READ MORE: Baarle, a unique village in the world


Baarle-Hertog is a municipality located in the Belgian province of Antwerp. The municipality only comprises the town of Baarle-Hertog proper. On January 1, 2006 Baarle-Hertog had a total population of 2,306. The total area is 7.48 km² which gives a population density of 308 inhabitants per km².




Baarle-Nassau is a municipality located in the Dutch province of Noord- Brabant. On January 1, 2007 Baarle-Nassau had a total population of 6,668. The total area is 76.30 km² which gives a population density of 87 inhabitants per km².



The enclave(s) and the border

Baarle-Hertog is noted for its complicated borders with Baarle-Nassau in the Netherlands. In total it consists of 23 separated pieces of land. Apart from the main piece (called Zondereigen) located north of the Belgian town of Merksplas, there are 22 Belgian exclaves in the Netherlands.

There are also seven Dutch exclaves within the Belgian exclaves. Six of them are located in the largest one and a seventh in the second-largest one. An eighth Dutch exclave lies in Zondereigen.




The border's complexity results from a number of equally complex medieval treaties, agreements, land-swaps and sales between the Lords of Breda and the Dukes of Brabant. After the split between the Netherlands and Belgium was finally settled in 1839, there was a need to determine the border. A first border commission, instituted by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1843, led to the determination of the national border between Belgium and the Netherlands, but could not sort out the Baarle issue. As to the enclave borders, a warrant indicating the nationality of each of the various parcels in Baarle, was attached to the Treaty. These distributions were ratified and clarified as a part of the borderline settlements arrived at during the Treaty of Maastricht in 1843


When a land dispute between a Sooy van den Eynde and Baarle-Nassau was taken to the International Court of The Hague, the sentence of the Court on 20 June 1959 resulted in a ‘new’ Belgian enclave of about 12 ha. Nonetheless, the state frontier between Belgium and the Netherlands remained unresolved as regards Baarle until the Treaty of Turnhout between Belgium and The Netherlands, signed on 26 April 1974. A second border commission then was appointed to fix over a 36 km stretch the continuous border between the border marks 214 and 215 (Poppel and Meerle, neighbouring villages of Baarle-Hertog/Nassau).

By then, the enclave borders had not been officially determined. To do so, a third border commission was established to fix these as official state borders. The measuring as to sort this out, took more than 15 years, and was achieved in 1995.

The border is so complicated that there are some houses and companies that are divided between the two countries. One company, a large printing business, even holds an entire Belgian enclave! The usual practice in law on enclaves is that where property straddles the border it belongs to each state for the part of the property on its territory.  In Baarle, for practical reasons, the whole property belongs to the country in which its street door is located.  Only if the border runs through the street door do the two parts belong in different states, and this is indicated by two street numbers on the building.



The government of these two towns, connected as a Siamese twin, demands intensive and frequent co-operation between the both local authorities. These problems are caused by cultural differences on the one hand, and differences in national law and regulations on the other. The local authorities of Baarle-Hertog and Baarle-Nassau operate by means of two different sets of national law. This means that a great deal of national legislation cannot be implemented as such in Baarle because they are incompatible with those on the other side of the border.


Until 1998, this co-operation took place on an informal and ad hoc basis. The status of joint projects remained incidental and offered no legal certainties whatsoever. In the late 1990s an outcome was found in the Benelux Treaty on Transfrontier Co-operation between Territorial Communities or Authorities (1986, in force since 1991). This Benelux Treaty provides in three levels of judicial co-operation.


In Baarle, a joint body was considered to be the most accurate and at that time most conceivable structure to formalise the cross border co-operation: the Common Organ Baarle. Its main purpose is to negotiate and communicate on all matters of common interest and to eventually reach common decision- and policy-making. The Common Organ in plenary session is the gathering of the two municipal councils. Their decision making is binding upon the participating bodies, being both councils. Furthermore, the statutes also provide in a monthly consultation of both courts of mayor and aldermen, constituting the Common Organ in limited session.