The Free Republic of Liberland became a self-proclaimed country when de facto President Vit Jedlicka and a handful of friends drove to a disputed patch of land, just seven kilometers squared, on the Serbian-Croatian border and raised a flag. That was last week. Now, the country has a plan to power Liberland with renewable energy.
Liberland is nothing more than empty parcel of land with a flag right now, save for the small crew of Liberlandians apparently squatting there and a single abandoned building that they plan on renovating, Jedlicka told me when I spoke to him in the unofficial Liberland embassy in the Czech Republic via Skype. A documentary team was present. Liberland's citizens could also be removed at any moment, if either the Serbians or the Croatians decide to kick them out by force. The Liberlandian border has already been closed off on the Croatian side, Jedlicka said.
Even so, Jedlicka—a Czech politician who is a member of the Free Citizens' Party—has some big infrastructure plans for Liberland, which will regulate businesses as lightly as possible and will not tax them. These plans include partnering with HKfree, a libertarian-leaning internet network collective at which Jedlicka previously served as CEO, to bring a fast internet connection to Liberland. The tiny country, Jedlicka told me, will also host server farms and potentially a stock exchange; he claims one businessperson has already inquired about setting one up.
How will Liberland power all of this infrastructure, without the approval or partnership of its neighbouring countries?
"We need [solar power] to run our servers, and our telecommunications," said Jedlicka. "We will also use regular power generators when we fix the building that's there. But there is a great means of energy in Liberland, and it's almost limitless. It's the [Danube] river. We are totally independent because of the river—it's nearly 700 metres wide—and we can use it as a limitless source of energy."
Liberland is positioning itself as a futuristic, Earth-friendly libertarian utopia. Mockups of what Liberland will one day look like, shared on its Facebook page, depict the tiny country as a green paradise. The Danube's tributaries snake around grass-covered islands of skyscrapers, and the city streets are lined with greenery and urban farming spaces; the trains run on tracks laid on lawns, somehow.
Despite all this, Jedlicka said, Liberlandians are not tree huggers. They're just practical libertarians.
"It's a totally practical thing," Jedlicka told me. "In the Czech Republic, they have the most solar power per capita in the whole world, and there are 50 days of shine in the whole year. It's such nonsense, all these subsidies for solar power. I'm a fan of solar power when it makes sense. If there's another source of power, like a nuclear power plant, it's nonsense."
"It just makes sense, because we are unable to connect to the grid," he added, "It would take years before we could connect to Croatia."
Green energy is a long-term plan for Liberland, Jedlicka told me, but they have much more immediate concerns to worry about. Like renovating the one building in the country, for example, and turning Liberland into something more than a flag, a few squatters, and a website. To this end, Liberland is planting unofficial embassies in the Czech Republic, where Jedlicka is from, as well as Germany, Serbia, and Canada.
According to Jedlicka, Liberland's Canadian ambassador will be Brian Lovig, who runs an ultra-right wing blog called Right Edition. He donated $10,000 to Liberland, according to a post on Liberland's Facebook page. A hefty donation is enough, I suppose, to qualify him for a position in government.
But these pop-up embassies need international approval, just like Liberland itself, to become legitimate. So far, the only country to recognize Liberland's statehood has been the Kingdom of North Sudan, Jedlicka said, another self-proclaimed state in North Africa started by an American man named Jeremiah Heaton, whom Jedlicka referred to as "King Jeremiah."
"We hope to have half a million [likes] by next month. This is all part of creating our nation"
This is why internet infrastructure, powered by renewable energy or not, is important for Liberland. Even if the US government hasn't given the country its blessing, the internet already has—the main Facebook page of Liberland has over 100,000 likes. Approval in the eyes of the media, even social media, Jedlicka said, will be key for Liberland's success.
"On the moment we have much larger support on social media and elsewhere for our small state," Jedlicka said. "If everybody knows where Liberland is—getting recognized by the diplomats—it's much easier. If you create some ridiculous land you go around, but nobody knows about you, and you try to get the diplomats to recognize you, you'd be in a much worse position than we are."
"We hope to have half a million [likes] by next month. This is all part of creating our nation."
If Liberland is still around in a couple years—a possibility that seems immensely unlikely—perhaps renewable energy will be another selling point for a self-proclaimed country apparently struggling against the odds and all reason to build a libertarian utopia.