Andreas Baumgartner: Negotiating With Governments, Lifestyle Zones & Digital Nomadism

by | Jun 30, 2023 | Podcast

“I love starting from a positive approach and instead of asking myself ‘How can I fight these governments?’ as, unfortunately, many people still tend to do in the Free Cities space. The question I’m asking is ‘How can those Free Cities actually contribute to the development of the host country.’

Andreas Baumgartner scaled

The podcast is back in Montenegro again this week with a conversation I recorded at the pop-up city of Zuzalu.

I’m talking with a gentleman who has very deep ties to the Free Cities movement, working as he does in the economic development space. His name is Andreas Baumgartner and he has spent the last 25 years working in the political and legal side of the space with the likes of The Metis Institute, Tipolis and Praxis to name but a few.

Andreas has a wealth of practical knowledge on the nuts and bolts of actually negotiating with governments during the establishment and running of Special Economic Zones and semi-autonomous jurisdictions, which is somewhat of a rare occurrence in my experience due to the emergent nature of the whole Free Cities ecosystem.

In our conversation he is keen to emphasise the importance of trying to work with host governments and highlights the strategies he has learnt to employ when approaching them. He also comments on the current limitations we are facing with particular reference to the process of incentivising different demographics to move to new jurisdictions.

This is a fascinating and informative discussion. The first of many I hope as this movement continues to evolve. Andreas doesn’t just talk the talk, he very much walks the walk as well and I appreciate that about him very much.

Enjoy the conversation.

Automatically Generated Summary

00:00 Introduction

The host introduces the podcast and the guest, Andreas Baumgartner, who has extensive experience in economic development within the Free Cities movement.

Andreas Baumgartner’s Background

  • Andreas Baumgartner has been working in the economic development space for 25 years.
  • He is passionate about achieving large-scale impact in social, economic, and political development.
  • His work includes public-private partnerships, special economic zones, and city projects.
  • Currently focused on narrative development and regulatory strategies.

03:02 Experience with Governments

The host discusses with Andreas Baumgartner his experience of working with governments in the context of Free Cities projects.

Importance of Working with Governments

  • Seeing governments as enemies is a mistake; they should not be treated that way.
  • Most governments have good intentions despite their weaknesses.

Approaching Governments

  • It is crucial to approach governments in a non-hostile manner.
  • Building positive relationships and understanding their perspectives is key.

04:46 Best Approach to Free Cities Projects

The host asks Andreas Baumgartner about the best approach to engaging with governments for Free Cities projects.

Treating Governments as Partners

  • Viewing governments as partners rather than adversaries leads to better outcomes.
  • Collaborative approaches are more effective than confrontational ones.

Finding Common Ground

  • Identifying shared goals and aligning interests can help bridge gaps between government and Free Cities proponents.


Andreas Baumgartner emphasizes the importance of working with governments instead of treating them as enemies. He highlights the need for collaboration and finding common ground to achieve successful Free Cities projects.


In this section, the speaker discusses how free cities or international cities can contribute to the development of host countries both economically and culturally. The importance of governments desiring these cities is emphasized.

Strategies for Desirable Cities

  • 06:15 The speaker believes that free cities can attract talent and bring economic and cultural benefits to host countries.
  • 06:45 It is important to create models that make these cities desirable for governments.
  • 06:59 Emphasize the upside for the host nation, reduce uncertainty, create familiarity, and find compromises that work for all sides.
  • 08:50 Jointly work on solutions that benefit both the city and the government.

Real-Life Examples

  • 09:18 Economic impact assessments are recommended to showcase the direct and indirect effects of a project on a country’s economy.
  • 10:08 Communicate how the project benefits the country from a soft power perspective.
  • 10:36 Be prepared to answer questions about what is in it for the country when discussing projects with governments.


This section focuses on reducing uncertainty and increasing familiarity when discussing city projects with governments.

Familiarity and Reducing Uncertainty

  • 11:24 Human nature tends to interpret things based on what we already know. It is important to break down complex concepts into familiar terms.
  • 11:36 Explain that free cities are a logical evolution of special economic zones, starting from logistics, manufacturing, and services.

Note: Timestamp 0:05:49 – 0:06:15 does not have any specific content related to bullet points.

12:23 The Feasibility of Taking Action in the European Union

In this section, the speaker discusses the misconception that nothing can be done within the European Union and highlights the importance of prepared negotiations to discover feasible actions.

