Dateline: Bucharest, Romania
In April, self-described Czech Libertarian Vít Jedlička planted the flag of a new nation in Europe.
Here in the Balkans, Liberland is proposed as the world’s next micro-state; a tiny nation in the midst of much larger nations. Liberland is less than 3 square miles in size, about four times the size of Monaco and not much larger than Vatican City.
Yet Jedlička claims that Liberland, located in a no-man’s land between Croatia and Serbia, will be the world’s next tax haven and an open place for all free people.
For the record, one of our virtual assistants who lives in Croatia about 30 minutes from Liberland thinks the whole idea is a bit fishy.
Ever since planting the new Liberland flag in the capital city of Liberpolis, Jedlička has been furiously busy conducting interviews with media from around the world and letting the world’s other sovereign states know that his new country wants to be part of the map.
The country sounds promising: citizens will determine how much in taxes they want to pay, and businesses will be welcome. The country is looking into its own cryptocurrency — along the lines of Bitcoin — to use as a currency.
And Liberland is welcoming anyone to apply to become a citizen who has respect for all people, a libertarian philosophy, and no criminal history. You also can’t have a “communist or Nazi past”.
So far, an estimated 250,000 people from around the world have applied to become citizens of the new tax haven, even though the country hasn’t had time to make a full citizenship application available.
Applying for Liberland citizenship (to become… Liberlandese? A Liberlander?) is as easy as registering your interest on the new government’s website. As soon as more details are available, they’ll email you.
Of course, I’m always excited at the prospect of a new nation being born. I’ve repeatedly said that I’m a fan of small countries, not only because they typically come with limited government, but also because they are forced to work hard to make their country successful.
If Singapore had told everyone there “you don’t get to keep your money”, the place wouldn’t be awash in high-talent expats contributing billions of dollars to the tiny economy. The same for Monaco.
Unlike The Land of the Free, Singapore didn’t become the world’s new wealth haven because it won a war and demanded everyone respect it as the center of the financial universe. They did it by appealing to people through the free market.
That’s exactly what Liberland prepares to do.
If you’re looking for a second citizenship, it wouldn’t hurt to sign up with Liberland just to see what happens. You never know what could happen. That said, while I would love to see Liberland flourish as the 197th sovereign nation, I have a few concerns.
With Croatia to the west and Serbia to the east, Liberland lies at the edge of the European Union and the Schengen Area. Entering Serbia requires going through passport control.
While passport controls are pretty easy if you’re an EU or Serbian citizen, we know that governments have a history of squashing dissent.
Forget simply cracking down on the place; it would be all too easy for EU officials to simply lock people in Liberland. It will be interesting to see how Europe reacts to a new nation being declared right in the middle of their bankrupt, high-tax continent.
Another issue is how quickly other nations will accept Liberland and their passport. I still get asked about whether the so-called “World Passport” is an acceptable travel document. (It’s not.)
While these World Service Authority passports have been used to enter dozens of countries, they have been largely useless in the 21st century. In the wake of the “war on terror”, governments are cracking down on border controls and scrutinizing everyone more carefully.
While it may not hurt to become a citizen of Liberland, the question is whether that citizenship will be truly effective on a global scale. Our US readers need especially be concerned about this, as they are the ones most in need of a second citizenship if they wish to escape tax reporting back home.
While pretty much any westerner can enter Croatia and Serbia visa-free, I presume there are many applying for citizenship from countries that can not enter Europe with a visa. Since no neighboring country has an obligation to let people pass through, that could pose a problem.
For example, I spent a day in the micro-state of San Marino last week. San Marino has a 30-year old treaty with China that allows each country’s citizens to visit the other visa-free. This is great for the San Marinese who can fly directly from Milan to Beijing, Shanghai, or wherever else.
But it’s not so great for the Chinese who can’t get to San Marino without going through Italy because there is no airport in San Marino. The same is true of Andorra and Monaco. (Needless to say, half of the people on the street in San Marino seemed to be Chinese.)
Getting citizenship in a landlocked country could pose issues if neighboring governments go crazy.
I’m fully behind what they’re trying to do in Liberland, especially since it is the only “free state project” of its kind located in a place where I could actually stand to live. (Several others are fighting over a patch of Antarctica, for example.)
At the end of the day, though, governments are like country clubs. If you don’t look and act the right way, you won’t get in.
I’m afraid if Liberland starts out as a super ultra-libertarian country, it won’t get the traction it needs to make its passport worthwhile or living there possible. That said, if you’re a fan of the type of “free state projects” that we’ve seen crop up in the United States, this one has a real chance to make a difference.