November 25, 2023, 10:56 a.m.
Most 14-year-old boys tend to be interested in video games, soccer, and finishing their homework, but Daniel Jackson decided he’d rather start his own country.
With the help of like-minded people he met online, Jackson identified a small strip of unclaimed land between Croatia and Serbia, giving birth to the Republic of Verdis in 2019.
“A group of people and I wanted to create something a little different in the world,” he said.
Why not just start a charity? “There are many humanitarian organizations and we wanted to take it to the next level. »
Jackson, born in Australia to British parents, dropped out of school during the Covid-19 pandemic and moved to the UK. After finding the land, he and his friends declared the existence of the new microstate. Jackson was named acting president.
“We want to be a neutral state, a humanitarian center,” he said. Verdis, taken from the Latin word for “green,” reflects the country’s respect for the environment, Jackson added.
He and his government colleagues want to eventually establish the country as a secular version of the Vatican – with “humanitarian missions” in other countries. They have already been to Ukraine several times.
Funding comes from NGOs and several individual donors, although Jackson declined to go into details. Money also comes from citizenship applications, which cost $16, as well as fundraising.
Verdis has received about 15,000 citizenship applications so far, but has only accepted about 350.
“We have strict criteria as to who we let in, we have a small lot, so we will accept people with the skills we are looking for,” Jackson said.
The most important skills are knowledge of international law and living off the grid, he added.
The 128-acre site, on the banks of the Danube, is divided between a northern, wooded and elevated part to the north, and a more marshy part to the south.
Jackson said Croatia and Serbia claim larger areas around the Danube, leaving this particular pocket unclaimed.
Although Verdis was proclaimed in 2019, settlers only attempted to establish their first permanent settlement on the 128-acre site last month. At that point, Croatian police intervened, arrested them and told them to leave the country or they would be deported.
But Jackson is undeterred by this setback and plans a legal battle to obtain rights to the land. He said maps of Croatia and Serbia show that neither side has claimed the territory where Verdis is located.
The national website Verdis describes the country’s first national crisis: “Croatian authorities forced the settlers onto a boat, claiming they were not under arrest, while preventing them from walking wherever it is. During this process, the settlers’ documents and cell phones were confiscated and the settlers were not allowed to record.
“They were detained for several hours in a police station near the Hungarian border, without freedom to leave. The authorities informed the settlers that they must leave Croatia within seven days for a period of three months, otherwise they would be forcibly expelled.
The Croatian government did not respond to a request for comment.
Jackson, who lives in Dover, has had no contact with the British Foreign Office, but Verdis enjoys some international recognition: Eswatini, a southern African country, recognized the country’s passports earlier this year .
The region he decided to settle in is known for its bloody wars linked to territorial conflicts during the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s. Did Jackson ever think that he and his compatriots could settle in a place where they were not wanted?
“No, we have had good relations with the local population (outside the territory), we have always had good relations,” he said. “We have only faced negativity from the authorities. »
Verdis is not far from Liberland, another microstate in the region. But although Verdis has a good relationship with Liberland, Jackson said, it has distanced itself from the focus on cryptocurrency.
In addition to Verdis’s humanitarian ideals, Jackson said he wanted it to be a model for new government systems. “We are looking at direct rather than semi-direct democracy,” he said. “The problem is it’s very easy to bribe, but we’re trying to make it more feasible.”
But Verdis should not be confused with a utopian melee. Jackson added that the country should establish its own police force and justice system, as well as maintain strict border control. “Standards are still met in this regard,” he said.
“No country is visa exempt and we have to be very careful who we let in. There is a whole procedure online. We do background checks, simply for security reasons. Otherwise, we don’t have the resources to easily track people.