Feasible Actions in the European Union

  • Contrary to popular belief, there are things that can be accomplished within the European Union.
  • By presenting legal papers commissioned beforehand, negotiators can demonstrate that there are possibilities for action.
  • Breaking down the concept of legal autonomy into sub-elements such as procedural and substantive aspects allows for a more constructive approach.
  • Collaborating with civil servants to co-create solutions in different areas can lead to progress.

13:11 Examples from an African Government

The speaker shares an example from an African government where discussing full legal autonomy upfront may not be productive. However, by breaking down the concept into sub-elements and working with civil servants, a more constructive approach can be achieved.

Approaching Legal Autonomy in Africa

  • When approaching an African government about legal autonomy, it is important to avoid demanding full autonomy upfront.
  • Breaking down legal autonomy into sub-elements such as constitutional, contractual, criminal, and administrative aspects allows for a more productive conversation.
  • Working collaboratively with civil servants to co-create solutions leads to a more constructive approach.

14:53 Exciting Regions for Exploration

The speaker discusses regions that offer exciting opportunities for exploration and development. While some well-known regions like the Middle East and Africa are mentioned, overlooked areas like Central Asia also hold potential.

Primary Regions of Interest

  • The primary regions of interest include the Middle East, Africa, Southeast Asian countries, Caribbean countries, and Central American countries.

Overlooked Regions with Potential

  • Central Asia, despite its challenges, has undergone significant transition since the breakup of the Soviet Union and presents opportunities for exploration.
  • There is potential for economic growth and renewal in Europe and the United States, even though they are often overlooked. The speaker believes it is important to consider these regions as well.

18:10 Optimism for EU Member States

The speaker addresses concerns about EU member states and their ability to pursue legal autonomy. While many governments aspire to be part of the EU due to promised wealth, it is important to recognize that resources need to come from somewhere.

Challenges for EU Member States

  • Many governments want to join the EU because they are promised large amounts of wealth for investment.
  • However, it is crucial to understand that resources and transfer payments need to come from somewhere.
  • Even economically strong countries like Austria and Germany have limitations in terms of innovation and economic strength.

17:38 Exploring Possibilities in Europe

The speaker expresses interest in exploring possibilities for legal autonomy within Europe, challenging the notion that the EU does not support tax incentives or special jurisdictions.

Opportunities within Europe

  • Contrary to popular belief, there are opportunities for legal autonomy within Europe.
  • The speaker believes that looking into models such as Indian reservations in the United States could be fascinating.
  • While some regions may be more suitable for stronger autonomy models (e.g., Africa, parts of Southeast Asia), exploring possibilities within Europe should not be disregarded.

Note: Timestamps have been associated with bullet points as requested.

19:44 The Role of the European Union and Member States

This section discusses the relationship between the European Union (EU) and its member states, particularly in terms of decision-making and alternative models.

EU vs Member States

  • The EU consists of a range of countries with different perspectives.
  • Some member states, like those in the Baltic Republics or southern Europe (e.g., Greece), are open to considering alternative models.
  • However, there is often a perception that decisions are made by Brussels (the EU), which can hinder progress.

Breaking the Conundrum

  • The member states express a desire to implement certain measures but blame Brussels for not allowing it.
  • On the other hand, Brussels claims they are willing to support these measures, but it is the member states that are not taking action.
  • There is a need to break this cycle and find ways for both parties to work together effectively.

20:14 Early Involvement in Projects and Regulatory Narrative

This section focuses on the speaker’s role in projects and how political and regulatory narratives play a crucial role from the beginning.

Speaker’s Involvement

  • The speaker gets involved in projects at an early stage.
  • Their role at the Metis Institute involves integrating political and regulatory aspects into projects’ development.
  • They also participate individually in various projects such as status scables, tipolis, and praxis.

Overlapping Spheres: Business, Politics, Law

  • The speaker emphasizes that business, politics, and law cannot be viewed separately when considering project development.
  • It is essential to incorporate political and regulatory narratives into overall strategies for successful outcomes.

21:17 Integrated Zones: Business and Residential Functions Combined

This section explores the concept of integrated zones where business and residential functions coexist, and the speaker’s involvement in city development projects.

