Access to Liberland has been consistently denied to all visitors since May 3, 2015 when Croatian forces began their occupation of the territory. Since that time there have been over 30 arrests of people entering, whether by foot or by boat. Arrests have been across many nationalities including Croatian, Dutch, American, Swiss, Czech, Brazilian and Danish.
The alleged “crime” is always the same: illegal border crossing. Due to these dozens of false arrests by the Croatian police, locals are having some natural anxieties about approaching the area. Earlier this week, local media Glas Slavonije published an article about the difficulties locals are facing and their inability to enjoy the unspoiled and natural beauty of Liberland.
For many years locals have flocked to this area to enjoy its sun, fun and serenity during long summer days. According to the article, locals even referred to it as their “Dubai on the Danube.” The article quotes a number of locals who are fearful of even approaching the area due to the heavy police activity.
In response to the article’s publication, the local Croatian police contacted Glas Slavonije to make an announcement: “Croatian citizens may go to Liberland!”
In their statement, the local police admit that the area is disputed and that it does not fall within the cadastral area of Croatia. They go on to say that the measures taken are aimed at people who illegally cross the border between Serbia and Croatia. Despite these facts, the police state that there are “no restrictions” on citizens of Croatia.
There are some obvious contradictions in these statements. The police claim that they are only stopping people who are “illegally” crossing the border and admit that this area is not part of Croatia. To date there isn’t an established border crossing between Croatia and this particular land. And yet the police somehow say that Croatians are welcome to come to this area without restrictions. If you are confused, welcome to Liberland!
It remains unknown if the police will actually halt arrests of Croatian citizens in this area. Since May there have been at least two known arrests of Croatians for stepping foot into Liberland. Even a member of European Parliament with a diplomatic passport was not allowed to enter the territory, and his assistant was arrested and spent the night in a Croatian prison.
To think that Croatians will be allowed to enter this land that absolutely nobody has been allowed to enter in recent months brings about some troubling questions. Are Serbians not allowed to enter this land? This land historically belonged to Serbia and has never been claimed by Croatia. Are EU citizens not allowed to enter this land even though Croatians have no restrictions? This would seemingly violate the EU’s right to free movement.
Some may wonder if Croatian police are simply unwilling to apply the law uniformly. If Croatian citizens can enter this land to go for a swim, why not a French citizen? If the border dispute is between both Croatia and Serbia, as Croatia describes it, why don’t Serbians have free and equal access to this land?
It continues to be argued by many that Croatia has no jurisdiction in this area in the first place. The Croatian government recently stated that the land is “between Croatia and Serbia” without claiming sovereignty over it. With the police admitting that the area is outside the cadastral area of Croatia, it is yet another piece of evidence that their actions there are both illegal and dangerous. Liberland, for its part, would gladly welcome Croatians, Serbians and all tourists to visit and enjoy this land without fear of arrest. If only the police would spend their time elsewhere and ‘live and let live’ there wouldn’t be restrictions on anybody from enjoying this once peaceful oasis.
Photo: Ivica Getto, Glas Slavonije