Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, left, and Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders sign a border correction treaty in Amsterdam during an official state visit to the Netherlands, on Nov. 28, 2016.

Belgian Foreign Minister Didier Reynders, left, and Dutch counterpart Bert Koenders sign a border correction treaty in Amsterdam during an official state visit to the Netherlands, on Nov. 28, 2016.

Credit:

Reuters

These days — when national borders represent places to build high walls, when it seems national cooperation is at an all-time low — it's good to come upon a story that runs counter to that.

Belgium and Holland have agreed to change their border along the Meuse river. It's not a huge change — an area the size of a few soccer fields. But the agreement is definitely worth talking about, especially since it involves a headless corpse.

“This is a story with a rather gruesome beginning,” says Dan Bilefsky, a writer for the New York Times. “Several years ago, a headless corpse was found by a couple who were hiking. When they called the Belgian authorities, the Belgian authorities said [the location of the corpse] was in the Netherlands. And when they talked with the Netherlands, the Dutch authorities said it was under Belgian jurisdiction.”

Ultimately, it turned out that the body was in the Netherlands — an area completely inaccessible to the rest of the country.

The Netherlands did do the investigation, traveling across a river to complete it. But the pain of doing so convinced leaders to redraw the borders. The border now runs down the center of the river.

And yet the tiny move is a big lesson to other countries: that it’s possible to change a border without firing a bullet.

“In this Trumpian age, where the president-elect is talking about building a wall on the border with Mexico — after decades in which we’ve had strife and bloody wars, in the Balkans and in Ukraine — it is a reminder that two historic rivals can make peace.”

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