Integrated Zones as Lifestyle Zones

  • The speaker believes that integrated zones, which combine business and residential functions, are the next wave of development.
  • These zones essentially resemble cities where people live and work together.
  • This concept is not entirely new, as people have been gathering to live and work in one place for thousands of years.

Balancing Collaboration and Competition

  • The speaker works with various city development projects that may be competitors but also collaborate on political aspects.
  • They are also involved in special economic zone projects at different stages of setup or exploring future directions.

23:12 Moving Special Economic Zones into Residential Areas

This section discusses the shift towards integrating special economic zones into residential areas and the challenges it presents.

Integrated Zones: Business and Residential Functions Combined

  • The speaker supports the idea of integrated zones where business and residential functions coexist.
  • They refer to these zones as lifestyle zones or cities, emphasizing that this concept has existed for thousands of years.

Increasing Complexity

  • From a political and regulatory perspective, integrating business and residential functions adds complexity.
  • The example of the Dwayne International Financial Center is given to highlight how certain areas like healthcare provision or criminal jurisdiction are not typically covered by such specialized zones.

25:42 Strategies for Attracting People to Stay in Special Zones

This section explores strategies for attracting people to stay in special economic zones by providing incentives beyond financial considerations.

Importance of Incentives

  • To ensure people stay in special economic zones, there must be compelling reasons beyond financial incentives.
  • These could include ideological motivations or other factors that create a sense of belonging and community within the zone.

Avoiding Empty Zones

  • Without meaningful incentives, there is a risk of creating empty zones where people only invest or visit occasionally without a sense of attachment.
  • The goal is to create zones with heart and soul, where people are motivated to live and contribute.

Note: The transcript provided does not contain timestamps for all sections.

26:37 The Challenge of Building a City for a Mobile Population

The speaker discusses the challenge of building a new city based on a highly mobile population. While it may be relatively easy to incentivize this group to come and initiate development, their nature is such that they will eventually move on to the next exciting place. This poses difficulties in creating a sustainable city.

Building a City Based on Mobility

  • The high degree of mobility among this population makes it difficult to build a new city around them.
  • Incentivizing them to come and initiate development is relatively easy.
  • However, they are likely to move on to the next exciting place after some time.

Addressing Less Flexible Target Groups

  • To create a sustainable city, it is necessary to address less flexible target groups.
  • These groups include people with families and ties to other places.
  • Attracting these individuals can provide a stable population base for the city’s growth.

Balancing Economic and Lifestyle Opportunities

  • As individuals settle down and start families, their priorities shift from seeking excitement to optimizing for different parameters.
  • It becomes important to provide not only economic opportunities but also lifestyle and rooting opportunities in order to make the city an attractive long-term home.

International Cities and Home Populations

  • International cities should also consider attracting people who are already present in the host country.
  • By doing so, these cities become more interesting for governments as they offer opportunities for their home populations rather than isolated job markets.

29:47 Personal Experience with Family Considerations in Choosing a New Place

The speaker shares their personal experience of considering family factors when choosing a new place. They discuss how having young children influenced their decision-making process and highlight the importance of familiarity and cultural connections in making such choices.

Considering Family Factors

  • The speaker has three young children and their decision-making process is influenced by the needs of their family.
  • They mention traveling around Central America during the pandemic and considering different places to settle down.

Familiarity and Cultural Connections

  • The speaker emphasizes the importance of familiarity and cultural connections when choosing a new place to live.
  • Friendship groups and cultural familiarity play a significant role in deciding where to settle down.

Community Development vs. Real Estate Development

  • The speaker highlights that building a new city should be seen as a community development project rather than just a real estate development project.
  • Attracting an initial membership is crucial, and creating a sense of community is essential for long-term success.

32:05 Balancing Community Development with Location Selection

The speaker discusses the importance of balancing community development with location selection when planning a new city. They mention an example where emphasis is placed on both aspects simultaneously, highlighting the significance of this approach.

Emphasizing Community Creation

  • Building a new city requires equal focus on community creation alongside selecting an appropriate location.
  • The speaker mentions an example where this duality is emphasized, referring to Praxis as an advisor in such projects.

32:28 Conclusion: A Dual Approach for Successful City Building

The speaker concludes by emphasizing the dual approach of focusing on community development while selecting an ideal location for building successful cities. They highlight the importance of attracting an initial membership and creating a sense of community within these cities.

Dual Approach for Success

  • To build successful cities, it is crucial to balance community development with location selection.
  • Attracting an initial membership and fostering a sense of community are key factors in ensuring long-term success.

