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Belgian town to close border with France during Euro football match

13:43 01/07/2024

The Belgian town of Wervik in West Flanders is closing its border crossing to France on Monday evening during the Euro football match that pits the two countries against one another.

Mayor Youro Casier (Vooruit) said the decision was to prevent any incidents, VRT reports, just like when it closed the border six years ago during the World Cup.

“That turned out to be a good decision then,” Casier said.

“Komen-Waasten [Comines-Warneton, another border town] took no measures then and was confronted after the match with French people crossing the bridge to damage cars and windows. I recently had consultations with the other border mayors. We decided to make our bridge inaccessible to cars again.”

Large concrete blocks will be erected in the centre of the bridge over the Lys river that divides the two countries, preventing cars from crossing the border between Wervik and Werviq-Sud in France from 18.00 overnight.

“The French are much more proud than us,” said Casier.

“We know from experience that they like to challenge and jeer 'les petits Belges' with their cars after a French victory.

"They come driving around here, start honking their horns and get out to dance in the streets. We want to avoid triggering people to do stupid things.”

The mayor added that alcohol consumption is another driver of bad behaviour.

While the bridge will still be traversable by foot or bike, Casier said that this happens less often, “and most importantly, they can't honk their horns. They are also less likely to come off in groups because they already have to put more effort into crossing that bridge.”

The bridge will reopen to cars at 6.00 on Tuesday morning.

Separately from football-related concerns, Wervik is currently plagued by a rash of burglaries: the number of burglaries in both commercial establishments and vans has risen sharply recently.

“Itinerant gangs break into vans to steal materials or papers,” Casier said, “along with small-time thieves looking for pennies or things they can sell quickly to get cash. And we must also admit that drug use in our city has been rising seriously in recent months.”

Written by Helen Lyons