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Borders define geographic boundaries of political entities or legal jurisdictions, such as governments, states or subnational administrative divisions. They may foster the setting up of buffer zones. Some borders are fully or partially controlled, and may be crossed legally only at designated border checkpoints.

Definitions of borders

In the past many borders were not clearly defined lines, but were neutral zones called marchlands. This has been reflected in recent times with the neutral zones that were set up along part of Saudi Arabiamarker's borders with Kuwaitmarker and Iraqmarker (however, these zones no longer exist). In modern times the concept of a marchland has been replaced by that of the clearly defined and demarcated border. For the purposes of border control, airports and seaports are also classed as borders. Most countries have some form of border control to restrict or limit the movement of people, animals, plants, and goods into or out of the country. Under international law, each country is generally permitted to define the conditions which have to be met by a person to legally cross its borders by its own laws, and to prevent persons from crossing its border when this happens in violation of those laws.

In order to cross borders, the presentation of passports and visa or other appropriate forms of identity document is required by some legal orders. To stay or work within a country's borders aliens (foreign persons) may need special immigration documents or permit that authorise them to do so.

Moving goods across a border often requires the payment of excise tax, often collected by customs officials. Animals (and occasionally humans) moving across borders may need to go into quarantine to prevent the spread of exotic or infectious diseases. Most countries prohibit carrying illegal drugs or endangered animals across their borders. Moving goods, animals or people illegally across a border, without declaring them, seeking permission, or deliberately evading official inspection constitutes smuggling.

Border economics

The presence of borders often fosters certain economic features or anomalies. Wherever two jurisdictions come into contact, special economic opportunities arise for border trade. Smuggling provides a classic case; contrariwise, a border region may flourish on the provision of excise or of importexport services — legal or quasi-legal, corrupt or corruption-free. Different regulations on either side of a border may encourage services to position themselves at or near that border: thus the provision of pornography, of prostitution, of alcohol and/or of narcotics may cluster around borders, city limits, county lines, ports and airports. In a more planned and official context, Special Economic Zones (SEZs) often tend to cluster near borders or ports.

Human economic traffic across borders (apart from kidnapping), may involve mass commuting between workplaces and residential settlements. The removal of internal barriers to commerce, as in Francemarker after the French Revolution or in Europe since the 1940s, de-emphasises border-based economic activity and fosters free trade. Euroregions are similar official structures built around commuting across borders.

Border politics

Political borders have a variety of meanings for those whom they affect. Many borders in the world have checkpoints where border control agents inspect those crossing the boundary.

In much of Europe, such controls were abolished by the Schengen Agreement and subsequent European Union legislation. Since the Treaty of Amsterdam, the competence to pass laws on crossing internal and external boders within the European Union and the associated Schengen States (Icelandmarker, Norwaymarker, Switzerlandmarker, and Liechtensteinmarker) lies exclusively within the jurisdiction of the European Union, except where states have used a specific right to opt-out (United Kingdommarker and Irelandmarker, which maintain a common travel area amongst themselves). For details, see Schengen Area.

The United Statesmarker has notably increased measures taken in border control on the Canada–United States border and the United States–Mexico border during its War on Terrorism. One American writer has said that the 3600-km (2000-mile) US-Mexico border is probably "the world's longest boundary between a First World and Third World country."

Historic borders such as the Great Wall of China, the Maginot Line, and Hadrian's Wallmarker have played a great many roles and been marked in different ways. While the stone walls, the Great Wall of China and the Roman Hadrian's Wall in Britain had military functions, the entirety of the Roman borders were very porous, a policy which encouraged Roman economic activity with its neighbors. On the other hand, a border like the Maginot Line was entirely military and was meant to prevent any access in what was to be World War II to Francemarker by its neighbor, Germanymarker.

Cross-border regions

Macro-regional integration initiatives, such as the European Union and NAFTA, have spurred the establishment of cross-border regions. These are initiatives driven by local or regional authorities, aimed at dealing with local border-transcending problems such as transport and environmental degradation. Many cross-border regions are also active in encouraging intercultural communication and dialogue as well as cross-border economic development strategies.

In Europe, the European Union provides financial support to cross-border regions via its Interreg programme. The Council of Europe has issued the Outline Convention on Transfrontier Co-operation, providing a legal framework for cross-border co-operation even though it is in practice rarely used by Euroregions.

Border studies

There has been a renaissance in the study of borders during the past two decades, partially resulting from the creation of a counter narrative to notions of a borderless world which have been advanced as part of globalization theory. Examples of recent initiatives are the Border Regions in Transition network of scholars,, the International Boundaries Research Unit at the University of Durhammarker, the Association of Borderland Scholars in the USA, and the founding of smaller border research centres at Nijmegenmarker and Queen's University Belfastmarker.

