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Coronavirus: Store on Dutch border is half-open, half-shut

01:11 27/03/2020
From Flanders Today

You may know the story of Baarle-Hertog, the Flemish municipality made up of disparate plots of land, all mostly located inside the Netherlands. Tourists love to snap photos of the little crosses on the ground that designate whether you are in Belgium or the Netherlands.

What’s particularly intriguing about this complicated border situation is that shops, restaurants and bars have been built straddling the border, so that part of the establishment is in the Netherlands and part in Belgium. This is even the case with some houses.

You may also know that Belgium has a more stringent set of measures in place to fight the spread of the coronavirus than does its neighbour to the north. Further, Belgium closed its borders this week to neighbouring countries. You see what’s coming here, right?

While trying to figure out if official Belgians can cross into official Netherlands to go to supermarkets (they can) and how exactly you set up a roadblock in the middle of the high street (you don’t), authorities have been struggling with businesses that are half in one country and half in the other.


Often this has solved itself: Shops and bars that straddle the border are closing voluntarily because they simply have no customers. And sometimes it has to do with national identity: Belgian-based chain stores are closing, while Dutch chain stores are staying open.

But one stubborn shop is holding out while sticking to the laws of each country. Zeeman, half in Baarle-Hertog and half in Dutch Baarle-Nassau, has simply put up a barrier ribbon that cuts the store in half.

Fortunately for the outlet, its entry is in Baarle-Nassau, so it can remain open to the public. But customers can only shop in that half of the store, not cross into the other half, which is in Baarle-Hertog.

So while Dutch citizens in Baarle-Nassau can buy dishtowels, hand soap and boys’ slacks, underwear, baby clothes and pyjamas are right out. Zeeman, by the way, is a Dutch chain.

“We have to follow measures in the Netherlands, so we are still open,” a cashier told Gazet van Antwerpen. “Yes, it’s confusing. If we were entirely in Baarle-Hertog, we would be shut. I think it would have been easier and safer if we had just closed our doors, like the outlets in Belgium.”

One VRT journalist asked the mayor of Baarle-Hertog if he could keep up with all of the complications in his municipality. “Not always, I have to admit,” he said.

Photos, from top: Courtesy Ermal Ndini/Twitter, ©Jonas Roosens/BELGA

Written by Flanders Today