hidden europe 46

Of princes and politics: nation-building in the Danube wetlands

by Nicky Gardner

Picture above: Purple heron (image © Razvan Zinica / dreamstime.com)


The map of the Danube Valley is changing. Aspiring micro-nations are popping up on the west bank of the river. We've clocked Celestinia, Enclava and Liberland within the last three months. The governments of Croatia and Serbia are not amused.

Some say they have spotted willow warblers and purple herons in the marshlands. Others tell of seeing otters and beavers. This is the forgotten wilderness by the Danube. The slow-flowing river makes great meanders where imposing white-tailed eagles and black storks are often to be seen. Occasionally, during spring snowmelt and after summer storms, the Danube swells into a mighty torrent. But these past weeks have been dry and the river is languid and shy.

This summer there is much ado in these remote habitats. For in mid-April, a Czech politician arrived in the region. He surmised that neither Croatia nor Serbia was especially interested in a fragment of land on the west bank of the Danube, so he took it unto himself, declaring the territory to be the Free Republic of Liberland. You can read more about the alleged legal basis for Vít Jedlicka’s claim on a slither of flood-prone territory in the 26 April issue of our Letter from Europe (see “Liberland: Bring Your Wellies” where there is also a detailed map showing the exact location of Liberland).

The willow warblers and purple herons have surely not yet noticed any great changes, for the Croatian and Serbian authorities have been trying to stop Mr Jedlicka from reaching his fledgling republic. The governments of both countries dismiss Vít Jedlicka’s Liberland adventure as frivolous. This has not deterred Mr Jedlicka, who is presently touring Europe and preaching the Liberland gospel. The republic will, by all accounts, be a place with no taxes and few laws — in short, a paradise for those with right-wing libertarian instincts.

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