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The Building That's In Two Countries At Once

Hans Hover has one foot in Germany, and one in the Netherlands. i i

hide captionHans Hover has one foot in Germany, and one in the Netherlands.

Robert Smith/NPR
Hans Hover has one foot in Germany, and one in the Netherlands.

Hans Hover has one foot in Germany, and one in the Netherlands.

Robert Smith/NPR

Zoe Chace and Robert Smith are reporting from European borders this week. This is the first story in a four-part series.

A metal strip on the floor of Eurode Business Center marks the border between Germany and the Netherlands.

On one side of the building, there's a German mailbox and a German policeman. On the other side, a Dutch mailbox and a Dutch policeman.

The building was supposed to make it easy to work in both countries. But it's also a reminder of how the European dream isn't yet a reality.

The border is open enough that a single building can span it. No border guards, no checkpoints. But a letter sent from the German side of the building takes a week to get to the Dutch side.

A computer security company called Alunsa has offices on both sides of the building. On one side, Alunsa employees call German customers on German phones. On the other side, it's all Dutch. Raimond Potgens, the company's CEO, has two offices, one on either side of the border. He carries his laptop back and forth all day long.

The reason for all the back and forth: Taxes. "As long as Holland and Germany want all their money, it's not one union," Potgens says.

Jan Schlievert, an EU lawyer who also works in the Eurode, agrees with Potgens. "Money is always the turning point for all these laws," he says.

Schlievert tells the story of a Belgian carpenter who spent his days doing carpentry in Germany, then drove home to spend the night in Belgium. The German company he worked for paid for the car.

Belgium wanted to tax the car because it spent the night in a Belgian driveway. Germany wanted to tax the car because it spent the day on German roads. The fight was such a big deal to both countries that they went to court to figure out who got to tax the car. (Germany won.)

This is how a united Europe is being created. Slowly, case by case, one Belgian carpenter at a time.

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