Claudio Grass, Global Gold: Vit, it is a pleasure to have this opportunity to talk to you. Let's dive right in and start with the topic that made headlines this year: Liberland. Can you tell us when you first envisioned the idea of creating Liberland? Could you explain to us the ideas and events that led you to take this step and how this project came to life?
Vít Jedlička: Most people that come to this world wonder how they can make it a better place. I was no exception. When I started understanding the world at the age of around six, we had the Velvet Revolution in the Czech Republic. Lots of things dramatically changed for the better. That convinced me that things could be improved even more. When I was 13, I read "The Law" by Frédéric Bastiat. This book motivated me to get politically involved and to stand up for more economic freedom in the world. I spent the last five years campaigning in the Czech Republic for lower taxes and less regulation. Our Libertarian party now even has one member in the European Parliament, but to me this simply is not enough. Libertarian and free market concepts are often dismissed, because as the argument goes "they don't work in the real world". I created Liberland to create an example of how these concepts can be implemented in reality.
Global Gold: What would you consider the core values that the state of Liberland is built on to be?
Vít Jedlička: Liberland is a model of how a minarchist state built on classical liberal values should look like. We truly believe that governments do more harm than good when they meddle into people's affairs. In my view, the state should be severely limited to its proper role, which is diplomacy, security and justice. In today's world, even so-called free market countries such as Switzerland or Singapore have evolved into organisms that are extremely over-regulated.
Global Gold: What would you say to someone that says that declaring Liberland is nothing more than a PR-stunt to position yourself and your political party in the Czech Republic? How high do you think the chances actually are that in ten years time Liberland will have a population, a running state apparatus and be accepted by the international community?
Vít Jedlička: I would strongly disagree; Liberland was never a PR-stunt. Despite its size, we have every intention of turning Liberland into a prosperous free market-oriented country with a solid rule of law. Obviously, I know that this will not happen overnight. We currently have almost 400'000 people interested in citizenship. I have met countless applicants; they are all highly motivated and want to help build Liberland. With this starting position, I am confident that we will be able to build a completely sovereign state built upon libertarian values in the long-term.
In a recent CIA report about Liberland, the chances of Liberland gaining statehood was described as being "higher than zero". I believe that Liberland is the best chance we have in this century to set up a truly libertarian state. The best way of predicting the future is to actively shape it, so that is my goal with Liberland in the coming years. Regarding acceptance by the international community, I am confident that we are on the right track: Liberland is already widely recognized by the diplomatic community and we are in discussions with many governments regarding the official endorsement of Liberland.
The location of Liberland - it will be a micro-state in terms of its territory, but the EU is apparently already scared of it. What if it turns out that people actually like liberty?
Map by Elevatorrailfan
Global Gold: The papers have described Liberland as anti-EU. You've established relations with the Swiss SVP and with Nigel Farage from the UKIP party. Can you tell us your main points of criticism regarding the EU?
Vít Jedlička: The philosophy behind Liberland is to set a positive example for other countries and to be allowed to live peacefully. We do not want to fight against anybody nor are we against anybody. We "only" want to set a good example for how a free society can function. So describing Liberland as "anti-EU" is incorrect, however in many ways the ideas behind Liberland are not compatible with large bureaucratic bodies that set minimum taxes and generally tend to over-regulate. In many ways, I am sympathetic with Swiss SVP and UKIP policies. Although we do not want to fight Brussels, we are offering a feasible alternative. We are aware of the fact that whenever new taxes are introduced and further harmful regulation is passed in the EU, that it will lead to more citizenship applications for us.
This cartoon illustrates nicely what scares the eurocrats and the bureaucracies of the surrounding nations about the Liberland idea.
Global Gold: Regarding citizenship applications, how many applications have you received so far? Could you explain to us the criteria of an eligible citizen? In other words, how do you 'filter' your citizenship applications?
Vít Jedlička: So far we have exactly 387'397 people who registered on our website, from these applications 75'315 are eligible for citizenship. People are eligible if they don't have a communist or extremist history, share our national ideology which embraces freedom, and they are actively willing to help us get the country up and running.
Global Gold: As you mention communists, Nazis and other "extremists" are not eligible for citizenship. Would you prohibit or restrict these communities by law if they develop over time? How do you make sure that such legislation is not misused to rid Liberland of persons critical of the government by calling them "extremists"?
Vít Jedlička: Legislation can always be misused and we took that into consideration when drafting the constitution so we have a several safety mechanisms in place. For example: It is extremely difficult to change the constitution, because a change in the constitution requires a unanimous decision by the assembly. With this mechanism we hope the spirit of the republic will last much longer than it did in the US.
Global Gold: What kind of people and companies do you think will call Liberland their home? Are you targeting specific sectors or industries to re-domicile in Liberland?
Vít Jedlička: Several sectors have already voiced their interest. The biggest interest we have received thus far is from IT companies and financial institutions. Due to the absolute freedom of speech that we offer in Liberland, several media companies are interested in relocating to Liberland.
Global Gold: As a libertarian you are likely to have some views that are considered "radical" amongst non-libertarians, such as views on drug laws or arms trafficking. Liberland, however, is not an "island" in Europe, so it is likely that some laws will be enacted so that the international community takes Liberland seriously. As a libertarian head of state (in the real world), how do you define what role of government is to be considered permissible and what not? What regulations and restrictions will there be?
