Czech politician Vit Jedlicka, president of the self-proclaimed Free Republic of Liberland, addressed the issues confronting the micronation he dubbed the world’s freest country to around 25 attendees gathered in Healy Hall Feb. 29.
Jedlicka chronicled Liberland’s legal difficulties since he declared the seven-square-kilometer tract of disputed land between Serbia and Croatia as a sovereign state April 13, 2015.
According to Jedlicka, the densely-forested strip of uninhabited land is a terra nullius – no-man’s-land – which exists because Serbia establishes its boundary along the Danube River, while Croatia maintains borders drawn prior to the formation of Yugoslavia.
Both countries swiftly renounced Jedlicka’s claim, with Croatia deploying police to remove trespassers on the land. Jedlicka, arrested last May for illegally crossing the Croatian border, said there have already been 36 documented instances of Croatian police seizing Liberland supporters exiting through its border, though he estimates many more arrests have occurred without his knowledge.
Liberland’s push for recognition has nevertheless attained support from hundreds of thousands of people who have applied for citizenship on its website, including 300 Washington, D.C. residents.
The state’s rejection of government interference and taxation has resonated with libertarian groups including Georgetown’s Young Americans for Liberty, a student group that advocates personal freedom, a group Jedlicka contacted to organize the event.
Though no government has acknowledged Liberland as a sovereign state so far, over 10 political parties worldwide have endorsed what would be the world’s newest and third-smallest country, trumped only by the Vatican City and Monaco.
Jedlicka said much of Liberland’s appeal stems from frustrations with overregulation in countries like France, which Jedlicka said demands taxes as high as 70 percent of income.
“The great thing about Liberland is that it connects the business community, lawyers, former politicians, venture capital investors, crazy people like myself, everybody. Most of us are anarchists who believe the government can be organized by just market forces” Jedlicka said. “Together we form a new nation which is founded in the belief of liberty and voluntary exchange, which is one of the most important things in our life.”
Jedlicka outlined a vision of Liberland’s future as fraught with legal battles concerning its legitimacy, an issue he plans to take to the Croatian Constitutional Court and potentially appeal in Europe’s human rights courts.
In the meantime, he has assumed leadership of the country by drafting a tentative constitution, vying for investors and meeting with foreign government officials.
Jedlicka’s described his first diplomatic meeting with Prince of Lichtenstein Hans-Adam II on Feb. 27.
“The first thing he told me was how great it would be if we are going to be sitting next to each other at the UN, which shows he is very open-minded to these things,” Jedlicka said.
Liberland’s constitution, drafted in accordance with the state’s motto “To live and let live,” outlines a bill of rights and legislative, executive and judicial branches. Jedlicka said the document expressly prohibits taxation and can only be amended with the unanimous consensus of a legislative assembly.
Despite Liberland’s emphasis on individual rights, Jedlicka abstained from establishing a direct democracy in the constitution, arguing this form of political regime can be dangerous.
“I even said in a high school in Czech Republic, ‘You know, Hitler rose to power through democracy,’ and they said ‘No, this is not possible. You cannot tell this to the kids,’ but this is the reality,” Jedlicka said. “It is a terrible system, where 51 percent can vote to kill the other 49, and that is democracy.”
Jedlicka said the country needs roughly $60,000 to fund its development, including $5,000 for a scholarly summit on April 16 held five miles from Liberland’s proclaimed territory. For each one-dollar donation, investors are ascribed one virtual merit that Jedlicka uses to gauge citizen engagement.
Jedlicka said the territory may form a militia for protection, though he wants the micronation to be maintained through peaceful means.
“I can see us maybe having a militia, and I imagine most people will be voluntarily armed,” Jedlicka said. “But I think to get Liberland we will have to get it through journalists feeling sorry for us, and flowers and also beer.”
Head of Liberland’s U.S. office Tom Walls, who attended the lecture, underscored the state’s mission to be the world’s freest country.
“We are a country where people have the absolute freedom to do as they wish as long as they don’t hurt anyone else,” Walls said. “We are a like-minded group of individual people who exchange goods and service among ourselves, and when it comes to citizenship there is nothing saying you can’t have your own country’s passport along with Liberland’s.”
Young Americans for Liberty Vice President Addie Nix (SFS ’18) said although she views Liberland as a marketing tool for libertarianism more than a feasibly independent nation, she sees its potential as a free trade zone, similar to places like Hong Kong.
“I could see it as this very small but very enterprising place where a lot of business would be based, probably for tax reasons, but, hey, there’s no problem in that,” Nix said. “I don’t know if I’ll be applying for citizenship anytime soon or where this is going to be 20 years from now, but it’s a valiant effort.”
Young Americans for Liberty Treasurer Kevin Chao (COL ’18) said he was initially skeptical of Liberland, but warmed to the idea after Jedlicka’s presentation.
“I’ve heard of all these tiny little states like Somaliland and Western Sahara and all these different border disputes that are mostly just huge spectacles, but here this seems he’s really trying to do something,” Chao said.
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