European Union Pirate Parties – mapping the common principles
In order to find the common principles of Pirate Parties I made a list of ideas that EU Pirate Parties officially supported in their programm1: Common principles to EU Pirate Parties (Pad).2 I try to keep the list up-to-date and hope that it will be helpful for all Pirate Parties, the Pirate Parties International and everyone interested in the Pirate movement.
The Pirate Wheel for EU Pirate Parties
Rick Falkvinge talks about the Pirate Wheel when mapping the Pirate ideology. Comparing this map with the list of EU Pirat Party topics, you notice how the principles and conclusions of EU Pirate Parties are nearly identical. Apart from a few exceptions (principle of resilience, conclusions of money neutrality and profit motive) every single principle and conclusion can be found in the great majority of the official programs of the EU Pirate Parties.
When we look further down the wheel, the policies differ among Pirate Parties. The further away a policy is from the perceived core topics of Pirates, the fewer parties include them in their program. As such healthcare, taxes, transport or foreign policy are only present in very few party programs.
One must keep into mind however that a lot of EU Pirate Parties are very young an as such haven’t had have the time and resources to develop their program “further down the wheel”. Also I only checked the official party program and no by-laws, local or regional manifestos which oftentimes are more concrete and detailed than the national programs.
List of common principles of EU Pirate Parties
Here is a list of topics that more than half of the EU Pirate Parties have in their official program:
- Copyright reform
- Protection of privacy and data protection, against surveillance
- Patent law reform (and trademarks)
- Governmental transparency
- Stronger, more direct democracy and protection of civil rights
- Open Access & Open Source & Open Data
Apart from these topics there are a few policies that fewer EU Pirate Parties explicitly mention in their program but can be attached to the policies listed above:
- Against censorship
- Whistleblower protection/protection of journalism
Conclusion: no surprise here, Pirate Parties all over the EU3 follow the same principles, come to the same conclusions and are developing similar policies.
Pirate Parties and the European Union
Few concrete positions on the European Union
Only four EU Pirate Parties currently have provisions in their program explicitly concerning the EU. While the Pirate Party of Luxembourg and Belgium provide more specific positions concerning the freedom of information and movement in the EU, only Germany and Finland take a general stance on the EU: Finland is “not taking any stand on the membership in the EU” while Germany affirms the need for European cooperation. Both parties underline the need for democratic participation and the protection of civil rights.
A lot of topics that need EU cooperation
Despite the lack of positions specifically targeted at the EU, all EU Pirate Parties’ programs include topics and policies that legally or practically can only be solved on an European level. A few examples:
- Copyright reform: national copyright laws are heavily influenced by international agreements (f.ex. TRIPS, Berne Convention). The Commission is key to any copyright reform on EU level (as seen by its role played in the ACTA). Also the EU Charter on Fundamental Right explicitly mentions “intellectual property” as property that needs to be protected.4
- Protection of privacy and data protection, against surveillance: data retention, SWIFT, PNR, INDECT, ACTA
- Open Access & Open Source & Open Data: this is an area where the European Union can become a model for member states. Pirate Parties must support the promising projects launched by the EU to pressure national governments to follow in the Commissions footsteps.
Conclusion: a lot of Pirate Parties lack clear statements and strategies concerning the EU and EU policies in their official program. However it is clear that a lot (most?) topics Pirate Parties discuss can only be solved on a supranational level.
A common EU Pirate Party programm for the 2014 elections
Why a common program?
Pirate Parties are the first real international movement taking part in EU elections. Yes, other parties, and especially the Green ideology transcend national borders, but no other political movement is so ideologically connected and already functions on the premise that ideas don’t know any borders. By having a manifesto that (even only partially) is the same for all EU Pirate Parties we demonstrate before the elections that we are the only political movement that understands that cross-border cooperation is the key to solving Europe’s problems.
Apart from the ideological advantages there are practical benefits. Most European Pirates Parties are very young, lack resources and manpower. We copy from each other a lot already (with good reason): the Swedish manifesto is the basis for several European and international Pirate Parties’ manifestos. I am sure a lot of EU Pirate Parties would be glad to have a text they could copy ideas for their EU program leaving the saved time and resources to organize the election campaign instead of investing it in writing their own program5.
At least: common preamble
Every Pirate Party follows the same principles. EU Pirate Parties should put all their effort into agreeing at least upon a preamble common to all Pirate Parties laying down the principles of the movement. This preamble would show voters all over Europe they are voting for a movement instead of a single national party.
The preamble doesn’t need to be longer than a few paragraphs and doesn’t need to have any concrete demands. It has to lay down the Pirate’s vision of a democratic European Union. It should mention the fact that this preamble is common to all EU Parties participating in the elections, if possible with a list of all participating parties.
If possible: common conclusions & policies
The next step would be to work on common policies. Concrete solutions will differ from country to country. My idea would therefore be to make a list of possible policies that Pirates can use individually instead of an inflexible block. This would lead to a more diverse field of adopted policies, but the solutions would still have been discussed together by Pirates on an EU level.
These common conclusions and principles might be especially useful for those Pirate Parties with few resources and lack of experts.
How? Or: yes, grassroots principles apply!
The idea of a common program sounds very “top-down”, which is contrary to the Pirates ideology of a grassroots movement. However by no means should there by any pressure from an outside organization (not that there could be). In practice I imagined it as such:
- Pirates interested in EU politics discuss ideas for a common EU program. There should be a back-and-forth between the discussions withing the national parties and between the EU Pirate Parties.
- If any written proposals result from these discussions Pirates should present them at their national Assembly where the EU program is voted on.
- Discuss my proposal here, or any other idea on the PPI mailinglist for EU Pirate Parties.
- Get people from every EU Pirate Party to join the discussions and start working on common program.
- Help EU Pirate Parties that lack resources to make sure as many Pirate Parties participate in the elections as possible. Currently of 28 (including Croatia) EU member states, a Pirate Party was founded (or for Greece is in the process of being founded) in 23 countries. No Pirate Party exist in Hungary, Malta, Croatia,6 Poland7 and Ireland8. It would be important to support the (re)creation of Pirate Parties in these countries.
- Organize a conference discussing the EU elections and Pirate’s positions on EU topics.
This whole idea is based upon the premise that Pirates work together, regardless of borders and nationalities. We don’t need a massive supra-national structure to dictate our policies but can discuss and adopt solutions using grass-roots methods. Nothing would make me more proud than presenting the EU program and policies 2014 in Luxembourg and telling everyone that wants to listen that we are the only real European movement people can vote for!
Disclaimer: I’m writing this only as member of Pirate Party Luxembourg who is in charge of EU elections. I’m not speaking officially for Pirate Party Luxembourg or any other organization. I just want this to happen, as a person and a Pirate :)
- I chose official documents, as listed on the websites linked on the Pirate Parties International website. Some of this information relies on mediocre Google translations. This was by no means a scientific exercise. However I think this exercise suffices in painting a clear enough picture on what Pirate Parties in the EU agree upon. ↩
- Thanks to everyone who helped! ↩
- And certainly all over the world, but (as you noticed) I’m limiting myself to the EU here. ↩
- Art. 17 EU Charter on Fundamental Rights ↩
- Coming to the same conclusions and policies anyway most of the time ↩
- All three are not listed as Pirate Parties on the PPI website. ↩
- According to a blogpost they “ceased to exist as political party”. ↩
- Dissolved April 2011 ↩