Vít Jedlička: That is not an easy question but what we will do is try to find the right balance between international norms and our own ideology. Of course we will have to make some compromises every now and then. We have no intention of making Liberland a place for drug and weapon trafficking. I also mentioned that financial institutions are interested in Liberland. Although, we strongly oppose the overregulation of the financial industry, we will have anti-money laundering legislation so that we can make sure that Liberland does not turn into a money-laundering hub. All this would hurt our international reputation.
A close-up of Liberland's location: it is the green patch referred to as "Siga" on the map - neither Croatia nor Serbia claim sovereignty over it, but both are trying - hopefully in vain - to keep Liberland from happening.
Map by Tomobe03
Global Gold: Croatian and Serbian legal experts claim that, under international law, you have no right to claim this land. Which laws are they basing their assessment on, and which laws do you refer to when claiming that you have the right?
Vít Jedlička: I also noticed that the press referred to some experts, who claimed we have no right to claim Liberland. However, they were never mentioned by name and I have never read any of their arguments. Liberland was formed on what was formerly known as Gorna Siga. This area was terra nullius, meaning that no other country claimed sovereignty over this area. We claimed it and declared a new state, which is absolutely legal under international law.
Global Gold: You, your staff and supporters of Liberland were detained by police when trying to reach Liberland. How did the authorities justify this? Will there be a legal challenge from your side? Is it currently possible to visit Liberland?
Vít Jedlička: The court of higher instance remanded a case for another round of appeal to a lower court. We see this as a big victory, since Croatia's own legal system is starting to recognize that if Croatian police try to prevent people from entering Liberland (or even enter Liberland) that they are operating out of their jurisdiction. We have now also found ways to enter Liberland without any harassment by Croatian police. We are currently organizing everything so we can settle in Liberland comfortably and permanently during the spring, when temperatures are warmer to build permanent establishments in our country.
A design proposal for the future Liberland
Global Gold: How will you protect yourself and your borders against outside harassment, or even worse, aggression? Which institute, organization, or entity will you resort to if your disputes with your neighbors escalate?
Vít Jedlička: We are in the middle of negotiations with a large private security agency that will take active steps to secure our borders in the near future. Securing our borders is a vital aspect for the success of Liberland.
Liberland as it looks today...
Photo credit: Cropix / SIPA / REX
Global Gold: Could you tell us what your short-term, mid-term, and longer-term plans for Liberland are? What are you highest priorities at the moment? When do you expect to hold the first elections?
Vít Jedlička: Currently, our first priority is our architectural competition (link designliberland.splashthat.com). We want to show the world how we are going to develop this area to the benefit of all parties involved. We are also very active in diplomacy. Just in the last two days I have met with six ambassadors in Prague and we are organizing a presentation for them next week to explain Liberland and what we are planning. International recognition would be helpful, but it is not as crucial as having good relations with Croatia. Building up our diplomatic and PR presence in Croatia is very important to us. We are still waiting for the results of the power struggle which is happening there now after the election. Another key element is the proper organization of our nation. That is why I am announcing the members of the new government this week and this is also why we are developing an application that will make communication between the government and the people very easy. Our long-term plan is, of course, to build the most libertarian and prosperous country in the world.
What Liberland could look like in the future...
Image credit: skyscrapercity.com
Global Gold: How would you describe the economic road map of Liberland? How would you describe the role of the government in the market?
Vít Jedlička: The government's role should be exclusively limited to security, diplomacy and justice. We want to go even further and leave parts of these functions to the private sector as well. I believe we can outsource security with an UBER-style approach and parts of the justice system can be delegated to private courts.
Another Liberland architectural design proposal
Image credit: Aljser Architects
Global Gold: You devised a currency called the "Merit". Could you tell us a bit more about this currency? Why did you think it is necessary for the state of Liberland to create a currency?
Vít Jedlička: A currency is one of the symbols of statehood. We took the best out of the fiat and cryptocurrency system and introduced a well working currency from which everybody will benefit. Merits are used as a reward system for people who help our cause; these Merits represent a claim on the future revenues of Liberland. You could describe Merits as a kind of "private equity currency".
We should mention that we believe in the importance of competing currencies, we will therefore not pressure anybody to use our currency. Inside Liberland, everyone is free to use the currency they choose for all transactions and also when dealing with the government.
Global Gold: As Global Gold, I am also interested to learn your thoughts about gold?
Vít Jedlička: I have been a gold bug since 2003, when I wrote my thesis on foreign reserve systems. I even organized a Gold Initiative for the Czech Republic (zlatainiciativa.cz) very shortly before I started Liberland. Lukas Reimann, the Swiss SVP politician, was the key-note speaker at the conference. The Czech central bank faces similar challenges to the Swiss central bank as it has accumulated large amounts of foreign reserves. The Czech central bank currently only holds 0.8% percent in gold, which is a shame.
Global Gold: Thank you very much, Vit, for this opportunity to speak with you and for sharing your views with us.
About: Vít Jedlička is a Czech politician, publicist and activist. He received his Bachelor's degree from the University of Economics, Prague in 2009 and his Master's degree from CEVRO Institut in 2014. Since 2009, he has been a member of the Free Citizens Party, where he was elected the first Regional President in the Hradec Králové Region. Vít Jedlička considers himself a libertarian with liberal views on individual freedom and has described himself as a Bastiat-influenced anarcho-capitalist. Jedlička is also a Eurosceptic and highly critical of the European Union as an institution, as well as the general conduct of some of its member states. On 13 April 2015, he founded and proclaimed the Free Republic of Liberland on land between Serbia and Croatia unclaimed by either nation and became its first president.