TIME Liberland

Welcome To Liberland! The European Country With No Taxes (or Residents)

CZECH-LIBERLAND-DIPLOMAC- OFFBEAT
MICHAL CIZEK—AFP/Getty Images Vit Jedlicka, a 31-year-old Czech liberal politician presents his ''Liberland'' on April 20, 2015 at the University of Economics in Prague.

The micronation will use crowdfunding for public works.

Make room, Croatia and Serbia! There’s a new micronation in Europe, and it doesn’t care much for Serbia’s probable ownership of the seven square kilometers, or the Czech police guarding it.

Liberland, the self-proclaimed sovereign state, has big plans. “We need more countries like Hong Kong, Singapore and Monaco, especially in Europe,” Vit Jedlicka, the country’s president and co-founder, told Bloomberg. Jedlicka didn’t run in Liberland’s first presidential election, but he was elected by the two other founders, one of whom is his girlfriend.

In Liberland, all taxes are optional. To make up the difference, the country plans to crowdfund and allow private enterprise to provide public services like water and energy. So far, Jedlicka claims the country has raised $45,000 on a crowdfunding page, which has foot the bill for offices in Prague and Serbia, Jedlicka’s personal assistant, and his trips to the G-7 and Freedom Fest.

The funding hasn’t gone toward any development of Liberland itself, which lies in a crook of the Danube between Serbia and Croatia, because it so far has zero residents. Despite the Liberland Settler’s Association’s attempt to settle the claimed land, Czech border police have been stopping them regularly.

That hasn’t dissuaded Liberland’s supporters though: so far, the country has received almost 400,000 citizenship applications. With tensions over the European Union and Greece’s debt crisis roiling Europe, it seems like Liberland might have struck a nerve. “With [the possibility of] Great Britain leaving the EU and Greece going bankrupt, this is a little bigger than just this piece of land. We are setting a model for other countries to find a new way to structure societies,” Jedlicka told the Guardian.

 

TIME Serbia

Serbian Prime Minister Attacked at Memorial for Srebrenica Victims

Bosnia Srebrenica Anniversary Aleksandar Vucic
Marko Drobnjakovic—AP Aleksandar Vucic, Serbia's Prime Minister is seen during a scuffle at the Potocari memorial complex near Srebrenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina on July 11, 2015.

An aide said the prime minister was hit in the face with a rock

(SREBRENICA, Bosnia-Herzegovina)—Anger boiled over Saturday at a massive commemoration of the slaughter of 8,000 Bosnian Muslims at Srebrenica 20 years ago as people pelted Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic with stones, water bottles and other objects. An aide said the prime minister was hit in the face with a rock.

Vucic’s associate, Suzana Vasiljevic, told The Associated Press that his glasses were broken when he was struck in the face with a stone. Vasiljevic said she was behind Vucic when “masses broke the fences and turned against us.”

Tens of thousands came to mark the 20th anniversary of Europe’s worst massacre since the Holocaust — the slaughter of 8,000 Muslims from the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica — with foreign dignitaries urging the international community not to allow such atrocities to happen again and to call the crime “genocide.”

Vucic, once an ultra-nationalist, came to represent his country at the commemoration in an apparent gesture of reconciliation. But a few people carried banners with his own wartime quote: “For every killed Serb, we will kill 100 Bosniaks.”

Vucic and his guards were forced to run through a crowd that rushed them, with guards trying to protect the prime minister with bags, umbrellas and their raised arms. He returned to Serbia soon afterward.

Serbia’s foreign minister, Ivica Dacic, said the incident was an attack on Serbia.

“By deciding to bow to the victims, Serbia’s prime minister behaved like a statesman,” Dacic said in a statement. “This is another negative consequence of politicizing this subject that has brought new divisions and hatreds instead of reconciliation.”

The Muslim Bosniak mayor of Srebrenica, Camil Durakovic, said he was “deeply disappointed and I truly apologize to Prime Minister Vucic for what he experienced.”

