President of self-proclaimed Liberland ‘arrested’ for trying to cross into own country

Self-proclaimed president of the "Free Republic of Liberland" Vit Jedlicka (C)  poses with the Liberland flag and future citizenships in the village of Backi Monostor, Serbia May 1, 2015. (Reuters/Antonio Bronic)
The utopian country of Liberland is facing legal hurdles, mere weeks after being founded: the leader of the aspiring microstate was detained by Croatian border police. Both the Croats and Serbs are unhappy over lingering border issues.

31-year-old Czech Vit Jedlicka was trying to access his newfound country on foot when he was seized by patrols, then transferred to a jail in Beli Manastir, eastern Croatia, according to Croatia’s HRT broadcaster. The same report was run by the so-called Liberland Press Agency, which contacted Fox News.

Posted by Vít Liberland Jedlička on Monday, 20 April 2015

A Facebook post on the official page accompanied the story with the words – “Just note it was more friendly meeting than arrest.”

An earlier post outlined the events that preceded the arrest.

Apparently, “the president had a very beneficial meeting with eight ambassadors and with the personnel of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Zagreb, Croatia. The people involved in the meetings disclosed to him that Liberland has quite a chance of success if it is based on the love and freedom ideas that it purports to be. The president invited the ambassadors to a party in Liberland next weekend. In the evening, the president was detained by the Croatian police without him having crossed the border from Croatia to Liberland.”

The next paragraph reads that Jedlicka was released “after a very friendly meeting with the police and a judge in the town of Beli Manastir, Croatia. The president feels that there is a great degree of support from the Croatian police and judiciary and sees the arrest as a means for starting the talks with the Croatian side about opening a border crossing between Croatia and Liberland.

Liberland has also got legal representation for the negotiations in the Croatian jurisdiction.”

The 7 square km (3 square mile) patch of land, situated on the Danube, between the Serbian and Croatian borders, has widely been called “unclaimed,” owing to its problematic status after the redrawing of national borders in the aftermath of the Balkan wars of the early 1990s. But neither country considers it so, and there is still discussion to be had over the small territory.

That was never a problem for the self-proclaimed Republic of Liberland’s president, who has gathered around himself people of all walks of life and professional backgrounds to help set up a working country that wishes to be a tolerant, utopian paradise with little market control and even fewer laws.

But for over a week now – and just days before the so-called Free Republic of Liberland was to be populated – both the Serbs and Croats have been blocking the Czechs, Swiss, Danes and others from trying to reach the heavily-forested area to set up lives there.

After repeated attempts by Jedlicka’s followers to reach the area, the Croats deployed patrol guards and motorboats. The Serbs did the same.

The group of settlers proclaimed the parcel of land an independent country sometime in early April. Now it appears they have an issue with more things than just national recognition.

První občané LiberlanduPosted by Vít Liberland Jedlička on Monday, 20 April 2015

Serbian and Croatian legal experts are shaking their heads at the bold attempt to found a country on land that no one really forgot about.

"It is legally senseless that someone sticks a flag on a disputed territory and declares it an independent state," Bojan Milisavljevic, a professor at Belgrade University, told the AP.

The Croats call Liberland “a virtual caricature,” while the Serbs have described it as “an entertaining act which needs no further comment.”

Numerous backers of the idea, including Jedlicka himself, maintain that they simply wish to create a “minimal state” with “a voluntary tax system” and to “experiment with society the way it wants to be.”

But even simple onlookers on both sides of the Serbian/Croatian divide, supporting the idea at heart, doubt that such a thing can be created smack in-between two previously warring states still vying for the little parcel of land.

Dominik Galinec, from a nearby Croatian village, says he can “understand that some people are supportive of what’s happening… But realistically, you can’t just go somewhere and say ‘this is my country.’”