologies if I smudge some of the details, but most
historians would say it goes back to the Peace of Westphalia, a series of treaties that were
drawn up at the end of the Thirty Years’ War, a devastating conflict. Soldiers and mercenaries
were paid by looting the towns they went through. But what came out of it, at the end, among
the many peace treaties, was the idea that your country can have one set of laws and
one religion, and our country can have another set of laws and another religion, and that’s
OK. We’re going to respect what is called your sovereignty, Westphalian sovereignty,
the idea of nations came out of that. But it could have been different. I mean,
surely it’s just as sensible to say that the locals should say what laws they follow, not
national governments. That if the state of New York suddenly wanted to become part of
Canada instead of the United States, if they voted, if they had a referendum, if it was
democratically decided, then they should be able to just go and become part of Canada.
Why not? That towns like this should be able to say
– I mean, they wouldn’t they’ve got a good tourist attraction thing going on,
but – they should be able to say, actually, we’re just going to be part of Belgium now.
It’s going to make it easier. Why don’t we have that instead of it being
drawn up by bureaucrats somewhere in central government? Well, we settled on the European system around
the world because, well, Europe colonised the world. And along with railroads and colonial
atrocities, we exported the idea of Westphalian sovereignty. Even now, the borders in Africa
are drawn up based on European old colonies, not the innumerable different cultures and
million-strong trading ports that came beforehand. We have this system because of a fluke of
history. It could very easily have been something else, but as a result: we have this. We have
a road where one side is in Belgium, in the Netherlands, and the other side is in the
Netherlands, in Belgium, in the Netherlands. Netherlands. Belgium. Netherlands. Belgium. Netherlands. Belgium. Netherlands. Belgium. [Translating these subtitles? Add your name here!]

100 comments on “The Most Complex Borders in Europe: Why Do We Have Nations?

  1. "I'm sorry sir, I'm gonna need to see your passport if you are going to move that doughnut in your hand to your mouth."


  3. If you throw something over one of those small sections, you can say you threw something over an entire country.

  4. That's twice this evening my mind has been blown with fresh information on a concept that I never even thought to question the everyday reality of until now. And both have been delivered through this channel. What are you doing to us?

    Also, any idea how or where we can get hold of a copy of that Cedid Atlas? One of the things about living in Europe, or especially the UK, after all, is that we only get taught history from the colonists' perspective with only a very few odd exceptions. Even where the places we went and invaded had their own civilisations that had been happily ticking along for thousands of years… nope, untamed wildlands until we went and civilised them. I've seen some sparing information on wikipedia about the history of Africa and Asia from their own perspectives before (and some South America, though that's a bit patchy as they didn't write much down in a way we can yet understand, and a lot of it was destroyed by the conquistadores… and North America's history is an almost completely oral rather than written one), but nothing I'd call a comprehensive setting-to-rights that can be read alongside that of Europe so you can run along a timeline and go "oh, huh, so whilst X was happening close to home, Y and Z were happening elsewhere in complete isolation".. Having something like that old atlas (which puts typical European explorer efforts to shame) would be a good start.

  5. Your keep passing between NL and BG reminded me a scene from "Propaganda (1999)" the movie that based on a true story; I suggest people to watch that. It's the story about setting up the border between Turkey and Syria, dividing customs officer Mehti's hometown. He is unaware of the pain that will eminently unfold, as families, languages, cultures and lovers are both ripped apart and clash head on in a village once united.

  6. I would say that the most confusing water would be Australia's, because how on earth are you ment to tell where it starts and where it ends

  7. I live close to the point where Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany meet each othet. You can touch all three at the same time 😀

  8. Haha in the netherlands they call belgium pop fireworks bombs
    a lot of Dutch people come to buy fireworks there
    there are 5 fireworks stores in baarle-nassau

  9. Enclaves with India and Bangladesh is a bigger problems with borders and currency differences.

    For Belgium and the Netherlands your front door determines your country. I wonder if the local school takes children from the other country.

  10. The peace of Westphalia doesn't quite explain nations though. State sovereignty yes, but the nation as a concept, ie statehood tied to the identity of the populace, happened over the next century or so, beginning with the writings of Herder and Fichter in the states that would become Germany. It's worth having precision on this, nation and state have only been synonymous for the last 160 years or so. Probably nobody will see this comment on a video from 4 years ago, but still…

  11. Actually belgium and the netherlands are both members of nato so they would both be at war at the same time

  12. Just imagine Belgium and the Netherlands going to war, and you walk outside and calmly have to tell your neighbor how much they suck now.

  13. What if a criminal run into Belgium from the Netherlands ( or vice versa) do the police chasing them have to call in police from the other country? What if they can’t find the criminal in either country? Which country will search for them? 😀

  14. This concept. the concept of nations. Of states. That sovereignty can be decided not by self but by someone else…

    Saying it was a mistake is an understatement.

  15. So if you´re living there in belgium and want to smoke a joint (legally), just cross the border and smoke one, then take a few steps back to belgium when you´re done

  16. The worst thing to come out of the invention of nations is nationalism.
    Nationalism effectively turns people into stupid arses.

  17. Hi, I am Shyam Milestone from India. I am going to Belgium and Netherland for as a tourist, so, I want to see this Border Location. Can you tell me, where is this exact location please

  18. We would happily give Canada New York, as well as Northern Illinois, Washington, Oregon, and California on the condition that they keep them forever.

  19. Aren't you supposed to be put in jail when you cross a border like that? Or is it only the Americans and Canadians who are that paranoid?

  20. What might also be a nice subject in this series is Neutral Moresnet, the disappeared country that came to be after 1850, when Belgium and Luxembourg split up from the Netherlands. The area was a mining area, and it was decided to keep it neutral, and as a separate country, neutral Moresnet. When visiting the 3-country spot (Netherlands, Belgium and Germany) you can see that it once was a 4-country one.

  21. Other than England, how many countries in Europe drive on the wrong side of the road? England is a separate island, so you can't get to mainland Europe on a highway. (The Chunnel's for trains, right?)

  22. The Netherlands and the north of Belgium are so integrated with each other, you don't even notice you cross a national border if there were no signs. That border in Baarle-Nassau is in reality just a tourist gimmick, for it has nothing else to offer. Maybe the crossing from Flanders to Wallonia (both Belgium) is even more noticable.

  23. On one road you can harness the power of Divock Origi, Virgil van Dijk, Gini Wijnaldum, Ki Jana Hoever and Sepp van den Burg

  24. I don't believe this system can't about due to a fluke. It came about because it seems to work better than other systems. Just cause it's not always clear why/how something becomes ubiquitous doesn't mean there isn't a good underlying reason

  25. I live near that place. I'm dutch so I can't drink alcohol because I'm under 18 but sometimes I'll cross the border to get some beer and drink it when standing on the Belgium side looking down to the Netherlands

  26. As an American the part that blows my mind is that there isn't soldiers yelling at you and terrfying you for even thinking about crossing one of those lines. And that's sad that I can only imagine borders as hostile frightening places. Americans actually feel afraid or the very least nervous near borders. 🙁

  27. I'm from Belgium and I swear I could tell at 1:26 that the pavement seen at the bottom of the screen was Belgian. It's not in worse condition or anything, I can just tell

  28. 2:37
    Thing you might not know: Netherlands and Belgium just signed a small border-crossing fee. Turns out you now owe 5000 euros.

  29. Soooo, how do they handle cellphone reception?
    Like when I go to the netherlands I get another provider than when I go to belguim. Will it switch with every step?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *