Welcome to "Liberland"
A Czech man is claiming to be the president of a new country he founded in Europe.
Vit Jedlicka, a member of the conservative Party of Free Citizens in the Czech Republic, is the self-appointed president of Liberland, which he says sits on unclaimed terra nullius territory wedged between Serbia and Croatia. The 3 sq. mi. “country,” where taxes are optional and a military is nonexistent, does not “interfere with the territory” of the two states, according to Liberland’s website.
“The objective of the founders of the new state is to build a country where honest people can prosper without being oppressed by governments making their lives unpleasant through the burden of unnecessary restrictions and taxes,” reads a statement announcing the creation of the new country this week. The country’s motto is: “To live and let live.”
Jedlicka, speaking by phone from Prague, told TIME that the effort began as a political stunt to garner media attention. “It started a little bit like a protest,” Jedlicka, 31, said. “But now it’s really turning out to be a real project with real support.”
The project has already received roughly 20,000 applications for citizenship, according to Jedlicka, who estimated that the country will receive as many as 100,000 applications by the end of next week (Liberland’s website has details of how to apply for citizenship, including sending an email of introduction—a C.V. is optional). Jedlicka added that some people already have plans to relocate.
“We have the busiest immigration office in the world,” he joked of his seven-person volunteer staff that he expects will grow.
The citizenship process is selective, and Jedlicka says only between 3,000 and 5,000 people will be granted citizenship in the coming weeks. Down the line, he said he expects the number of citizens to be comparable to Liechtenstein, a 62 sq. mi. country that borders Switzerland and Austria with 35,000 people (not all citizens will live in Liberland).
Jedlicka was active in his party in the Czech Republic, but he said he efforts to oppose government largesse proved fruitless. “So we decided we have to go the other way around,” he said. “We have to set up another country and really start the other way around.”
“I’m still going to be active in Czech politics,” he said, though he noted that Czech laws may forbid a president of another country from running for office. “I would probably resign and let somebody else run Liberland for me if there was a chance to do political change in the Czech Republic.”
Liberland is a “peaceful” country and will have no standing army. If neighbors Croatia or Serbia were to oppose, he said he would put up only “passive defense.”
“We will move, but we will keep our claim to the country,” he said. So far he’s still awaiting a diplomatic response from the country’s neighbors.
The Serbian and Croatian Embassies in the United States did not immediately respond to requests for comment.