Thousands of people from the world’s war and conflict areas flock over the Balkans to Western Europe. However, Vit Jedlička does not want to help. The self-proclaimed president of Liberland prefers to do business with them. For 10,000 dollars he offers refugees the Liberland citizenship – alternatively they can do statute labour.
It was in April 2015 when the Czech Vit Jedlička (32) was appointed president by his friends and proclaimed a small area of land on the Croatian banks of the Danube opposite Sombor (Serbia) as the “Free Republic of Liberland”. For lack of access to their own country Jedlička and his people settled down in Bezdan and Bački Monoštor near Sombor. Ever after he has been travelling around the world and has been looking for political recognition – so far without success.
His activists regularly try to occupy the area. The Croatian police prevent them from doing so.
Even half a year later the Czech is still hardly closer to his goal. Liberland does not exist. At best, in the media.
Yet, Jedlička does not want to give up. Recently he presented new plans: In 2017, he definitely wants to conquer Liberland and gain control over the area. He does not tell how he wants to do this. Investments are made in locations in Serbia and Croatia. An architecture submission for the development of the peninsula is called out. An election is supposed to be organised.
No asylum for refugees in Liberland
However, Jedlička would not be Jedlička, if he did not think about money for his “Paradise on Earth”. While European countries spend millions of euros to help refugees, the self-proclaimed president without land and ethics (?) senses a deal: he offers refugees a Liberland citizenship for 10,000 dollars – alternatively, they can do statute labour and labour service.
Whereas he thinks poorly of asylum: „There is no plan to enable people to claim asylum or refugee status“, he said to the Washington Post.
Who does not have money, has the possibility to work for the micronation and collect bonus points, so-called merits. A merit is worth a dollar. Does Jedlička want to send refugees to Liberland to build cottages for him and to tangle with the Croatian police? The poor people would jump out of the frying pan into the fire.
Soon after the proclamation of the fictional republic and its appearance on social networks like Facebook and Twitter, the “promised land” fascinated and attracted people. In spring 2015 more and more men and women from Syria, Egypt, Afghanistan and Pakistan asked on social media how they could come to Liberland in order to live and work there. The media simulation of Liberland had projected a false image that raised hope.
Thousands of people get their hopes up
Indeed, most of those almost 400,000 people, who registered for a Liberland citizenship till this day, come from conflict areas from Northern Africa as well as from the Near and Middle East (source: Liberland):
- Egypt: 82,414 people
- Turkey: 44,552 people
- Algeria: 36,088 people
- Morocco: 19,654 people
- Tunisia: 15,099 people
- Syria: 9,667 people
- Iraq: 8,689 people
- Pakistan: 5,937 people
For comparison: Only 1,862 people from Germany want to come to the “promised land”. The German legal and social state still appears to have its advantages.
Egypt warns against Liberland and Vit Jedlička
The propaganda controlled from Prague especially had its impact on Egypt. Not only do the numbers demonstrate this, but also the official warning of the government in Cairo: According to “The Cairo Post”, the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs recommended potential Egyptian emigrants to Liberland caution and reserve. Only information from the Egyptian state is to be trusted and not the one from social networks. Furthermore it says: “Many Egyptians and adolescents are manipulated, specialised bands exploit them financially.” Do they also allude to Jedlička with that?
Even the Czech Republic, the home country of Jedlička, warns against his own citizen. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs writes in a statement: “Mr Jedlička is like any other Czech citizen, who stays on Croatian or Serbian territory, obliged to respect the local laws. The Czech Republic regards Mr Jedlička’s activities as inappropriate and harmful.”
Thousands of people registered for a country that in fact does not exist. For Jedlička and his activists this is perhaps funny and adventurous. For people who are looking for an escape from war, misery and poverty, it is hope that is going to burst like a bubble. Jedlička plays a cynical game with those men, women and children and their dreams.
Mr Jedlička, how much money have you already taken away from the people?
