On April 13, 2015, a young Czech politician called Vit Jedlicka arrived in Croatia with the sole intention of claiming “Terra Nullius” on an isolated piece of land on the edge of the River Danube. It was this date that will be remembered for many reasons! The level of International media coverage the occasion gained must have sent trembles down the spines of the Croatian government officials. The event did trigger a virtually immediate response from Zagreb. They viewed it as a media hoax, and began to consider how to protect its “borders” again.
Resourceful Jedlicka, and his group of likeminded supporters, began to land on territory claimed by Liberland, concluding in many arrests for various minor infringements. Zagreb went one step further, by instructing the local harbor master to place “no stopping or anchoring” signs on the foreshore of the claimed territory. The reasons for justifying this action were mainly to protect lives and property, they view those wishing to swim or land on the sandy beach a high risk to shipping.
When one takes a closer examination of the situation one has to wonder what is the motive for Croatia’s stance. It seems contradictory in many ways. Croatia accedes that “Siga” is in fact Serbian territory, along with several other similar pockets of land on the Danube. When we look at historical maps drawn before the collapse of Yugoslavia, we can establish the same conclusion. Serbia, has already declared that Liberland does not encroach its territory.
Heavy Policing Policy
Since the birth of Liberland, the number of police patrolling the territory has increased, committing massive resources that are best served in the communities that need them. The reality of the area is 7 km2 of barren land, which is also part of a flood plain. With restricted road access, due to Croatian Forestry owning the surrounding area, the best route to access is by boat. Incredible resources are used to the area, which include up to 4 small police patrol boats. During the lead up to the 2nd Anniversary celebrations of Liberland, the presence of land-based officers also increased.
On 12th April, during a pre-anniversary logistics trip, we took a small boat, to recon the area. Setting off from Bezdan in a Serbian registered boat, we ventured down the Danube. Whilst maintaining clearly in International and Serbian territorial waters, we proceeded to find suitable landing spots. To our surprise we saw a contingent of Croatian police on the foreshore at RM 1413. Further downstream we saw a police boat had stopped a fisherman who was obviously close to Liberland shores. We landed on Serbian shores directly opposite Liberland. We completed our task of ensuring a suitable landing place for the Liberland delegation and set off back for Bezdan.
Maintaining our legal obligation of remaining in Serbian waters, we were quickly joined by a police boat, who came within a few meters alongside us. They slowed to our speed and began to take pictures of the occupants. After several minutes they sped off upstream, to land on the shore with their colleagues. We proceeded to continue our journey back to Bezdan. Approaching, we were surprised to see Croatian police officers standing at the half way point of the bridge between Croatia and Serbia. They had binoculars and digital cameras pointed at us, and continued to monitor our activity even after we had landed in Serbia. What is at stake here? Why is Croatia spending excessive amounts of tax payers’ money on a territory it has already acceded to Serbia?
Fearful Government Interventions!
Leading up to the 2nd anniversary event, the organizers had arranged the charter of a hydrofoil from Mahart Company in Budapest. The service was arranged with a Croatian travel agency and everything had been confirmed in writing. At the time of payment for the service Liberland wanted to settle the invoice directly with Mahart. In accordance with well-known practices for charter the name of the charter party was given.
It was at this time that due diligence was performed by the owners of Mahart Company on Liberland. After ten days of due diligence the answer from the Hungarian government owned enterprise was delivered. Unfortunately, they were unable or unwilling to charter the hydrofoil to Liberland, or any other party for that matter.
During due diligence, it was clear the many government agencies in Croatia and Hungary were scrutinizing the activities of several individuals, including myself. Several traces were left by their agencies on private websites, including MUP Zagreb and MFA Budapest. A clear indication that the decision to decline the charter was made at a government level. Yet the well-publicized event must proceed. Alternative solutions were found that involved buses, cars and smaller boats, the show has to go on! In effect, the lines were clearly drawn in the sand, yet the desire for the movement to continue did not deter Jedlicka and his team.
Liberland Anniversary Event
With guests arriving from all over the world, including Croatian Member of Parliament, Ivan Pernar, the group congregated at Duna Wellness Hotel in Baja, Hungary. The energy was electric, with a tone of determination to pursue a vision. Ivan Pernar referred to his own personal encounters with the Croatian police during eviction protests. He reminded the audience that if we believe in something, and the law is on our side, never to give up. Far too many people who support an idea or movement give up when the authorities intervene. Some may continue, but only the strongest will follow through until the end.
He also referred to the Order Of Malta which has international diplomatic relations with 100 nations, 28 more than Croatia shares. In addition has permanent observer status at the UN. Liberland continues to build its network of diplomatic offices around the world, and already has over 80. Pernar further gave his full support to Jedlicka and Liberland.
