Does a country own its country?
Crypto-State Liberland : The land that its people want to choose themselves
Once again, no chauffeur is waiting for the president. Vít Jedlicka, a tall man of 34, is standing in the arrivals hall at Prague Airport, his face is wrinkled, his eyes are streaked with veins. He's just got back from New York, “lots of important meetings,” he says, this time in the new World Trade Center. Jedlicka checks his Whatsapp messages, this week he has already been to Belgrade and Warsaw, previously to Washington, Acapulco and the Bahamas. Outside, in the parking lot, a strange man in a worn anorak tries to shake his hand. The man likes what Jedlicka tells him: his, Jedlicka's, new state issues passports.
Until this state is actually there, Jedlicka governs the Free Republic of Liberland temporarily. Liberland is a seven square kilometer peninsula in a loop of the Danube between Serbia and Croatia. Jedlicka came up with the name, a combination of the terms Liberty, Freedom and Land. Liberland has a constitution, a finance minister and lots of volunteers. But does it have a future?
On April 13, 2015, he stuck his flag in the ground
The financial analyst first noticed the deserted piece of land in an entry on Wikipedia. Two and a half decades after the fall of Yugoslavia, Serbia and Croatia have still not reached an agreement on where the common border on the Danube runs. Neither country seemed interested in the seven square kilometers of the peninsula, swampy, often flooded and covered with riparian forest. Jedlicka declared it “terra nullius”, no man's land, put his flag in the ground on April 13, 2015 and read a short founding declaration in English and Czech. Two friends and his partner, a 29-year-old masseuse at the time, elected him president. Jedlicka says it is much easier to start a new country than to change an existing state.
For five years he and his ultra-liberal "Party of Free Citizens" tried unsuccessfully to lower taxes in the Czech Republic and "unleash" the economy. His appointment as head of state in Liberland, however, went very quickly. Jedlicka's goal is a free economic zone in which hard-working and freedom-loving citizens can work without bureaucratic hurdles and tax constraints. A new tax haven in the middle of Europe.
During the half-hour drive from the airport to his apartment in Prague, the President speaks awake. He speaks of the many supporters and of the party on the fourth floor of the UN building in New York, where he met influential people. Could it be that he exaggerates excessively? Not a single country has recognized Jedlicka's state so far - with the exception of Somaliland, an autonomous region of Somalia that is not internationally recognized by anybody. Croatian diplomats speak of "virtual border violators", the Serbian Foreign Minister is amused by this "entertaining performance".
Architects have already designed high-rise buildings for Liberland
Jedlicka, on the other hand, boasts almost 500,000 people who have registered for citizenship on liberland.org. There are futuristic-looking building models from architectural offices in the USA, Poland and Argentina, based on high-rise complexes in Dubai and Hong Kong. A lot of people are supposed to find shelter in Liberland.
Arrived on a hill in downtown Prague, the 34-year-old heaves himself out of the car. He's gotten fatter since he started thinking of himself as a president. He points to a large iron gate. His neighbor is the coal entrepreneur Pavel Tykac. In 2015, Forbes magazine named him the fifth richest man in the Czech Republic. Jedlicka's apartment on the third floor of an unrenovated apartment block is very modest.
The first lady greets him with a quick kiss, the son is taking a nap. In the living room there is a jumble of furniture and an old Persian rug on the floor. His partner says they used to be a normal couple. In the summer they went on bike trips. Now she delves into etiquette books so that she “doesn't misbehave at her husband's receptions”.
Anyone who follows news from Liberland on social media sees Jedlicka shaking hands and giving lectures, negotiating with alleged investors and conducting diplomatic talks. Names are rarely mentioned. Usually it is mainly business conferences at which Jedlicka presents his idea.
"I don't care what others think of us"
Jedlicka takes a shower, puts on fresh pants and a clean shirt. The tiredness is now completely washed from the face. He's tanned since the last anarcho-capitalist conference in Acapulco. What does he say to people who think he's a joke? "I don't care what others think of us, we just do our thing."
By “us” he means the colorful community of mostly younger idealists, nouveau riche techies, anarchists and supporters of libertarian economic theorists. Libertarians fundamentally reject the intervening state. Jedlicka's loyalists include politicians like the American Republican Ron Paul, who would like to abolish the welfare state, the Russian Alexander Borodich, former top manager and creator of Universa, a multi-million dollar blockchain platform - a tool on which cryptocurrencies are based - and the Dane Niklas Nikolajsen, founder of the cryptocurrency financial service provider Bitcoin Suisse. Berlin-based Rick Falkvinge, founder of the Swedish Pirate Party and crypto multimillionaire, provides the basic framework for Liberland's financial management system in the form of software and is involved as a voluntary “ambassador”.
