hidden europe 11

Shifting territories: Märket Reef

by Nicky Gardner


A little border curiosity from a rocky reef in the Baltic: Märket is a mere speck of land, shared by two countries - Finland and Sweden. Yet it is a household name among many radio operators.

One learns to take the claims of national tourist boards with a pinch of salt. When researching an article that appeared in hidden europe 7 (March 2006) on ‘Europe beyond Europe’, we had cause to correspond with the tourist authorities on the Caribbean island of St Martin. Readers may recall that the place finds itself curiously split. One half of this sun-drenched island in the Lesser Antilles belongs to the Republic of France and the other half to the Kingdom of the Netherlands. Luring sun-starved northern Europeans to St Martin is doubtless not at all difficult, but the tourist agencies on both sides of the island still endeavour to up the numbers of visitors by various enticements - one of the more intriguing of which is that St Martin deserves a visit because it is the smallest island in the world to be bisected by an international frontier.

At just eighty-eight square kilometres, St Martin (or Sint Maarten as it is usually called on the Dutch side of the island) is pretty small. But is St Martin really the smallest island in the world whose territory is divided between two sovereign states?

We actually think not. Märket (or Märket Reef), a little speck of land that lies in the Baltic, is very much smaller than St Martin. It turns out to be a rather interesting spot.

The second half of August was prematurely autumnal in the Baltic region this year. Days of gusty winds and blustery showers, which was not quite what the members of a Finnish government committee had intended when they arranged to meet their counterparts from Sweden for a day on the island of Märket. But the meeting went ahead, with helicopters bringing in the two delegations. Clad in heavy weather cagoules, and armed with surveying equipment, representatives of the Finnish and Swedish national land surveys had a happy few hours inspecting the international frontier that separates Finland from Sweden and divides Märket in two.

Märket is a wild and remote spot. No more than a rocky skerry really.

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