hidden europe 3

Tangled territories: European exclaves and enclaves

by Nicky Gardner


outposts of one country within another: the curious tale of some European exclaves

Most of us, if we have ever thought about it at all, would generally subscribe to the notion that somehow countries should be contiguous. That is, one continuous area of land. True, we'll tolerate an offshore island or two, but little corners of land tucked away as exclaves in a foreign territory generally go against the grain.

When representatives of the international community met in Paris in December 1995 to sign the Dayton Peace Accord, a treaty designed to bring a measure of calm to troubled Bosnia, they placed great stress on the achievements of the negotiators in devising generally contiguous areas of land for Bosnia's political entities. Of course there were difficulties, and some remain, most conspicuously the uniquely strategic position of the town of Brcko on the Sava river. But, although the borders between the Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation within Bosnia may be hugely complicated, the negotiators avoided having one entity peppered with patches of territory belonging to the other.

Quite why it offends our sensibilities when political units have noncontiguous territories is hard to say. A Welsh friend tells how she used, as a child, to worry a lot about the county of Flintshire, which had a good wedge of territory on the north coast of Wales, and then an entirely disconnected exclave away to the south. That isolated portion of Flintshire was not only disconnected from the Flint motherland, but had the effrontery to make a wedge between two English counties: Cheshire and Shropshire. This was surely a spot where Flintshire didn't belong.

Related note

New 2010 train timetables

Europe's new 2010 train schedules take effect today, opening up lots of glorious new travel opportunities. Faster trains from the Kent coast to London are the highlight in England, while in Italy there is a veritable revolution as the 'missing link' in the country's main high speed axis is plugged.