Here you can read my opinion in eight points what is the real matter with Liberland:
1/8: How President Jedlička abuses the Red Cross
The concept of founding the state of Liberland involves founding as much authorities, institutions and associations as possible in order to give the state a certain legitimacy framework. Ministers are being appointed, ministries founded in form of Facebook pages, ambassadors summoned abroad, passports designed, stamps created. And, of course, it would not be complete without a football association that immediately pursues membership in the FIFA.
The goal is to put down as much baits as possible, hoping that someday a government institution would take the bait and Liberland could deduce recognition or legitimacy out of it. Insofar, a nice try.
However, it grew into cynicism when the Liberland activists and Jedlička founded the “Liberland Red Cross”.
A flag, a couple of t-shirts, a photo stolen from the Internet for the homepage and the Red Cross section of Liberland, which immediately pursued membership in the International Red Cross, was ready.
That is an affront against humanity! Since the Red Cross represents exactly the opposite of what Liberland is abusing it for: it does not allow countries to use them, it is acting unselfishly and not subject to the laws of the markets.
However, the activists around Jedlička had other things in mind: how easy it was to exploit pictures of the Liberland Red Cross staff, who is held by the Croatian police and tied with handcuffs at the Danube beach, for propaganda purposes. Armed police officers snatching the Red Cross flag – the ultimate stroke of propaganda against Croatia that denies them access to Liberland.
Those are the categories Jedlička and his friends are thinking and acting in. Nobody refrains from neglecting and abusing symbols of international, humanitarian organisations.
And that is exactly what happened, as the pictures and a video of the “Liberland Settlement Association” show: activists crashed by boat into the river bank, set up the Red Cross flag and took issue with the Croatian police. That is how propaganda photos are created. The action ended like most of the others in the prison of Beli Manastir.
By the way, when the first refugees stranded on their route through the Balkans in Sombor in autumn, because Croatia had closed the border near Bezdan, the Red Cross team from Liberland was nowhere to see. The Red Cross from Sombor helped the people and distributed food, medicine and clothes.
Vit Jedlička’s humanity ends where it does not serve his own purpose anymore. That is the difference between him and the unselfish commitment of all Red Cross aid workers worldwide.
2/8: Liberland and the fairy of the no-man’s-land
The foundation myth of Liberland is based on the claim that the 7 square metres large territory in the border area between Serbia and Croatia was no-man’s-land. Thus, everybody has the right to claim it and to found a state. However, this is a misconception, if not even a conscious lie.
Vít Jedlička likes to think big and compares his mission to the foundation of the United States of America. His message is that he and the first settlers were cut from the same cloth. Nevertheless, he forgets that the settlement of America was accompanied by a Native American genocide. But this is just a triviality for the President. Fortunately, there are no natives in Liberland.
The story of demarcation in the region is a little more complicated – thus the explanation is a little longer – but it is worth taking the time for comprehension:
The Danube banks between Serbia and Croatia are little developed in the headwaters. There are often riverside forests that are under conservation. Thus the Danube could frequently change its course in the past decades. Even today new sand banks are formed in the stream and the river nibbles off a bit of land, one time from one side, the other time from the other side. The Liberland territory is situated between one abandoned river-course and today’s course of the Danube.
In former Yugoslavia, the border between the autonomous republics of Serbia and Croatia had not been of great importance. It went along a very old river-course at abandoned river-courses of the Danube, meandering from one side of the river to the other.
During the Balkan wars, Serbian rebels gained control over East Slavonia, the eastern part of Croatia. With the 1998 Erdut Agreement, the region was again under Croatian administration and the provisional line of the border was determined in the middle of the Danube.
Serbia has been guided by this border regulation till this day and exercises control over all territories east of the Danube. Whereas Croatia still refers to the line of the border from Yugoslav times and says that the negotiating delegation in Erdut had not been authorised to sign an agreement.
Thus, according to the Croatian interpretation, there are several convexities of the old line of the border on the Serbian side. Croatia claims a territory of 115 square kilometres in total on the Serbian side (this line of the border is also drawn in official Croatian maps).
However, four comparatively small convexities of the old line of the border are on the Croatian side. According to Vít Jedlička, those are no-man’s-land, as Serbia does not regard them as state territory, while Croatia classifies/wants to classify them as Serbian territory. Among those four areas, the Czech picked the largest one and there proclaimed the ”Free Republic of Liberland”.
