As part of an agreement between Spain and France, the Spaniards today hand over the tiny island: Pheasant Island.
The rule consists of each country owning the island for just six months a year each. Spain will reclaim the island next in January 2018.
Pheasant Island is in Spain’s north-eastern Basque Country, between Irun and Hendaye in France, in the middle of the Bidasoa river that separates the two countries.
The island is classified as a condominium, which is land shared under joint ownership of two countries.
It’s said to be the smallest and oldest of its kind, only 5,000 square metres, and only 50 metres away from both countries.
The island is uninhabited and not open for visits. Only naval command members of San Sebastian and Bayonne can enter the territory.
“People are very respectful, no one tries to trespass, even though sometimes the tide is so low you can almost walk across to it. We typically enter every five days to carry out routine maintenance,” says Commander Rafael Preito, who controlled the island’s administration until recently.
This neutral territory agreement was part of the Treaty of the Pyreness, that was signed on the 7th of November 1659. The island now remains in peace, with the last disturbance occurring over 40 years ago, when one officer and one terrorist were killed near the island when the Basque-separatist group ETA tried to cross the border.