Kelmis is a municipality in the Belgian Province of Liège. It is of historic interest mostly because it used to be the capital of Neutral Moresnet, a de facto microstate between Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands, existing from 1816-1919. Kelmis is part of the German speaking community of Belgium.
After Napoleon's defeat in 1815, the Vienna Congress took place, in which many European borders where (re-)defined. Because of the important zinc mine and industry near Kelmis, the Unified Kingdom of the Netherlands (later Netherlands and Belgium), and the Kingdom of Prussia (which later became part of Germany) could not agree on whom the area belonged to. Hence they agreed to create a neutral area, with both countries appointing a commissioner to promote their country's interest in the area. The borders of the respective countries ended on the north+east and south+west, requiring exiting either country before entering the neutral area.
Although never a real state, the territory had a great similarity to one, completely with its own set of laws: due to the disputed ownership of the area, the countries agreed to keep Napoleonic law in force in the territory, with -missing an own court- Prussian and Belgian courts to interpret and judge according to that law. Also the separate and advantageous tax regime helped creating a great level of independence of the neighbouring states.
The zinc industry was the most important income of the country, however other income such as cheap goods, liquor and gambling has been important in bigger or smaller degrees over time.
With the Treaty of Versailles, the country became officially part of Belgium, thereby ending its century of independence. Nowadays it is part of the German speaking part of Belgium, placing it companionship with cities such as Eupen and St. Vith.
- Göhltalmuseum. Tu+Fr 8:00-12:00, We 8:00-12:00 and 14:00-16:30, Sa+Su 14:00-18:00. An interesting museum about the zinc industry and the social/political history of Neutral Morisnet.
- 1 Rathaus, Kirchstrasse 31. City hall in the centre of Kelmis. Used to be the girl's school St. Louis, financed by the city's zinc company Vieille Montagne.
- Johanneskirche, Hasardstraße, 8; 4721 Neu-Moresnet. A Lutheran church, next to which the final resting place of Dr. Wilhelm Molly, who tried to transform Neutral-Morisnet to the world's first Esperanto speaking state, can be found. The church lies in Neu-Moresnet, hence just outside the former neutral area.
- Mariä-Himmelfahrtskirche, Kirchplatz, 3A; 4720 Kelmis. Catholic church in the centre of Kelmis.
- Kriegerdenkmal (Next to Mariä-Himmelfahrtskirche). Memorial of the first and second world wars.
The municipality is not far from the three-border area Netherlands/Belgium/Germany, near to the Dutch city of Vaals. Notice the marking of Neutral Morisnet, between Belgium and Germany.