Contemporary leading scholars in the field of border studies include Emmanuel Brunet Jailly at the University of Victoriamarker, which is the site of the Executive Secretary and Treasurer of the international Association for Borderlands Studies, (Emmanuel Brunet Jailly, and Henk van Houtum and Martin van der Velde at Radboud University are the editors of the international scholarly Journal of Borderlands Studies), David Newman at Ben Gurion Universitymarker (co-editor of the international journal Geopolitics). Other leading scholars include Liam O'Dowd at Queen's Univeristy Belfast, Anssi Paasi at the University of Oulumarker, Anthony Payan at the University of Texas El Paso (Payan is the President of the Association for Borderland Studies), James Scott at Karelian Institute, Joensuun University, Akihiro Washita at Hokkaido University, and Doris Wastl Water at the University of Bernmarker.

Image gallery

The following pictures show in how many different ways international and regional borders can be closed off, monitored, at least marked as such, or simply unremarkable.

File:Wagah border lahore.jpg|The Wagahmarker border crossing between Indiamarker and Pakistanmarker along the Radcliffe Line.Image:Tijuana-san diego border deaths.jpg|Border at Tijuana, Mexicomarker and San Ysidromarker, Californiamarker, USAmarker. A straight-line border surveyed when the region was thinly populated.Image:Berlinermauer.jpg|A militarized frontier: the Berlin Wallmarker used to be one of the most famous guarded borders in the world.Image:WelcomeToGeorgia.JPG|A sign welcoming visitors to the U.S. state of Georgiamarker.Image:US-border-notice.jpg|A warning marker at the Canada – United States border at Point Robertsmarker, Washingtonmarker.Image:Peacearchuscanadaborder.JPG|The Peace Archmarker at the Canada – United States border, the longest common border in the world.Image:Grenz%C3%BCberschreitender_Wanderweg.jpg|A sign at the Polishmarker-Czechmarker border near the Králický Sněžníkmarker, indicating that the crossing of the border is permitted to only citizens of the European Union and of five more states. When the Schengen rules became applicable there in 2007, the sign became obsolete.Image:NicholasCountySignWV.jpg|Several markers designating the border between Nicholasmarker and Greenbriermarker counties in West Virginiamarker, USAmarker along a secondary road. Notice the older stone survey markers a few meters behind the modern highway sign.Image:OffeneGrenzeNiederndorf-Oberaudorf.jpg|A typical Schengen internal border (here near Kufsteinmarker between Germanymarker and Austriamarker): the traffic island marks the spot where a control post once stood; it was removed in 2000.Image:Border flower pot.jpg|Self-illuminating Border flower pot between Burghausen, Salzachmarker in Germanymarker and Achmarker in Austriamarker.Image:B1 Anfang Aachen 01.jpg|A border within a closely built-up area – here near Aachenmarker between Germanymarker and the Netherlandsmarker: Germany starts at the blue and yellow signs near the white wall.Image:Baarle-Nassau frontière café.jpg|Border between the Netherlandsmarker and Belgiummarker next to a street café. Some European borders originate from former aristocratic land ownership limits.Image:Eurode-Business-Center.jpg|This recently-built building of the Eurode Business Centre straddles the border between the Netherlandsmarker and Germanymarker, in Kerkrademarker and Herzogenrathmarker.Image:Border stone.JPG|Italymarker/Switzerlandmarker border stone at Passo San Giacomo. Some borders were broadly defined by treaty, and surveyors would then choose a suitable line on the ground.Image:Town line.JPG|A sign along with a stone marking the border between Lexington, Massachusettsmarker and Burlington, Massachusettsmarker on a local road.Image:Puente sobre el Guadiana.JPG|Guadiana International Bridgemarker in the Spainmarker - Portugalmarker border, created by the Treaty of Zamora in 1143. Is one of the oldest borders in the world.Image:Treriks.jpg|The Treriksrösetmarker carin located at the only point where Swedenmarker, Norwaymarker and Finlandmarker borders meet.

See also


  1. Murphy, Cullen. Roman Empire: gold standard of immigration. Los Angeles Times, June 16, 2007 (accessed here June 20, 2007)
  2. Murphy 2007
  3. Perkmann, M, Building governance institutions across European borders, Regional Studies, 1999, Vol: 33, Pages: 657 - 667[1]
  4. D. Newman & A. Paasi, `Fences and neighbours in the post-modern world: boundary narratives in political geography', Progress in Human Geography, 22 (2), 186-207, 1998; D. Newman, `The lines that continue to separate us: Borders in our borderless world’, Progress in Human Geography, Vol 30 (2), 1-19, 2006.
  5. Border Regions in Transition IX Conference, North American and European Border Regions in Comparative Perspective: Markets, States and Border Communities, (January 12-15,2008) Victoria, BC Canada and Bellingham, WA United States.
  6. International Boundaries Research Unit, University of Durham.
  7. Association for Borderland Studies.
  8. Nijmegen Centre for Border Research.
  9. Centre for International Borders Research (CIBR) Queen's University Belfast

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