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Sunday, 21 April 2024

Setting Foot on Liberland – One Big Step for all its Citizens

Interview with Thomas Walls, Minister of Foreign Affairs for Liberland

August 2023 is an amazing time for Liberland, with a formal border crossing set up in cooperation with Croatia for the first time ever. Thomas Walls, Minister of Foreign Affairs, speaks to the Liberland Press about the experience of crossing into Liberland for the first time.

“Access is via roundabout way. You cannot cross from Serbia, and you have to go to Croatia but the amazing thing is that Croatians are letting us in, not without some difficulty, but they are letting us in,” says Thomas.

Basically, Liberland citizens and visitors must drive to Croatia to Batina or Zmajevac, park the car and then continue the crossing on foot or via bicycle. The actual road into Liberland has been closed to cars. There is also a shuttle boat going twice a day from Batina to the Liberty, moored on the Croatian shore just north of the entrance to Liberland. Border guards will then check the passports before allowing people through.

“This is the first time since the foundation of Liberland that we are allowed to enter Liberland.”

Thomas is truly delighted, although he advises would-be travelers not to get Liberland immigration stamps in their passports as that might cause some delay at Croatian border crossings.

“We don’t recommend at this time that you get a Liberland stamp in your passport.”

The de facto border crossings are manned by Croatian border police. Another way to enter Liberland is via the river.

“You can board the Liberty, or indeed one of your own boats, and park up just past the 17-kilometer sign – this has been agreed by the Croatian police – and then go ashore.

“This has been my dream ever since I got involved, and my second dream has been to bike across Liberland, both of which I have now done.

“I haven’t run out of dreams yet,” says Thomas with a big smile on his face.

The settlement was only established the week before. The place chosen for the settlement is actually the site of the old ruined hunting lodge that was there in the beginning. Over the years, the building fell down and then the stones were towed away in 2018, but as President Vít Jedlička and the other settlers set up camp, they discovered they had chosen the self-same spot.

This discovery was prompted by another: It transpired there is a fully complete basement still on the site, it was built like a bomb shelter and survived attempts at demolition. To celebrate this find, President Vit placed a bottle of good Croatian wine in the cellar and declared it the first wine cellar in Liberland. The Liberlanders plan to restore the old lodge in good time, as the foundation stones are still there.

Liberland has also acquired a small fleet of bicycles for visitors to enjoy to travel across the seven square kilometers of land.

Caption: Jan Purkrabek (CZ) and Nicolas Mateos (ARG) accompanying Thomas Wall on a bike ride across Liberland

While Croatia is allowing Liberland citizens and friends to access the land, they are also imposing Croatian law over the settlement. Some of these laws forbid closed tents or open fires.

“So, we have open tents; a mess tent for the kitchen and a meeting tent. We have even set up the internet so that people can work, check their emails or even livestream from Liberland.”

To facilitate this service, Thomas was joined by Chief of Staff, Petr Krovina, up a large tree to find the optimum coverage for their wireless router. There is also a grill, a gas stove, chemical toilets and a generator. However, the recent arrival of solar panels will be erected to alleviate the need for the gasoline generator.

“There are no hot showers as yet, but we are working hard to make it as comfortable as possible.”

Thomas does warn non-EU citizens to register with the Croatian authorities. In a hangover from communism, anyone visiting who is not staying in a hotel or approved accommodation must register with the authorities or face a fine and possible eviction.

“I was treated well, paid my fine, exited Liberland and was then allowed to return. We advise all people visiting to be polite and respectful of the Croatian authorities even if the rules seem a little strange. Also, when exiting Croatia, please avoid talking about Liberland; it’s just not helpful at this stage.”

When asked how this has been achieved this year, Thomas points to a couple of milestones. Croatia had always considered the land of Liberland to belong to Serbia and has policed it as such, but earlier this year, Croatian joined the Schengen group of nations allowing free transit without visas for member countries. Then President Vit had met with the UK Youtuber, Niko Omilana, famous for his pranks and parody videos. Niko decided he wanted to enter Liberland (before the new border crossings allowed for this) to gain his Liberland citizenship. He made this successful attempt into a video complete with images of the Croatian police chasing him. This video racked up more than 7 million views.

Then President Vit met with President Zoran Milanović of Croatia. Nowadays with a more open dialogue between the two countries, Liberland is looking at ways of being more friendly and perhaps working together on tourism opportunities – after all, some 700,000 people from across the world have expressed an interest in becoming a Liberland citizen.

For Thomas, this is a more than exciting moment in the history of one of the smallest new countries in the world. When President Vit first claimed the terra nullius that was to become Liberland seven years ago, Thomas immediately was interested and it turns out they had friends in common. In addition, Thomas had collected studies on landmines left over from the breakup of Yugoslavia in the region.

“Luckily there were none abandoned in Liberland.”

Thomas also had some diplomatic experience as an American working in Hamburg, Bonn and Berlin, Germany and was invited to become the representative for the United States. 

“I worked for the late Richard Holbrooke when he was posted as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany. Later he brought the warring former Yugoslav Republics together at the Dayton Peace Accords. Our politics differed a bit, but he was a great man to work for and a true diplomat. When Liberland came about, I was delighted to be offered such a great opportunity and work with another great man, my friend Vit. I was very keen to help promote individual freedom on an international scale. As Liberland sought to expand its international relations, I was invited to become the Minister of Foreign Affairs, a post I readily accepted.”

Thomas works closely with the Liberland Secretary of State, Dr Tariq Abbasi, in creating a movement to secure international recognition for Liberland. In the last couple of years, things have moved on apace with a delegation sent to Bitcoin-friendly El Salvador, where the Liberland Aid Foundation made a generous donation to the children’s hospital, acknowledged with gratitude by President Nayib Bukele. 

“But having access to our own land is a crucial achievement for Liberland. And to have set up a settlement with amenities is a huge step forward. We have our own constitution, drawn up border laws, police laws and even established our own blockchain.”

For upto date instructions on how to enter Liberland – keep an eye on the offical government website 

It’s a good time to be a Liberland citizen.

Jillian Godsil
Blockchain Advocate, Founder, Conference Chair, Women in Blockchain Advocate, Keynote Speaker, Crypto Journalist, Broadcaster, CEO, Writer, Homelessness Advocate, Former European Parliament Candidate, Law Changer, Mother, Choir Member, Hill Walker, Dreamer

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