April 2021. As COVID-19 still rages and we still live under coronavirus countermeasures, Oriol and I were looking fore hiking trails. As a long-time follower of Denzil‘s Discovering Belgium, I looked for inspiration on his hiking and nature blog and settled for ‘A 23 km hike around Viroinval‘.
But before we set off, Oriol had a surprise for me in stall. Knowing I’m a lover of geopolitical quirks such micro-states, border anomalies and borders in general, he took me to 50°00′33″N 4°39′59″E.
“I beg your pardon”, you say. It’s the Geographic Centre of the European Union of the 15. Between 1995 and 2004, the European Union had fifteen member states.
Those were Austria (joined 1995), Belgium (1958), Denmark (1973), Finland (1995), France (1958), Germany (1958 as West Germany), Greece (1981), Ireland (1973), Italy (1958), Luxembourg (1958), Netherlands (1958), Portugal (1986), Spain (1986), Sweden (1995), and the United Kingdom (1973).
Defining the centre
The French Institut Géographique National (IGN) has been calculating the changing location of what it estimates to be the geographical centre of the European Union since at least 1987. Its calculations exclude such extra-European territories of the EU as French Polynesia, Greenland, New Caledonia or the Azores. To name a few.
As the European Community, then Union, has grown in the last 50 years, the geographical centre has shifted with each expansion.
Location of the centre
- 1987–1990: Church in Saint-André-le-Coq, département of Puy-de-Dôme, région of Auvergne, France.
- 1990–1995: Noireterre in Saint-Clément, département of Allier, t Auvergne. A small monument commemorating the latter discovery still exists in Saint Clément. The shift came after German reunification.
- 1995–2004: Centre géographique de l’Europe des 15, Viroinval, province of Namur, region of Wallonia, Belgium.
- 2004–2007: 50°31′31″N 7°35′50″E, in the village of Kleinmaischeid, Rhineland-Palatinate, Germany.
- 2007–2013: 50°10′21″N 9°9′0″E, in a wheat field outside of Gelnhausen, in the state of Hesse in Germany.
- 2013–2020: 50°7′2.23″N 9°14′51.97″E, Westerngrund, Bavaria, Germany. When Mayotte in the Indian Ocean joined in 2014 as a part of France, the centre moved 500 meters to 50°6′8.004″N 9°15′15.91″E.
- 2020-present. On 31 January, 2020, with the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU, the geographical mid-point moved to Gadheim near Würzburg.
Centre géographique de l’Europe des 15
According to the Viroinval municipal website, the centre of the EU is calculated taking into account the curvature of the Earth and the location of the Poles.
The monument itself is mostly a monument to 90s taste. Even the sign at the entry of the spot oozes nineties. Just look at the typeface.
Some emerald green cathedral shaped uhm thing marks the centre. Concrete column mark the fifteen member states. Sadly, they’re all the same.
Nearby there’s also the grave of ‘The Last Belgian Franc‘. Yeah right.
We were very alone. We ate a waffle and had a pee.
Worth a detour? Absolutely! Not because of the artwork, but because you can.