During the cryptocurrency boom, Jedlicka invested in digital currencies. He says he paid for his Chrysler SUV with bitcoins. He finances trips and conferences from the state budget. The supporters who fill this cash register usually also transfer their donations in crypto money.
Something important is missing: the people of the state
500,000 people interested in becoming a Liberland citizen, powerful, visionary men from the world of digital money who support Jedlicka - but anyone who talks about Liberland with constitutional and international lawyers will be met with skepticism.
Helmut Aust, professor of international law at the Free University of Berlin, says: "At the latest, it will fail with the people of the state."
State people, state territory, state authority - residents, a territory and a government - these are the prerequisites that are needed to turn a piece of land into a state worthy of recognition. Aust refers to the example of “Sealand”, a platform off the British North Sea coast from which German bombers were shot at during World War II. In 1967 she was proclaimed a principality by an ex-military.
“Chairman of the State Council” and “Foreign Minister” soon became a German. In the 1970s, the man applied to his hometown Aachen to revoke his German citizenship and recognize his Sealändische. The case came before the Cologne Administrative Court, and it came to the conclusion: impossible. Sealand is not a state. It does have residents, but they are not a people, just a community of interests motivated by economic and tax tactics.
The term "state" is only vaguely defined
“So more is needed about the state,” says Aust, “the Cologne Administrative Court spoke of constant coexistence in the sense of a community of fate.” The term is vague, there is no globally valid definition of the state, there are only interpretations. "A highly political process," says Aust, precisely because such a definition would be so important, "the states do not want to agree on one."
The great role model of the Liberland President is the French Frédéric Bastiat, a representative of liberalism and favorite economist of the former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The President takes “The Law” from the Ikea shelf and reads from the first paragraph: “The law has become an instrument of greed instead of being its reins.” The more regulation, the less freedom, the more tax revenue, the more more mismanagement and corruption.
All Liberlanders are allowed to own weapons and smoke marijuana. No politicians, no officials, only blockchain technology, a decentralized open source software, should take care of the administration of the micro-state. Volunteers ensure internal security, provided they can shoot and have completed training. The state does not provide an education system, nor a health system. Paying taxes in Liberland is voluntary, whoever does it is rewarded with a deposit. Anyone who commits a crime can then fall back on the deposit account and mitigate their sentence.
He hasn't seen his son for four weeks
One day Jedlicka wants to live in Liberland herself. He spends his summer holidays with his family on the outskirts of Liberland in Serbian territory and organizes boat tours on the Danube for those who are interested, to whom he shows the banks of Liberland. He says: He knows that it takes a long breath.
Meanwhile, one and a half year old son David has woken up from a nap. Jedlicka rocks him gently up and down on his arm. Because of the many trips he has not seen him for four weeks. The toddler's bare feet dangle next to Jedlicka's Liberland badge: gold stands for capitalism, black for anarchism. The end of the rule.
Of course, this does not apply to their own state - Jedlicka is powerful and chooses its own citizens. Shortly after its inception, inquiries from thousands of people from the Middle East and North Africa flooded the Liberland website. They wanted to know if there were any jobs in Liberland. Jedlicka has no use for these citizens.
Debt-free and wealthy - this is how its citizens should be
So far he has only accepted 600 of the hundreds of thousands of applications. “Of course we only take the ones we want,” he says and grins. Whoever wants to become a Liberlander should not have a criminal past, tolerate other religions and accept the right to private property. The chances are particularly good if you are debt-free, wealthy and willing to invest your money in Liberland. "We will certainly not invite terrorists like Angela Merkel," says Jedlicka.
Jedlicka looks for his passport among the Liberland brochures and loose pieces of paper in his hand luggage, but he doesn't find it. He has allegedly used this passport many times on state trips and sometimes even received entry and exit stamps, mainly in African and South American countries. He will find the passport later, but will not answer the question of which country stamps he has.
It is now getting dark outside, the lights of the city are flickering in the distance. The first lady is preparing rice with pork and coleslaw in the kitchen. There is also sour cream, mustard and ajvar from the peppers of Serbian Liberland activists. The President pours himself a glass of Liberbier from a Prague brewery and turns on the Bluetooth box. “This is his favorite song,” he says, pointing to his son, who is bobbing to the beat.
Jedlicka wants to invite the singer to the summer festival in Liberland. He tells of the beautiful warm summers and the white Danube beach. He picks up his son, climbs out with him onto the roof terrace and sinks into a dream dance.
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