The president of the self-proclaimed micro-nation of Liberland — the world's newest state, which exists on a remote patch of land in southern Europe — was arrested this weekend for attempting to enter his own self-professed country.
Czech politician Vit Jedlicka — the leader of Liberland, an unclaimed, 2.7-mile area between Croatia and Serbia, also known as Gornja Siga — told VICE News that he was fined 1,200 Kuna ($177) by Croatian police for the alleged trespass, but has only paid the deposit on the fine so far.
"It was [the] minimal fine possible, if we had committed [trespass] — which we did not," Jedlicka said.
"I really consider it a very good price to have the possibility to have such a long, and such an open-hearted talk with the Croatian police and with the Croatian justice," he added.
Jelena Bikic with the Ministry of the Interior for Croatia confirmed with the Daily Caller that Jedlicka had been arrested "for illegally trespass[ing] the border between Republic of Croatia and Republic of Serbia, outside the official border crossings."
The 31-year-old proclaimed his new state on April 13 — making Wednesday the tiny nation's one-month anniversary. On Liberland's website, it's described as a "Constitutional republic with elements of direct democracy." Jedlicka plans to make taxes voluntary, and to use bitcoin as currency.
The nearly three-square-mile area of Liberland is located on the west bank of the river Danube and accessible by car over miles of dust roads. When VICE News crossed into the area defined as Liberland in April, there was no sign of the Croatian border police. But that wasn't the case for Jedlicka this weekend.
Cheerily discussing his weekend detention, Jedlicka, who is a former member of the Czech Civic Democratic Party and stood as a European Parliament candidate for the Party of Free Citizens in 2014, characterized the events as steps forward for his self-declared country.
"It was a very friendly meeting. It was a way for them to get with me a serious talk at the table so we could discuss further steps for the Liberland border," he said. "There were hundreds of people crossing from Croatia to Liberland, and they are not used to that. They set up a Schengen border, they put up loads of police there, and we expected and we hoped that they would be protecting our border. I think they didn't expect such a large emigration from Croatia."
Jedlicka said that in discussions with authorities, which lasted for some five hours, he described how he'd set up the state — which has not been recognized by any other nation — and what will happen next.
"Many of these guys actually were keen about the idea," he told VICE News. "Some of them even suggested that they would like to work for the border police of Liberland in the near future."
"They really wanted to know what are we going to do next. How are we going to approach development? How are we going to approach the project of Liberland itself?" he said.
Jedlicka said that after this lengthy discussion he appeared before a judge, who told him that his children had already tried to enter Liberland before police stopped them.
"It was another friendly meeting, where we had a lot of laughs after it and he also suggested that every good president was arrested… In the Czech Republic it's almost inevitable that the people from Czech Republic get arrested before they become president."
Jedlicka said that the day before, he had met with the Czech foreign ministry. "They told me that this project actually might have success if we have a peaceful project, which will be mainly about freedom and love."
He also expressed the view that people should not be fined for leaving the Schengen area. "We really have to start talking to Croatia about this issue, so it's not an embarrassment for both countries."
After all the drama of the last two days, Jedlicka told VICE News he is now relaxing and spending time with his "first lady."
Later this week, he said, he will renew efforts to source ships, which can be used to enter the territory through international waters and via the Danube River.
Jedlicka told VICE News that Liberland will be holding a party Friday, where he'll be handing out citizenships, and that "everyone is invited" to apply. He expects about 140 people to turn up this week, a figure which he claims should double each week thereafter.
So far, hundreds of thousands of people have signed up online to become citizens of Liberland.
Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd
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