The Agreement of 1996 between Belgium and the Netherlands delimiting the continental shelf provided that “If one of the Contracting Parties decides to establish an exclusive economic zone, the coordinates, as indicated in Article 1, shall be used for its lateral delimitation.” In the absence of such a provision or a subsequent agreement, it cannot be assumed that a boundary agreed for the continental shelf necessarily applies equally to an EEZ if one has been proclaimed.
In boundary negotiations between two States, there are often third States in the same geographical area. Third States can be relevant factors in boundary negotiations in two ways: first, in the establishment of a tripoint; and secondly (much rarer) in the actual determination of the course of the line. The existence of third States should not be overlooked.
Existing operations to recover minerals from a boundary zone may create problems for negotiators. Where a state has issued a license for oil or gas or gravel extraction from a defined area and the State later agrees to a boundary treaty which means that that area belongs to its neighbor, provision can be made for the notional transfer of the license to the neighbor. This solution was adopted by Belgium and the Netherlands in 1996. The Netherlands had issued a long-term license to a company to extract gravel for the construction industry. As part of the overall agreement on the boundary question, Belgium agreed to issue a Belgian license to the same company on similar terms. This was arranged by means of an exchange of letters between the two Ministers at the time of signature of the boundary agreement, forming part of the “package”.
Both Belgium and the Netherlands proclaimed an exclusive economic zone in The lateral limits of the two zones, which are indicated by the respective internal laws, coincide with the 1996 boundary of the continental shelf.