Council of Europe Secretary General Thorbjorn Jagland condemned the attack. The ceremony in Potocari, the Srebrenica suburb where the memorial center is located, “should have been a place for reflection, reconciliation, not violence,” Jagland said.

This was not the first time that top Serbian officials visited Srebrenica for commemorations. The former pro-democratic president, Boris Tadic, was there on the 10th anniversary of the massacre, and there were no major incidents.

Serbia and Bosnian Serbs deny the killings were genocide, and claim that the death toll has been exaggerated.

Dozens of foreign dignitaries — including former U.S. President Bill Clinton, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, Britain’s Princess Anne and Jordan’s Queen Noor — came for the ceremony mourning the 8,000 Muslim men and boys killed in the eastern Bosnian town by Bosnian Serb troops. The crime was later defined as genocide by two international courts.

“I grieve that it took us so long to unify … to stop this violence,” said former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who was in office at the time of the massacre and whose administration led the NATO airstrikes against Serb positions. This ended the Bosnian war and the U.S. brokered a peace agreement.

Clinton said before the attack: “I want to thank the prime minister of Serbia for having the courage to come here today and I think it is important that we acknowledge that.”

During the 1992-95 war, the United Nations declared Srebrenica a safe haven for civilians. But on July 11, 1995, Serb troops overran the Muslim enclave. Some 15,000 men tried to flee through the woods toward government-held territory while others joined the town’s women and children in seeking refuge at the base of the Dutch U.N. troops.

The outnumbered Dutch troops could only watch as Serb soldiers rounded up about 2,000 men for killing and later hunted down and killed another 6,000 men in the woods.

The United Nations admitted its failure to protect the town’s people and on Saturday, Bert Koenders, foreign minister of Netherland said that “the Dutch government shares responsibility” and that the U.N. must strengthen United Nations missions in the future.

“Nobody can undo what happened here but we mourn with you,” Koenders added.

The 1992-95 war in Bosnia, pitting Christian Orthodox Serbs against Bosnian Muslims and Croatian Catholics, left more than 100,000 people dead and millions homeless. The Serbs, who wanted to remain in the Serb-led Yugoslavia, fought against the secession of Bosnia and Croatia from the former federation.

So far, remains of some 7,000 victims have been excavated from 93 graves or collected from 314 surface locations and identified through DNA technology.

TIME United Nations

Russia Holds Up U.N. Vote by Refusing to Call Srebrenica a Genocide

Bosnia Srebrenica
Amel Emric—AP People pass by posters displaying Russian President Vladimir Putin in the town of Bratunac, near Srebrenica, northeast of Sarajevo, on June, 28, 2015

The Serbian Prime Minister said the British resolution "pushed us into the trenches of hatred"

(UNITED NATIONS) — The U.N. Security Council delayed a vote on a British-drafted resolution that would condemn the 1995 massacre at Srebrenica during the Bosnian war as “a crime of genocide” until Wednesday after Russia informed council members it would veto the measure.

Supporters of the resolution had been hoping for its unanimous approval to mark the 20th anniversary of the slaughter by Bosnian Serbs of some 8,000 Muslim men and boys who had sought refuge at what was supposed to be a U.N.-protected site. But leaders of the Bosnian Serbs and Serbia, who have close religious and cultural ties to Russia, have lobbied President Vladimir Putin to vote “no.’

The Serbian and Bosnian Serb governments called emergency sessions for Tuesday evening to discuss the draft resolution but the Bosnian Serb meeting was canceled.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik told local media late Tuesday: “The text of the resolution is so fundamentally bad, that it cannot be corrected. Russia is acting in accordance with the talks we had with them.”

The Serbian government at its emergency session late Tuesday reiterated its rejection of the British U.N. resolution, but decided Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic would attend Srebrenica memorial ceremonies in a show of readiness to honor the victims and put the war past behind.

“I will represent a Serbia that is capable of admitting that certain individuals had committed crimes,” Vucic said at a news conference aired live on state television. “We must do that for our own sake.” However, he said, “there is no collective guilt.”

