Accessible only by car via miles of winding, dusty Croatian roads, Gornja Siga – current population zero – is an unlikely testing ground for a plan to shape the world’s political future. It is a secluded area where verdant forest meets white sand on a western bank of the river Danube. The only signs of life are a single dilapidated building with a curious flag flying outside, pheasants, deer, the occasional wild boar, and eagles and falcons overhead.
Yet last Monday the Eurosceptic Czech politician Vit Jedlicka and two other libertarians declared this 7 sq km (2.7 sq miles) of Serbo-Croat no-man’s-land the world’s newest sovereign state, naming it Liberland. Despite abstaining in Liberland’s first presidential election, Jedlicka emerged victorious, thanks to votes from his fellow founding father and Liberland’s founding mother (also his girlfriend, and now the nation’s first lady). Then things began to get weird.
In the week since Liberland announced its creation and invited prospective residents to join the project, they have received about 200,000 citizenship applications – one every three seconds – from almost every country in the world.
Prospective citizens are also offering Liberland their expertise in areas from solar power and telecoms to town planning and coin minting. “There is a spontaneous ordering taking place,” Jedlicka says. “People have planned the whole city in three days and others really want to move in and invest … what seemed like a dream now really looks possible.”
Liberland’s only stipulations are that applicants respect individual rights, opinions and private property, and have no criminal record or Nazi or Communist party background.
Jedlicka says: “The model citizen of Liberland would be [American founding father] Thomas Jefferson, which is why we established the country on his birthday. Citizens will be able to pursue happiness and this is the place where we can make this happen.”
Crucial to this flourishing, he believes, is fiscal policy. Liberland is the dream of a man whose earlier membership of the Czech Civic Democratic party and current loyalty to the Free Citizens party puts him firmly on the right. Staunchly anti-EU, Jedlicka says he has “pretty close relations” with the Swiss People’s party and “will meet with British politicians to discuss Nigel Farage’s plans to leave the EU”.
“Taxation will be optional and people will only finance specific development projects,” says Jedlicka. “We have to see how the foreign ministries react and we need to explain to them the kind of prosperity we can bring to the region. It will bring in money from all over the world: not only to Liberland, which would be a tax haven, but to the whole area. We could turn this area into a Monaco, Liechtenstein or Hong Kong.
“We have decided to start from scratch and show how little state is needed to make society work. The media calls us rightwing but we are not: we are not here for the rich; we are not here for the poor; we are here for everybody. This project has something for everybody and that’s the fantastic thing about it.
“We are a nation of people who are not happy with the recent status quo, with state interference and high taxation. And what really makes a nation if not a common feeling and approach to something?”
Jaromir Miskovsky is one of the small team processing the flood of applications at Liberland’s temporary “embassy” in Prague’s second district. “The variety of people showing interest in Liberland is amazing,” he says. “A French policeman has volunteered; a Montenegrin lawyer has said he will help us with the constitution and serve as a judge. We have an Egyptian plumber and a German data management professional.
“We don’t ask any unnecessary questions regarding sexuality or personal matters: we are an open society for everyone. So many diverse people are being brought together by the idea of liberty.”
Liberland is located in an area between Croatia and Serbia over which neither country has ever held full sovereignty. A bilateral dispute first arose in 1947, but was less pressing due to their status as members of the Yugoslavian super-state. Gornja Siga is now the largest of the disputed areas flanking the Danube to which neither country has staked a claim.
“The crucial issue will be relations with Croatia and Serbia,” Jedlicka says. “We really want to help them solve their problems. We will invite both presidents to discuss border relations because Croatia has formally closed its borders with Liberland, which is reasonable from them as they are in the Schengen zone, although with this move we could also say they have recognised us.”
Liberland already has a motto – “Live and let live” – and its own flag. “The yellow in the flag represents liberty, blue the Danube and black represents our resistance against the system. The tree stands for abundance, the bird for freedom and the sun energy,” Jedlicka says. A national anthem is currently being composed by a straight-edge Czech rapper.
“The legal system will incorporate good habits from other countries: Switzerland, Britain, Estonia, some parts of the US constitution,” he adds. Liberland will have a government of “10 to 20 members and a police force, but will not have an army, operating an open-border policy”. An official cryptocurrency along the lines of bitcoin is planned and state debt will be banned under the constitution.
Jedlicka says a key formative experience that led to Liberland was seeing his father’s company go bankrupt when the Czech Republic’s central bank arbitrarily raised its interest rates by 25%. “I was pretty young at the time and they were troubled times for my family, so I wanted to find out what was really behind this, so I went to study at the CEVRO Institut, Central Europe’s only libertarian university.”
Last year he stood in the European parliament elections for the rightwing Free Citizens but missed out after being placed fourth on the party’s list, which then gained only one seat.
Jedlicka opposes the “corporatism” of the European Union. “It is simply not true that we have to be in the EU to trade with Europe. We could just be part of EFTA [European Free Trade Association] and a member of the Schengen zone. With [the possibility of] Great Britain leaving the EU and Greece going bankrupt, this is a little bigger than just this piece of land. We are setting a model for other countries to find a new way to structure societies,” he says, revealing that “we have already had one [southern European] country approach us officially”.
Jedlicka argues that “every state was originally set up on terra nullius and just as the human mind has no limits, there is no end to how many people could live here: it only depends how high we can build.”
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