Note: This summary provides key insights from selected parts of the transcript. It does not include all details mentioned in the video.

33:30 Concessions and Preferences for Moving

The speaker discusses how concessions for moving tend to be offered by remote or less attractive locations. However, there are other countries that people would love to move to, like Italy, but they are unlikely to offer the same level of concessions. The speaker predicts that over time, different offerings will evolve based on people’s preferences, with some cities offering extremely attractive systems in more remote locations and others being gradually better than their current location.

Different Offerings Based on Preferences

  • Concessions tend to be offered by remote or less attractive locations.
  • Other countries like Italy may not offer the same level of concessions.
  • Over time, different offerings will evolve based on people’s preferences.
  • Some cities will offer extremely attractive systems in more remote locations.
  • Other cities will gradually become better than people’s current location.

34:11 Trade-offs between Attractiveness and Familiarity

The speaker explains that there will be economic zones or cities that offer an extremely attractive system but require moving to a more remote and unfamiliar location. On the other hand, there will be cities that are just gradually better than one’s current location but still familiar. The speaker shares a personal example of considering moving from rainy Wales to a sunny Mediterranean destination.

Trade-offs between Attractiveness and Familiarity

  • Economic zones or cities can offer an extremely attractive system but require moving to a more remote and unfamiliar location.
  • Some cities are gradually better than one’s current location but still familiar.
  • Personal example: Considering moving from rainy Wales to a sunny Mediterranean destination.

35:40 Staying in Comfort Zone vs City Development

The speaker emphasizes the importance of giving people a choice of where to move. Some may choose to stay in their comfort zone and accept less than the full package, while others may prefer to move further both geographically and culturally for an amazing package. The speaker hopes that city development will generate ideas that can be adopted by city administrations worldwide.

Staying in Comfort Zone vs City Development

  • People should have the choice of where to move.
  • Some may choose to stay in their comfort zone and accept less than the full package.
  • Others may prefer to move further for an amazing package.
  • City development can generate ideas for other cities around the world.

36:03 Optimism and Reality

The speaker acknowledges being an optimist but also recognizes the difference between optimism and being blind to reality. The past three years have demonstrated how quickly freedoms can be curbed, impacting travel abilities. Additionally, there is a growing trend of seeing energy usage as a negative factor, which could hinder mobility unless technological advancements are made.

Optimism and Reality

  • The speaker is optimistic but not blind to reality.
  • Freedoms can be curbed quickly, affecting travel abilities.
  • There is a growing trend of viewing energy usage negatively.
  • Technological advancements are needed for sustainable mobility.

37:53 Awareness of Mobility Restrictions

Recent events have created awareness among many people about how quickly they can be locked into their places without the ability to cross borders freely. This has led individuals to question where they would want to be locked in if given the choice. In terms of green development, cities or zones offer an opportunity to create solutions that allow for mobility without compromising environmental responsibility.

Awareness of Mobility Restrictions

  • Recent events have highlighted restrictions on mobility.
  • People question where they would want to be locked in if given the choice.
  • Cities or zones offer an opportunity for green development.
  • Solutions should allow for mobility without compromising environmental responsibility.

38:32 New Models of Living Together

The speaker believes that the three cities movement should showcase new models of living together, working together, and mobility. By bringing together different specializations and lines of thought, cities can become lighthouses of environmental responsibility. The speaker emphasizes the importance of embracing this responsibility rather than doing it solely because it is asked of them.

New Models of Living Together

  • The three cities movement should showcase new models of living together, working together, and mobility.
  • Bringing together different specializations and lines of thought is crucial.
  • Cities can become lighthouses of environmental responsibility.
  • Embracing responsibility is important.

39:28 Pioneer Role in Mitigating Carbon Footprint

The speaker suggests that the Free Cities movement should go beyond just mitigating the outcomes related to carbon footprints. It should take a pioneer role in showcasing new models of living, working, and mobility. By leveraging different specializations and applying them to the new city model, these cities can become beacons of environmental responsibility.

Pioneer Role in Mitigating Carbon Footprint

  • The three cities movement should showcase new models beyond just mitigating carbon footprints.
  • It should pioneer new ways of living, working, and mobility.
  • Leveraging different specializations can lead to environmental responsibility.

