17 October 2019
Self-proclaimed president of the "Free Republic of Liberland" Vit Jedlicka (seated, C) gives out free citizenship in the village Backi Monostor in Serbia earlier this month. Photo: Reuters
Self-proclaimed president of the "Free Republic of Liberland" Vit Jedlicka (seated, C) gives out free citizenship in the village Backi Monostor in Serbia earlier this month. Photo: Reuters

Will Liberland become a real country?

On the Western bank of Danube River, near the border between Serbia and Croatia, a new micronation called Liberland was founded on April 13.

Czech scholar Vit Jedlicka established the country on a tiny 7-square-kilometer patch of land, declaring it as the “Free Republic of Liberland”.

The initiative has drawn a lot of attention from the media. It is also interesting to note that Jedlicka claims the idea of Liberland comes from places like Hong Kong and Liechtenstein.

Liberland has its own national emblem, flag and official languages. The micronation will neither tax its people, nor have its own army.

It currently has seven citizens, but more than 200 thousand people are said to have applied for citizenship.

Jedlicka targeted 5000 people as the country’s full capacity at the beginning, but changed it into 35 thousand, which is roughly the equivalent of the population of Liechtenstein.

The question now is if such a country will be accepted by the international community.

Normally, there are four conditions for a political actor to be a modern state: a fixed boundary, people, an effective government, and international recognition.

Liberland is located between Croatia and Serbia, and Jedlicka claims that piece of land is not owned by any country. According to him, Croatia and Serbia have never indicated their sovereignty over Liberland, ever after the country was established. It seems that Liberland fulfills the first condition.

There is no lower limit for a country’s population. Liberland has a potential population of 200 thousand which would exceed Vatican City’s 1,000 people.

Jedlicka claims the country will be managed by an executive council of 10 to 12 people, which will be clearly an effective government.

No country has recognized Liberland as a country yet, and it is not expected that there will be any in the foreseeable future. However, it’s fair to say that Jedlicka has succeeded at least in showing his political hand.

There are many similar cases like Linderland, the most famous being Sealand. Paddy Roy Bates, a former major of the British Army, and his family occupied the empty Rough Tower, a 550-square-meter offshore platform located about 10 kilometers away from the East coast of England, in 1967.

There was a coup in 1978. Alexander Acherbach, a German professor and the Prime Minister appointed by Bates, took over Sealand and kidnapped the son of Bates. Bates then hired some mercenaries to fight back. Acherbach was caught and charged with treason.

In order to save Acherbach, Germany sent a diplomat to negotiate with Bates. Since then, Bates has been using that as evidence that Germany has already recognized Sealand as a country.

These may seem like jokes at the first glance. However, under globalization, it will become easier to buy or construct a small island in the high seas, and then establish some similar self-declared states.

In addition, there will be more states founded through the Internet. These states, either virtual or physical, may overthrow people’s understanding of sovereign states. The Islamic State is one such example.

If Liberland can gradually build itself up on the seven square meters of land, it could become the friendly version of Islamic State for people aspiring for freedom.

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Associate professor and director of Global Studies Programme, Faculty of Social Science, at the Chinese University of Hong Kong; Lead Writer (Global) at the Hong Kong Economic Journal