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Belgium and Netherlands swap territory on 1 January

11:16 31/12/2017

Belgium becomes a bit smaller at midnight on 1 January, because of a land swap with the Netherlands.

The Dutch-Belgian border has been slightly redrawn on the Meuse river near Maastricht. A three-hectare peninsula switches from Dutch to Belgian ownership, while Belgium hands over 16 hectares of land to the Netherlands. The affected areas have no inhabitants or properties.

The border follows the old course of the Meuse river. But when the river's path was straightened in 1961 to ease navigation, this created three small parcels of land on either side of the new river that belonged to the wrong country, causing problems for police and rescue services.

A Belgian parcel of land on the Dutch side of the river was often used for illegal parties and drug dealing, and Belgian police could only access the area by boat.

The land swap was signed in late 2016 and ratified by both countries' parliaments earlier this year. Belgian foreign minister Didier Reynders said at the time: "This could be the first time that a border has been redrawn without any war, any crisis or any conflict."