As the event unfolded, other speakers’ spoke of their determination, passion and vision for Liberland, as well as demonstrating the future plans. Technology, digital currencies, car registration and the first water-based settlement were all topics covered over the two day event. The 50 guests were driven to Bezdan, where they enjoyed a citizenship ceremony on the first of several landing pontoons commissioned by Liberland.
Boat To Liberland
A small group of journalists, dignitaries and senior government ministers of Liberland were than taken on a boat trip downstream towards Liberland. Fairly swiftly after departing Bezdan, the two boats were shadowed by the Croatian police. At first, one small craft, then as we approached Liberland, another much larger patrol boat joined. Onboard were a large number of police officers, who were busy filming and scanning. There was also a clear physical presence of officers on the foreshore also. They must have been expecting a large landing party to step foot on the shore.
Remaining in Serbian waters, the Liberland flotilla slowed to show the foreshore, to the journalists and guests. Yet another Croatian police vessel appeared, and as we slowed it was clear to see more officers waiting on the foreshore. Each police boat was gathering photographs and observing the Liberland activities. The boats slowly returned without incident, but were closely monitored, until they arrived in Bezdan.
The question must be asked who authorized such an expensive police operation in the first place. It seems the old days of treating peace with aggression is running rife in the minds of government officials. Surely it is in Croatia’s interest to sit down, and discuss how to resolve the existing border disputes, and put them to sleep once and for all.
One would like to think that the officials would be satisfied with an event free weekend. Unfortunately orders exist to inconvenience participants and supporters of Liberland. Relying on existing rules and regulations at borders to “pay us back” for exercising our rights to freedom of speech. the event was captured by a film crew from Kandoo Films, USA, who are creating a human interest documentary that includes Liberland. I had been tasked with driving them around Osijek and Vukovar, to capture local interviews and footage.
Fate took us to the Bezdan-Batina border crossing, where the Serbian authorities did not question our activities, despite most of it taking place beneath the same bridge. On arrival at Batina border post, the story was much different. We were asked to pull over whilst they checked our passports a little closer, 3 EU and 1 US citizen! After 20 minutes, they decide to ask more questions, but were particularly interested if we had Liberland passports! The officer was very uncomfortable, as he tried in English to communicate.
He disappeared again, and on his return he produced a pre-printed document in English. Schengen Borders Code for a thorough border check, which seems unusual as Croatia is not part of Schengen zone as yet. In any event, he proceeded to seek his colleague’s assistance to examine each bag and passenger. The car was loaded with many bags as well as film equipment, all of which was carefully examined by Customs and Police. The US citizen was taken away for some personal questions, obviously to satisfy EU rules for entry, as well as asked to show her return ticket to USA. The fact that she had entered Hungary a day before, was something they were not interested in.
The officers were cordial, they kept explaining that they were just doing their job, and following orders from Zagreb, and after 2 hours, they kindly gave us the all clear to leave. What exactly they were they looking for I have no idea, but it seems the authorities are suffering from paranoia. It is very easy to give an order, to carry out a set of instructions, relying on a piece of law created for such a purpose.
In light of the fact the whole weekend’s events went ahead without anyone being arrested, or any infringement of international, local or EU laws, one would have thought they may have been a little more relaxed. In addition the whole water event was streamed live via social media by Ivan Pernar, so in theory all the authorities had to do was sit and watch.
Whilst the Croatian government may wish to sit behind its stone wall position, it cannot deny the reality. Liberland has staked its’ claim on a territory Croatia has already acceded to Serbia. Siga does not appear in the Cadaster of Croatia, neither does it appear on EU territorial maps. The Liberland movement will continue forward, gathering more followers and support across the world. It seems a sensible situation to sit, talk, and discuss how this matter can be resolved instead of hoping it will go away.
The Future For Liberland!
With over 450,000 potential citizens already registered, one can already begin to see the power of the movement. Whilst the government is in its infancy, the support from entrepreneurs and other international organizations continues to grow. Technology will play a key role in pushing the ideals forward, as well as forming the foundations for governance. As the foundations with the local community become more cohesive, the first water based settlement will bring much needed economic benefit to the region.
Perhaps the Croatia officials should consider the tremendous economic benefit to the whole of Baranja. To build a new city of 30-40,000 people is going to require a massive investment, as well as a whole host of employment opportunities in an area that has been ravished by Toderic et al. In addition there is a need to supply valuable commodities to Liberland, such as food stuffs, construction goods, and many other necessities. The benefit to the region is phenomenal, and will allow others to prosper and grow as Liberland does.
It is a sad shame that certain government officials are blind to all of these facts, yet are determined to support a failing enterprise that has lined the pockets of a few. Liberland will continue to gain momentum, as will the energy associated with it.