The southern German village of Gadheim has a special new status.
Now that the UK has officially split from the European Union, the tiny hamlet in Bavaria has become the geographical center of the bloc.
It was a moment the community of 80 people had spent some time preparing for. Jürgen Götz, mayor of the local Veitshöchheim municipality, said it’s a bittersweet honor for the town.
“On the one hand, of course I am proud and happy that we are becoming the new geographical center of Europe,” Götz told the Associated Press. “On the other hand, of course, it’s a sad occasion because with Britain a country is leaving the EU for the first time.”
The new center of Europe was calculated by France’s national cartographic institute, the IGN, which put the spot at 9 degrees, 54 minutes, 7 seconds east and 49 degrees, 50 minutes, 35 seconds north.
A monument with the EU, German and regional flags marks the exact midpoint — in a nondescript field within Gadheim’s bounds.
A ‘gift’ for a limited time
Britons voted to leave the bloc in a referendum in 2016, setting off a lengthy and complex divorce process that at times looked like it would never reach its conclusion.
Farmer Karin Kessler said Gadheim locals have “very mixed feelings” about their town’s new post-Brexit identity.
“The outcome seemed really open; we really didn’t know whether it would be for or against the EU,” Kessler said.
Read more: Brexit day: All change on January 31?
Before Brexit, the center of the EU was the Bavarian town of Westerngrund, just 56 kilometers (35 miles) to Gadheim’s northwest.
Brigitte Heim, the mayor of the municipality there, said residents always saw the title as a “gift for a limited time.”
“We see it as part of our history, our story,” she told Agence France-Presse, joking, however, that if Scotland manages to win independence from the UK, and rejoin the bloc, “the center could come back.”
Unsurprisingly, the EU’s geographic center has shifted around quite a bit as the bloc’s membership has changed.
It’s been located in Germany since May 2004, when 10 mostly eastern European countries became EU members. The bloc expanded again in 2007, when Romania and Bulgaria joined, and in 2013, with Croatia’s accession. Without the UK, the EU currently has 27 members.
“There’s something historic about the center of the EU moving because a country is leaving,” Mayor Götz said. “I hope the next time it moves, it happens because a new country has joined us again.”
nm/tj (AFP, AP, dpa)