41:01 The Importance of Green Technology in Free Cities

In this section, the speaker emphasizes the significance of green technology in free cities and discusses the need to address fundamental challenges while preserving individual freedom.

Focusing on Green Technology

  • Free cities should prioritize and invest heavily in green technology.
  • Many free cities are already making progress in this area.

Addressing Fundamental Challenges

  • It is crucial to find ways to overcome obstacles rather than circumventing rules.
  • The speaker believes that by approaching challenges with a fresh perspective, innovative solutions can be found.
  • New cities provide an ideal opportunity to implement these solutions.

42:23 Online Communities vs Real-Life Communities

This section explores the distinction between online communities and real-life communities within the context of establishing intentional communities in free cities.

Two Distinct Varieties

  • There are two distinct varieties of communities: online and real-life.
  • Both types have their relevance and importance within the movement.

Shared Belief for Longevity

  • To ensure longevity, a shared belief or ideology is necessary for a community.
  • Without a shared belief, communities may become hollow with empty buildings.

43:28 Importance of Intentional Communities

The speaker highlights the significance of intentional communities and how they contribute to building networks and states within free cities.

Creating Reasons for People to Join

  • In the early stages, it is essential to provide reasons for people to join intentional communities.
  • Building physical communities helps bring people together and fosters a sense of belonging.

44:59 Purists vs Pragmatists

This section discusses the importance of having both purists and pragmatists within the movement, as they play different roles in driving innovation and maintaining progress.

Need for Purists and Pragmatists

  • Purists bring ideological enthusiasm and drive innovation.
  • Pragmatists ensure the ideas are feasible and sustainable in the real world.
  • Both perspectives are necessary for the movement to progress.

46:25 Turning Ideas into Reality

The speaker emphasizes the importance of passion, hard work, and systematic planning in turning great ideas into reality.

Passion and Hard Work

  • Passion is crucial in driving individuals to see their ideas come to life.
  • Great imaginations can be achieved through hard work, planning, and dedication.

46:59 Importance of Compromise

This section highlights the significance of compromise and accepting current realities in order to bring ideas from imagination to reality.

Degree of Compromise

  • The extent to which one is willing to compromise determines their ability to turn ideas into reality.
  • Accepting current realities is essential for progress.

Please note that these summaries are based on the provided transcript.

48:11 Understanding Sovereign Indian Nations

In this section, the speaker discusses the concept of sovereign Indian nations and how some tribes, like the Katawas, are utilizing their sovereignty to create economic zones.

Fascination with Sovereign Indian Nations

  • The speaker is fascinated by the concept of sovereign Indian nations and how they use their rights to create economic zones.
  • This demonstrates the power of imagination and the ability to achieve what is envisioned.
  • The speaker mentions that some tribes have already started passing codes and regulations, such as their own banking code.

49:29 Examples of Future Frontiers

In this section, the speaker talks about two fascinating ideas – creating free cities in space and building a city on Mars.

Free Cities in Space

  • The idea of free cities in space is discussed as a potential future frontier.
  • The speaker mentions discussions about this idea and how it could lead to new possibilities.
  • Dubai’s project for a city on Mars by 2217 is mentioned as an example of futuristic thinking.

Human Nature and Exploration

  • The speaker reflects on human nature’s fascination with exploration and venturing into new frontiers.
  • Space is seen as the newest frontier, given that other frontiers like underwater or far out at sea have been explored.
  • The private sector’s involvement in space exploration is highlighted as a way to expedite progress.

52:42 Loss of Frontiers in the Digital Age

In this section, the speaker discusses how society has lost its urge to search for new frontiers due to advancements in technology and access to information.

Lack of New Frontiers

  • The speaker suggests that society has lost its sense of searching for new frontiers because there are no more unexplored territories.
  • In the analog world, traveling to new places felt like discovering new frontiers due to limited information available.
  • However, in the digital world, with constant connectivity and access to information, the sense of exploration has diminished.

Catching Up with Digital Nomads

  • The speaker mentions that societies may take a long time to catch up with the changes brought about by digital nomads.
  • The ability to work remotely and travel freely has transformed how people plan their lives and experiences.


The transcript discusses the concept of sovereign Indian nations utilizing their rights to create economic zones. It also explores future frontiers such as free cities in space and building a city on Mars. The loss of frontiers in the digital age is highlighted, along with the challenges society faces in catching up with these changes.