Peaceful Territorial Competition

Territorial disputes are very much in the news both this year and in the past few years, with places like Crimea, South China Sea, Diaoyu/Senkaku, and more are suddenly names on everyone’s lips. One territorial dispute, however, has been receiving much less attention: one between Canada and Denmark over a tiny island whose real importance are the shipping lanes surrounding it. Sound familiar?

This is where things begin to sound different. Denmark and Canada’s method of fighting over the islands is simple: every so often a ship sails from one side to the island, and leaves behind a flag and a bottle of alcohol. When the other side shows up a while later, the alcohol is replaced with one of the competing nation, along with the flag.

This little competitive confiscation routine has been going on now since 1984 with no end in sight.

Belgium and the Netherlands, however, just had a little land swap, exchanging territories on opposite sides of a meandering river made more sense to give to the other. The exchange barely made ripples, or headlines.

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