Nevertheless, the assertion that it was no-man’s-land is a misconception. The current situation that nobody claims it, is merely the result of different positions of the countries regarding the not yet solved disagreement about the line of the border. If Serbia and Croatia agree upon a line of the border, one thing definitely won’t happen: no areas will be left over.
Moreover, in practice, the border agencies of both countries are guided by the middle of the river. Whoever comes ashore on the Liberland area by boat, is going to be arrested by the Croatian police for illegal border crossing.
3/8: How the Liberland propaganda works
Who follows the Liberland propaganda on social media, mostly sees a president who shakes hands, negotiates with alleged investors and leads diplomatic consultations. There is always a picture where people gather with Jedlička or where he shakes someone’s hand.
However, it is striking that he often does not give names of the depicted persons and, moreover, no further information is published. The jetset life of the president has not yet brought to light anything tangible – except non-binding declarations of intent.
In the first half of the year, Jedlička’s main target was to get a kind of recognition of his self-proclaimed Free Republic. However, without any results.
Already in spring, Sombor Blog has proved that the alleged consultations between Jedlička and the Croatian Foreign Ministry of Affairs had never happened. At best, he made it to the porter.
We investigated two cases as examples how Jedlička’s propaganda trick works:
1. example: The self-proclaimed president was said to have discussed the Liberland issue with the Croatian Member of the European Parliament Davor Škrlec. In a Facebook post Liberland activists wrote on this topic: “The President met Davor Škrlec, Member of the European Parliament from Croatia in Osijek in order to discuss Liberland’s foreign policy.”
However, the office of Davor Škrlec confirmed that there had not been an official meeting. The Member of the European Parliament had just attended an event about TTIP in Osijek and had held a speech there. Afterwards, Jedlička approached him outside, shook hands with him and immediately had a picture taken (photo above). “At this moment, we did not know who he was until he introduced himself”, Alan Kečkeš writes, Davor Škrlec’s assistant.
Furthermore, the Facebook page “The Liberland Times” wrote that Škrlec had invited Jedlička to a meeting with the Croatian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vesna Pusić.
However, the Member of the European Parliament knows nothing about an invitation or discussions about Liberland. Alan Kečkeš writes to Sombor Blog: “As the region is part of the border issue between Croatia and Serbia, it has to be solved in a dialogue between the official governments under international law and has to do so in the best interests of all people on both sides of the Danube.”
2. example: Jedlička is said to have met „ambassadors“ of eight other countries as well as Members of the European Parliament in Zagreb (Croatia). “Everybody was happy to know more about Liberland”, Liberland writes. And again there are pictures showing Jedlička shaking hands. Names are not mentioned.
There is an easy explanation: At that time, Europe Day with participants from several countries took place in Zagreb. Jedlička travelled to it, walked from booth to booth, shook hands and had pictures taken in doing so. The so-called ambassadors were likely to be friendly men or women who were offering wine and other delicacies from their home countries.
These are two examples how diplomatic consultations of the fraud Vit Jedlička work.
The Liberland statements are likely to be a lie in significant parts or they are verbally manipulated and thus, in a clever way, on the verge between truth and fiction.
4/8: The huge misunderstanding: libertarian instead of liberal
The slogan of Liberland is “To live and let live”. At first, this sounds somehow liberal, almost hippyish. Yet, it is a huge misunderstanding, because Vit Jedlička’s ideology is brutally libertarian.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy based on the principle of self-ownership that stands for a partial or complete abolition or restriction of the state. That mainly means, to which extent a state is allowed to set rules for its citizens. In a libertarian state form, there is only a minimum of taxes and there are no social security contributions. Public services for the citizens do not exist.
However, where there is no state, there is no security and no social system. According to Jedlička’s ideas the market regulates somehow everything.
But with full risk assessment of the individual, for example, the solidary system of the private insurance industry, which can only exist in social states because high-risk population groups are supported by the state, does not work anymore. In Liberland, if you are not able to help yourself, your friends are supposed to help or you have to convince someone else to help you.