Vucic said the British resolution opened fresh divisions and “pushed us into the trenches of hatred.”

Bosnia’s U.N. Ambassador Mirsada Colakovic told The Associated Press that Russia had informed council members Tuesday morning of its intention to veto.

Council diplomats said U.S. Ambassador Samantha Power, who was a journalist during the Bosnian war, and Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin were meeting, along with British diplomats, to discuss differences on the text.

The council vote, originally scheduled for Tuesday morning, was delayed until the afternoon and then postponed until 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) Wednesday because of continuing discussions on the text.

Russia has circulated a rival draft resolution which doesn’t mention either Srebrenica or genocide, but no vote has been scheduled on it.

Last week, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador Petr Iliichev called the British draft “divisive,” saying the Russian draft is “more general, more reconciling.”

Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Matthew Rycroft said in a July 2 letter to Mladen Ivanic, the Serb member and current chair of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, that the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia in 2004 and the International Court of Justice in 2007 both determined that the mass killings at Srebrenica were an act of genocide.

“That is not a political statement. It is a legal fact,” Rycroft wrote. “What happened in Srebrenica was the worst single crime in Europe since the Second World War.”

He stressed that any judgment of genocide deal with individuals, not an entire people, and he insisted that the resolution is not “anti-Serbian” as some have alleged.

___

Associated Press writers Aida Cerkez in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Jovana Gec in Belgrade contributed to this report.

TIME portfolio

Documenting the Hard Life in Russia’s Frozen Arctic

“The Arctic is like a blank sheet on which you could see all the tensions of Russia played out."

The Soviet Union was known for its doublespeak, but when Moscow bureaucrats called the 7,000-km area of the Russian Arctic the “zone of absolute discomfort,” they were speaking the truth. Temperatures in the settlements of the far north, which spans from Alaska to Finland, can dip below –45°C in the winter. Living conditions are wretched, which is one reason Stalin used these towns as gulags. Descendants of some of the prisoners still live in these Arctic communities. Among the people who seem adapted to the conditions are the indigenous herders known as Nenets, who live in tents called chums.

Yet there are billions of tons of oil and natural gas locked beneath the permafrost—a fact that has drawn a new wave of workers to the Arctic, as the photographer Justin Jin documents. It’s not an easy place to work as a photographer—Jin once got frostbite from the cold metal of his camera pressed against his face—but the material is worth it. “The Arctic is like a blank sheet on which you could see all the tensions of Russia played out,” says Jin, who has worked in Russia for years. “You have the extreme expanse of space, the endless nature, the riches trapped in the tundra. It’s all the contradictions and juxtapositions of Russia.”

Justin Jin is a documentary photographer based in Belgium.

Bryan Walsh is TIME’s Foreign Editor.

TIME Serbia

Serbian 7th-Graders Storm Classroom to Steal Teacher’s Grade Book

A third student asked them to because of his poor grades

Police arrested two seventh-graders in a Belgrade, Serbia suburb on Tuesday, after the pair—clad in balaclava masks and sunglasses—entered their classroom armed with a knife and plastic replica handgun and stole their teacher’s grade book.

A police officer who asked to remain unnamed told Reuters that the act was carried out in agreement with a third student, who was looking to have the record of his poor grades removed.

The two students face charges including violent behavior and jeopardizing public safety.

Serbia has seen notably high rates of school violence since the Yugoslav Wars of the 1990s. In 2005, UNICEF established a “School without Violence” program in the country, responding to a study conducted by The Institute for Psychology at the Belgrade Philosophy Faculty, which found that 65% of students across 54 schools in Serbia reported having been affected by violent behavior in schools.

[Reuters]

TIME Serbia

Migrants Find a Safer Route Into Europe via the Balkans

Migrants sleep in a park near the main Belgrade's bus and train station, Serbia on April 24, 2015.
Marko Djurica—Reuters Migrants sleep in a park near the main Belgrade's bus and train station, Serbia on April 24, 2015.

