As Europe’s newest self-proclaimed state celebrates six months of existence in Prague, TCN meets Liberland President and Croatian neighbour, Vit Jedlicka.
There was an important gathering for Europe’s newest self-proclaimed nation at the Prague Hilton in the Czech Republic on October 13, 2015, as the President of the Free Republic of Liberland, Vit Jedlicka, held a press conference on the occasion of the six-month anniversary of the proclamation of his state.
During the conference, Jedlicka gave a progress report on the first six months, detailing diplomatic successes, explaining a new government structure, presenting a new edition of Liberland stamps designed in Taiwan, talking about new settlement efforts, and outlining long-term plans for his country.
Located on the Danube and with a free international waterway to the Black Sea, Liberland is a 7km2 territory between Croatia and Serbia which was unclaimed by either nation, and Jedlicka proclaimed Liberland under ‘terra nullius’ on April 13. While no country has officially recognised Liberland yet, Jedlicka claims he is making significant progress on the diplomatic front. What is also clear is that his ideal of a micro-nation with a motto of ‘To Live and Let Live’ has captured the imagination of people in all nations, and more than 300,000 applications for citizenship – from all over the world – have been received in the first six months of Liberland’s existence.
President Jedlicka kindly agreed to answer a few questions for Total Croatia News on the progress being made by Croatia’s newest (and self-proclaimed) neighbour.
It is six months since you proclaimed the Free State of Liberland. It has been an eventful time since then. How would you summarise progress?
We now have 40 future embassies, a working government, a stable source of income through voluntary taxation, and a clear vision about the development of Liberland. I just finished interviews with Huffington Post and Prague Post, so there is ongoing large interest from people, as well as from the media, in Liberland.
(President Jedlicka explaining his Liberland vision)
With an alleged 300,000 applications for citizenship so far, you have obviously captured the imagination of many, and in one respect, one could argue that this is testimony to a success of the Liberland idea. How many citizenships have been granted so far, and what is the maximum population this tiny country can sustain?
I granted citizenship to some 130 people who not only helped Liberland significantly but also were able to come down to Liberland to get citizenship. As of this week we have started a regular process for people to acquire citizenship online. They need to collect 10,000 merits and pass an interview to be able to get citizenship. Merits can be gained either by donating or by working for Liberland.
(The Liberland President (second left) with newly announced members of government)
Access to Liberland has been an issue so far, with several highly publicized cases of barred entry, including two visits to Croatian detention centres for the president himself. How would you describe ongoing relations with your neighbours, and are you making progress?
We are more than grateful to Serbia and Croatia for their generous support in our nation-building effort. We thank again Serbia for stating that Liberland is not formed on Serbian territory, and we highly value the way Croatia protects Croatia – Liberland borders. We are ready to compensate for that in the future. We hope to be able soon to start diplomatic relations with Croatia to open up official borders.
With the ongoing migration and refugee crisis in Europe, some 9815 Syrians have apparently applied for Liberland citizenship, a country yet to be officially recognised by anyone, while just 6 people have applied for asylum in Croatia, a country which has been welcoming to refugees after hostile receptions elsewhere. How do you explain these numbers?
Liberland is very popular all around the world. There is a similar number of people registered from USA as from Syria. The reason is very simple: people usually like to go from places with a lower degree of freedom to places with higher degree of freedom. It doesn’t matter if it is Syrians or Americans. Until now actually many more people from Switzerland showed up to build Liberland than Syrians.
Your recently appointed future Ambassador to Taiwan has produced the first official Liberland stamp designs, which went on sale recently. Tell us a little about the international offers of help and support you have had so far.
Some 70 thousand people that we have on our database actually want to be helpful to the project, but many of them just don’t know how. We have some 1200 architects. For them we have prepared an architectural competition for the future look of Liberland. We have some 1000 lawyers. We are now organising them to help Liberland fit in the environment of international regulations. We also have some 400 very wealthy individuals who would like to see Liberland flourish. Our nation is getting stronger every day. I hope that by this time next year we will be seen as strong partners by Croatia.
Liberland’s motto is ‘To Live and Let Live’ which has attracted interest from a number of different interest groups. How confident are you that your relaxed constitution will not be abused by others looking to settle in such a free society?
Our constitution is actually very strict. It makes sure that the government will not abuse its powers to take liberties from people as usually happens. The constitution is there to limit government not the people. The government is there to make sure that there is a rule of law.
After six months, there is no official recognition from any country. Are you close to your first recognition, and when would you expect that to happen?
We were de facto recognised by Croatia and Serbia. Croatia erected borders with Liberland and Serbia stated through its Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they don’t mind its creation. The other is recognition de jure. We are now negotiating with some 10 heads of states for de jure recognition, and it will take some time to get it. I plan to get it in the first half of 2017.
(One idea of how a developed Liberland might look)
You have obviously been continually in the international spotlight since the proclamation in April, and Liberland has attracted plenty of international media attention and comment. Are your goals the same as back then, and has your approach changed at all, based on all you have learned in the last few months?
The intention is still the same to create a society where righteous people can prosper with minimal state regulations and taxes. And we can see that there are many people who would like to see that happen. That is actually something that makes a nation.