A specific example: You live in Liberland and you have appendicitis. Say there will someday be, with lots of luck, a somehow financed hospital in Liberland, you have to pay the appendectomy on your own. If you do not have money or not enough friends with money, according to the ideas of the Liberland activists, you are supposed to start a crowdfunding campaign on the Internet in order to collect donations for your survival.
Anybody who had already had appendicitis knows how cynical and inhumane this is. What Jedlička plans in Liberland, is Social Darwinism, Survival of the Fittest.
Even the colours of the Liberland flag make it clear that Jedlička’s Liberland project is committed to the libertarian movement: its colours are black and yellow.
In comparison to the Libertarianism à la Jedlička, neoliberalism was just a tea party.
Jedlička’s social plans and ideas clearly violate Universal Human Rights on many points. Least of those who still sing romantic songs about life and freedom in Liberland under the sign of Love and Peace understand this: „On White Sand, Let us build Liberland“ (video above).
5/8: How the President plays with the life of the activists
If you hit the water with a paddle, you cause waves, but you won’t make any headway. And up to now, all tries to colonise Liberland have also been a washout. In 2015, both from Croatia by land and by water, activists tried to reach Liberland and colonise the region. Almost every try ended in a confrontation with the Croatian police who arrested the settlers. At best, they were deported. However, a great deal of them ended in court and afterwards in prison. Among them was the president.
Although this situation became clear in summer 2015 and no path went past the Croatian police, the activists continued to try getting to Liberland: in some cases they went by overloaded mini boats at a breakneck speed without life vests and with non-swimmers on board over the swollen Danube (photo).
Even an underage German, the chairman of the Young Liberals Rhein-Sieg, tried it, instigated by Liberland brainwashing, and ended up in the Croatian prison. Only with a lot of luck nobody has got seriously hurt up to now.
The self-proclaimed president Vít Jedlička, who sends his activists on such ventures again and again, influences them with propaganda or at least does not stop them in undertaking such dangerous activities, would be co-responsible if there were injured or dead persons.
It is to be feared that the first victims would also be used for propaganda purposes like earlier detentions and convictions of imprisonment. Cause and effect are twisted and the Croatian police is blamed for not allowing peaceful settlers to get to their “promised land”.
Vít Jedlička acts irresponsible and risks life and limb of his activists.
6/8: Where does the money end up, Mr President?
When I first met the self-proclaimed president of Liberland, Vit Jedlička, in Bački Monoštor near Sombor, he told me: “Money is not the problem”. Yet, where it comes from and where it goes to, remains a question. Either Jedlička invests his own money into the project or he has sponsors and donors. But what happens with the money?
Numerous pictures on different Liberland pages on the Internet show that the Liberland president lacks for nothing. One time he flies on a private jet from Prague to Osijek and also circles a bit over Liberland, another time he poses with a little yacht, which a Liberland group had bought, and then, compared to Serbian conditions, an impressive house is shown, which is his residence when he stays in the Sombor region, in order to be near Liberland. Yet, where does the money come from and what does he spend it on? Is there any evidence how donations are used for – for boats, cars, private jets or clothes for the first lady?
The president of Liberland has already appointed a minister of finance. Nevertheless, he has not been able to prepare and publish a simple profit and loss account until now.
If you want to donate for Liberland on the homepage, you indeed get bank details for accounts in Switzerland and Liechtenstein, but it remains a question who the physical beneficiary is.
Where does the money end up, Mr President? On your account, at one of the many Liberland sub-organisations? Is the beneficiary a company or an acknowledged non-profit organisation? What’s your attitude towards taxes in the Czech Republic, Mr President?
7/8: The media simulation of the Liberland state
Therefor, the relationship between Liberland and the media is a win-win situation. That is the wave Jedlička is surfing through the country. However, the media hype is slowly ebbing away. Moreover, all the foundings of micronations so far have petered out, or they have been buried with its founder at the latest, like in the case of Sealand.