The journey is safer but more expensive than the sea trip from Libya

When Abu Hassan fled the Syrian city of Daraa two months ago he was determined to get his family to Europe. He considered putting his family in a boat in Libya to cross the central Mediterranean Sea.

“I decided it’s too dangerous. Not with the children,” says Abu Hassan, who is now sleeping in a park with eight of his family members in the Serbian capital, Belgrade.

Instead, they made their way to Turkey, took a short boat trip to Greece and then paid smugglers to take them through Macedonia, stuffed in the back of a truck with 190 other migrants and refugees, to the Serbian border.

“At midnight they dropped us near the border and said ‘it’s there, go,’”recalls Abu Hassan. They were in Serbia for just 10 minutes when they were picked up by the Serbian authorities, but they were safe. They were told to register at a nearby office an office, which they did before heading north.

The most popular route into the European Union is by boat from Libya across the central Mediterranean, but this year alone an estimated 1,500 people have drowned in the choppy waters off the North African coast.

“It has always been a very dangerous trip,” says Ewa Moncure, a spokesperson from Frontex, the E.U. border monitoring and patrol. “It seems now, that the people traffickers can operate freely in Libya. As soon as they have boats, they send people to sea…some make it and some don’t make it and [the traffickers] don’t seem to care.”

Now, tens of thousands of migrants and refugees — desperate to escape violence and poverty at home — have opted for this safer Balkan land route through the former Yugoslavia and into the E.U. through Hungary. Last month alone 7,000 migrants and refugees — primarily from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan — crossed the frontier between Serbia and Hungary, according to Frontex. Last April, just 900 crossed there.

Abu Hassan doesn’t want to use his legal name fearing it will hinder his chances of reaching his final destination, Germany. Most migrants who take this route are trying to get to northern Europe. Both Greece and Hungary are in the E.U. but have high unemployment and offer little assistance to refugees and migrants.

In a café near the park, dozens of young men sit speaking Arabic and Afghan languages, and some Africans converse in French. They talk to their families at home and try to arrange their journeys north to the Hungarian border.

“Most of the smugglers are Pakistanis and Afghanis,” says 25-year-old Mahmoud, who also doesn’t want to give his full name. He sits with a group of Syrians and Iraqis and they debate the best route into Hungary.

Mahmoud spent one month in a Syrian government prison in his native Aleppo. The day after he was released he paid smugglers to take him to Turkey where he had to decide which route to take to Europe.

“Two of my friends died in the sea trying to reach Italy,” says Mahmoud. Both were young men who traveled to Libya. They called home one day about a year ago and told their parents they were boarding a boat to Italy. “Their parents told them ‘good luck’…We never heard from them again,” he says.

Stories like this dissuade some migrants from taking the sea journey from Libya but this route through the Balkans is also more expensive, costing several thousand dollars in smuggling fees and transport. Once in Belgrade, some rent shared hotel rooms or sleep in parks and spend their days waiting in cafés.

The Serbians seem to turn a blind eye to the migrants as if they want them to move on to Hungary as quickly as possible. “Really, the Serbian police don’t want to catch us,” says Mahmoud. “They don’t want us to stay here.”

He echoes the speculation of many here that the Serbian police often look the other way as people attempt to cross into Hungary, making this frontier a weak link in the perimeter of fortress Europe. Rights organizations have also documented Serbian authorities forcibly returning migrants to Macedonia, refusing to allow them to register asylum claims as well as extortion and physical abuse.

While this route might be safer than a “10-meter rubber boat with a 100 people onboard,” in the Mediterranean Sea, Moncure, from Frontex, cautions that it’s not completely safe. And as more and more people take this route through the Balkans, and smuggling becomes increasingly profitable, vulnerable migrants are at risk of exploitation and abuse. Migrants tell stories of being lied to and abandoned by traffickers and taxi drivers, others repeat tales of kidnapping by smugglers who call their families demanding more money to release them.

