When Czech politician and libertarian activist Vít Jedlička decided to create a micronation in the Balkans, he never had any intention of succeeding. It was merely a political stunt designed to bring media attention to his political party and beliefs. However, after receiving 20,000 requests for citizenship in less than a week, he is now taking the idea seriously.
It started a little bit like a protest. But now it’s really turning out to be a real project with real support.
This proposed nation, which has since dubbed “Liberland,” would be situated along the border of Croatia and Serbia, and is less than 3 square miles in size. Taxes would be voluntary, and there would be no military. He is hoping to draft a constitution that would be inspired by the Swiss government. Just about anyone can apply for citizenship, so long as they don’t have any Nazi, Communist, or otherwise extremist past.
However, it’s hard to imagine success for this project. Hundreds of micronations have been founded in recent years, and none have ever gained any significant recognition from the international community. In many cases, their citizens are either removed or arrested by their government, or are simply ignored. But the nation of Liberland has one thing going for it, and that is the violent past of the Croatian and Serbian nations.
The area that he is claiming is not an ordinary piece of land. It is a disputed territory for these nations. If either government tries to intervene, they will raise the ire of the other, and potentially ignite the kind of war that these Balkan nations were famous for when Yugoslavia fell apart in the early ’90s. Since both governments are in the process of applying for full-fledged EU membership, it’s unlikely that they would risk their applications with a war.
And there is actually some historical precedent for this. Whenever there is a border dispute between two nations, it creates a vacuum where people can build an informal enclave within the territory. The greatest example of this in the 20th century, is the Kowloon Walled City, which was built by criminals, refugees, and squatters on a 6.4 acre piece of land after World War Two.
Because the territory was disputed between China and British ruled Hong Kong, it existed in a kind of political limbo for several decades. Since neither party was willing to start a conflagration over such a trivial piece of land, they left it alone. As time went on and more people moved there (33,000 at its peak), it became ever more expensive to remove these people and their improvised buildings, so neither country was willing to intervene.
Another reason why this might succeed, is that Jedlička has made it clear that he’s not going to rock the boat for either government that is claiming ownership of this land. By not creating a military and claiming that he would only put up a “passive resistance” against any intervention, he has created a situation where it would be more trouble than it’s worth to eliminate his fledgling nation.
Because this proposed nation poses no physical threat to its neighbors, and because any intervention could start a war that neither government wants, there isn’t a whole lot they can do. If at some point in the future, Serbia and Croatia become full-fledged members of the EU, then they’ll be in the position to eliminate the nation without starting a war. But if several thousand people move there and create a legitimate government before that happens, then it’ll be too late for them to stop it.
This may be difficult for most Americans to believe since we’ve grown accustomed to living under such an aggressive government. If someone tried to create a libertarian enclave in America, it’s safe to assume that the US government would be quick to eliminate it with extreme prejudice. But that’s not necessarily true in Europe, especially for two governments that are applying for EU membership.
There is actually another precedent here, in the form of a little-known region called Freetown Christiania, situated in the Danish city of Copenhagen. This autonomous community was formed by squatters and anarchists in an abandoned military base in the early ’70s. Despite the best efforts of the government to remove them, they’re still around. And while they’ve never gained international recognition, for all practical purposes they’ve managed to maintain an independent community. If a European nation like Denmark isn’t willing to use excessive force to remove this community, and if Serbia and Croatia want to join the likes of Denmark, will they be able to stop this nation?
So what do you think? Will this project succeed in creating the first libertarian based nation, or is such an idea too intolerable for any government to allow along their border?
Joshua Krause is a reporter, writer and researcher at The Daily Sheeple, where this first appeared. He was born and raised in the Bay Area and is a freelance writer and author. You can follow Joshua’s reports at Facebook or on his personal Twitter. Joshua’s website is Strange Danger.