Yet, it is remarkable, how little critical media deal with Jedlička as a person and his political philosophy. Most of the reports are favourable up to amused, but hardly discuss it in depth or question statements or plans. The idea of a state without taxes seem to delude even journalists.
After all, Jedlička has not been able to achieve any political success in a democratic way in the Czech Republic. Now he tries it with a kind of landgrab.
In the Czech Republic, Jedlička has first been member of the Civic Democratic Party since 2001. According to Wikipedia, he joined the Party of free Citizens in 2009. Since its founding, the party was not able to get past the 5 per cent threshold at statewide elections. However, it gained one seat at the Parliament of the European Union. Jedlička is regional president of his party in the Hradec Králové Region as well as founder and chair of a citizen’s initiative.
In practice, Jedlička has not yet achieved anything politically except for a media frenzy and a bunch of seduced evangelists. Thus, Liberland has just been a media simulation of a state that mostly exists only on social media.
On Facebook, you can find a vast number of pages having Liberland in their title. From a Liberland Ministry of Defence to a Liberland nudist association almost everything is represented. You can hardly tell which of them is an official page and which is not.
You can tell by the recent example in Germany that the media loves absurd stories about new countries, which are founded on alleged no-man’s-land. There, at the border between Germany and the Netherlands, “Wunderland” was founded. Three men and a dog are camping there with a tent and a caravan in the meadow and proclaim their own state – probably without dog taxes.
Immediately, they got support from Berlin from the German Liberland ambassador Christian Jacken who travelled to them. Jacken had once been member of the Pirate Party and wanted to become political director there. As this never happened, he ran for the post as federal chairman of the Alternative for Germany against Bernd Lucke and Frauke Petry. The results are well-known, he lost. Now he is board member of the little German Libertarian Party. He wants to support the Wunderland-inhabitants at the border to the Netherlands and meanwhile he counts himself as an inhabitant of the new state, too.
Whether Liberland or Wunderland – beside their convoluted political ideas they are probably all just looking for one thing: meadow camping for free.
(The picture above is the title screenshot of the New York Times with a lengthy article in English: Welcome to Liberland, the World’s Newest Country (Maybe))
8/8: Will the Liberland supporters get radical?
One guru, lots of propaganda and a couple of radicalised supporters who would risk their health and life and go to prison deliberately for their belief in Liberland. Which term could be better fitting than that of a sect? A political sect.
The upcoming year will show, if and how Liberland will radicalise itself. There have already been signs this year that a part of the activists around the leader of the “Liberland Settlement Association”, Niklas Nikolajsen (a Danish programmer who lives in Switzerland), wants to push the settlement with lots of more pressure. The policy of getting attention by provoking detentions was the idea of Nikolajsen.
How is the rivalry between Nikolajsen and the self-proclaimed president Vit Jedlička going to develop? In several Internet forums, there are voices of supporters who want to get armed in order to resist the Croatian police.
It is not clear, if this is according to Vit Jedlička’s plans – and if he still has all his supporters under control. In a presentation (see picture) in autumn, he announced that he wants to gain territorial control over Liberland till 2017. How he wants to do this in detail remains a question.
There is no visible reason why Croatia is supposed to change his attitude towards Liberland. There is nobody there who would have an interest in a third party interfering in unsolved border disputes.
If the cat-and-mouse game with the Croatian police is continued in the upcoming year and a settlement is not achieved, the circle of activists is going to get significantly smaller. It is possible that they continue to run a summer camp in Serbia and Jedlička keeps moving in the political scene. Especially, as life there is much more pleasant than together with mosquitos in Liberland.
An unknown Photoshop artist has already showed in a Liberland forum how he imagines the President: with a beret, a medal and a Kalashnikov.
During winter, the activists retreated to their legal and social state home countries. Overwintering on the Serbian banks of the Danube was yet too uncomfortable. Insofar, the American settlers were cut from another cloth…
And what is your opinion on Liberland? Open fire in the comments!
Photos: Sombor Blog, Liberland media, Screenshots with link
Map: Here you find Liberland
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Read more english reports from Sombor and Serbia here.
Translation: Aleksandra Davidović, Belgrade