“The people smugglers aren’t doing it for free,” says Moncure.

TIME europe

Meet the Man Who Claims He Just Founded a New Country in Europe

The flag of Liberland.
Liberland The flag of Liberland.

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.

Read next: Here Are the 5 Things TIME 100 Says About the World

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TIME Soccer

Drone Invasion Halts Serbia-Albania Soccer Game

Mini drone carrying flag depicting so-called Greater Albania is flown over the pitch during their Euro 2016 Group I qualifying soccer match against Albania at the FK Partizan stadium in Belgrade
Marko Djurica—Reuters A mini drone carrying a flag depicting so-called Greater Albania, an area covering all parts of the Balkans where ethnic Albanians live, is flown over the pitch during their Euro 2016 Group I qualifying soccer match against Albania at the FK Partizan stadium in Belgrade on Oct. 14, 2014.

The two countries historically have had political tensions

Updated Wednesday, Oct. 15

Officials abandoned a soccer match between Serbia and Albania Tuesday after a drone carrying an Albanian banner was flown into the stadium, sparking brawls among players and fans.

The flag flown over the Euro 2016 qualifier game depicted Greater Albania, a conceptual state formed from all territories where ethnic Albanians live, according to Reuters. Yet many Serbs believe the region should still be united as Yugoslavia.

The banner, which was flown into the stadium near the end of the match’s first half, was soon pulled down by Serbia’s Stefan Mitrovic as punches were exchanged between players. Some fans started throwing garbage at the Albanian players.

Serbian officials on Wednesday accused Olsi Rama, the brother of Albania’s Prime Minister, of flying the drone above the field and causing the disruption, and authorities in Belgrade have arrested him, RTS reports. However, AFP reports that a source close to Rama said he had not been arrested in Belgrade.

The atmosphere was politically charged even before the match began, Fox Sports reports. The two countries have had a tense relationship since the conflict around Kosovo, the predominantly ethnically Albanian province of Serbia that was declared independent in 2008.

Serbia did not acknowledge the independence, and mediations under the European Union in 2013 led to Serbia abolishing nearly all of its political institutions in Kosovo. The game, held in the Serbian capital of Belgrade, was also Albania’s first match in the country since 1967, according to the Union of European Football Associations.

The game was abandoned after 45 minutes of unrest. The score was 0-0.

[Fox Sports]

TIME Serbia

Thousands Flee Deadly Floods in Serbia and Bosnia

TOPSHOTS-SERBIA-BOSNIA-WEATHER-FLOOD
Sasa Djordjevic—AFP/Getty Images A Serbian rescue worker carries an elderly woman out of her flooded house in the Serbian village of Obrez on May 17, 2014

Floods have killed at least 44 people and caused some 10,000 to evacuate from the affected areas, while some towns have been completely cut off following the region's heaviest rainfall since the late 19th century

Thousands of people have fled their homes in Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina as massive floods fueled by record rainfall have already killed at least 44 people, officials say, and as residents have been warned about land mines exposed by mudslides.

Approximately 10,000 people have been evacuated from the affected areas, while some towns have been completely cut off by the deluge that hit the region’s Sava River, Agence France-Presse reports.

“We sent rescue teams into a part of the city we had not been able to access so far. They are entering those areas fearing what they might discover,” said Samo Minic, the mayor of the Bosnian town of Samac.

One rescue worker who spent two days trying to reach the Serbian village of Krupanj described the floods as looking “like a tsunami and earthquake occurred at once.”

“We found some 50 people gathered in the highest house,” Nedeljko Brankovic said. “They had neither electricity nor drinking water. Telephones did not work. We evacuated them 10 by 10 in a huge boat.”

Twenty-seven deaths have been reported in Bosnia, 16 reported in Serbia and one reported in Croatia. Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic said he expected the death toll to rise.

In addition to the floods, the rainfall led to destructive landslides and warnings that residents should beware of exposed landmines first buried during fighting and warfare in the 1990s.

[AFP]

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