Common programme for European Pirate Parties – united in diversity

Europe Politics

In Prague at the PPI conference Pirates signed a declaration about PPEU/Europe. In this post I would like to present how I would propose to continue the work for a common programme.

What doesn’t work

In my opinion every tentative to impose whatever piece of programme on national Pirate Parties will fail. Pirate Parties follow the grassroots principles and will not accept any decision imposed by top-down structures.

What also doesn’t work is trying to get every EU Pirate Party to agree on the exact same text and if one Party refuses to accept the position it wouldn’t be part of the common programme. At 27 (probably 28) member states (and hopefully Pirate Parties participating) finding unanimity on such detailled proposals will be impossible in the short time we have left until the 2014 elections. If you compare the current positions of Pirate Parties on copyright reform alone they range from “reduce to 10 years after death of author” (Pirate Party Germany) to “reduce to 14 years after publication” (Pirate Party Switzerland). Unanimity will lead to the situation where in the end we will not even be able to even decide on the title of the common programme1. This approach could also leed to conflicts between blocking/vetoing Pirate Parties and those that agree on a motion, leading to a fragementation of the movement rather then more cooperation.

Common, but not identical programme for EU Pirate Parties

My proposal on how to work on the common programme would be to harmonize national EU election programms to reflect our common vision of EU policy rather then aiming for identical programms. The final “common programme” wouldn’t be one document with a list of election claims identical to all Pirate Parties. If anything there should only be an identical preamble to all national EU programms, pointing out that Pirates are an international movement working together to resolve problems that transgress the confined borders of the individual member states.

How would this work in practise?

First the working group should identify topics common to Pirate Parties to determine what proposals could gather the most support.

Secondly the workgroup collects the current positions of Pirate Parties on the different topics identified in step one. They should focus only on topics where the EU actually has any competency and exclude country-specific topics.

Thirdly the workgroup fomulates motions that national parties can vote on – the work consists mostly in writing a concise description of the problem and possible solutions, taking into account already formulated proposals by national Pirate Parties.
F.ex. concerning copyright reform the workgroup should prepare a summary of the current problems of copyright legislation (as an explanation for the motion) and a list with concrete proposals to reform. These can be contradictory, f.ex. “reduce copyright term to 5 years after publication” or “reduce copyright term to day of the death of the author”.

Lastly the workgroup encourages Pirates from national Pirate Parties to submit their proposals for the EU programme following the rules of that national Party. Apart from the proposed preamble Parties can modify the proposals to their liking.

Before the elections: the workgroup collects the proposals accepted by national Parties and creates an overview of common topics and proposed solutions as well as a list of Pirate Parties that included the proposed preamble.

Continuous work: the preamble identical to all Pirate Parties’ EU programme needs a lot of “back and forth” between the working group and national parties to achieve a consensus.

(Dis)advantages

Advantages of this method:

  • Flexibility. National Pirate Parties are not limited to accept or refuse a proposal by the workgroup but can adapt, modify and even refuse without them being excluded from the process. This will lead to a more coherent common policy while still ensuring pluralism.
  • Shared ressources. It will be easier for Parties to include a topic into their programme that they don’t have included yet if they have multiple options instead of one single motion. This can help newly founded parties to create their EU programme even without having the ressources themselves to work out a position in detail. Also by not going for unanimity the work by the working group will never be in vain: even if not everyone agrees on one proposal it can still be used by other Parties in their programme.
  • Grassroots priciples and participation. All decision-making is left to national Parties, without excluding them from the common programme even if they don’t agree with each and every proposal. This will lead to a higher acceptance of the process respecting grassroots principles and members’ participation.
  • Pluralism. Non-EU Parties won’t be alienated from the movement – there wouldn’t be this one document claiming to represent the positions of the European Pirate movement. It would also be easier to include many Pirate Parties in the process – from eurosceptic parties to very euro-friendly Parties; with each Party being able to refuse certain motions and still be part of the common vision for the EU (e.g. by including the preamble in their national EU programme).
  • Crowdsourcing. The work of the working groups would consist mostly of research and collecting information – tasks which can easily be crowdsourced. Instead of the need to have experts in every topic that write the “perfect” motion that can be accepted by over 20 Pirate Parties and their members, proposals only need to be checked for consistency (content and language).
  • Publicity. By having a common preamble we show that Pirates are an international movement working closely together – this is especially important for EU elections. However we also underline that while working together we respect our basic principles of a grassroots movement and participation without top-down structures.
  • Concreteness. Unanimity leads to generality – proposals would have to be formulated in very general terms for all Parties to agree. By using my method proposals can be very detailled and concrete, because multiple options are offered.

Disadvantages of this method:

  • Contradiction. Some claims from different Pirate Parties might be contradictory – there will be few positions all Parties agree upon. This might make it more difficult to divulge the idea that we are one movement.
  • Quality. The proposals might be less coherent compared to motions prepared by a small team of experts.
  • Administration. The more people participate, collect different proposals, in different languages, the harder will be the administrative burden on the working group. Smaller groups are easier to manage, having multiple proposals could get confusing.

tl : dr

There shouldn’t be one document called “common programme of all EU Pirate Parties”. There should be 27 (28) national EU election programms with a preamble identical to all Parties, whose claims were harmonized before being voted on by national Pirates according to national procedure.

Show 1 footnote

  1. cf. already discussions about the name

Jerry Weyer

Jerry Weyer co-founded Clement & Weyer Digital Communication Consultants in 2014 and consults European institutions in Luxembourg on social media management. He studied European law at Université Robert Schuman in Strasbourg and at the London School of Economics and Political Science. He is a founding member of Pirate Party Luxembourg and former Co-Chairman of the Pirate Parties International (PPI).

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