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How many pirates in Europe?

Thursday, 5 April, 2012 - 11:27

With their recent electoral successes in Sweden and Germany, European Pirate Parties are becoming more visible on the political scene in their respective countries. They are hoping to present a joint list at the next European elections. But how many are they?

Translated by Clémence Grison (Paris)

In Germany, 12% of voters are prepared to vote for the Pirate Party according to a recent poll. That is three times the amount of people who say the same of the Liberals with whom Angela Merkel is in coalition. After winning 7,4% of the votes last March in the election in Saar, the German Pirate Party got four members into the regional parliament. They had already won 15 seats in Berlin last September.

Is the German Pirate Party leading a widespread movement aiming to change the political order in Europe? There is no denying that the election result in Germany is giving a boost to the other similar parties emerging across the Continent and elsewhere.

From the United-States to Brazil, the Pirates are operating everywhere. According to figures by the Pirate Parties International, some 41.000 members have already joined their ranks in Europe and new Pirate Parties are emerging in Poland and in the Baltic countries. And those are only the most recent examples. In Russia, the Pirate Party joined forces with anti-Putin activists.

Fielding candidates at the legislative elections

With 25.000 members, the German pirates make up over half of European numbers. In Sweden, where the Pirate Party was born in 2006, the pirates are estimated at 8.600 and have two seats at the European Parliament. Their Finnish and Swiss counterparts, who respectively amount to 3.100 and 1.843 members, are hoping to follow their lead.

With some 200 members, the French Pirate Party is far behind. But its leader Maxime Rouquet is remaining optimistic.

Currently we have as many members as the German party did in 2009”.

He underlines that to these members with a card from the party may be added 20.000 active sympathizers. “They may not have paid a subscription, but they get involved in our communities”.

Maxime Rouquet wants to surf on the buzz around the next legislative elections to field a few dozen candidates. But he is aware that the voting system works against them. Other European parties have managed to get their candidates into local governments: four pirates in the Czech Republic, three in Spain and one in Switzerland have been elected to local political institutions.

They are still far behind the party’s success in Germany however, where on top of the 19 delegates in two regional parliaments a total of 168 pirates have seats at the local level.

A political platform at its drafting stage

For the European Pirate Parties, this growing presence is the first step of a more ambitious process.

We want to field a joint list at the next European elections in 2014. This project is on the agenda for our next International Conference in Prague on April 14th and 15th,

says Thomas Gaul, leader of the Pirate Parties International.

This conference will give them an opportunity to start defining a platform which for now remains up in the air. “The Uppsala Declaration, approved by all European parties, is at the basis of our engagement”, Gaul adds. By way of a platform, Pirate Parties advocate the end of copyrights and patent law and the highlighting of civil rights.

This threefold objective does not prevent a few Pirate Parties from going a bit further. “During our last Assembly, we agreed on the stop to nuclear power”, said Maxime Rouquet, leader of the French Pirate Party.

Speaking out on other issues

This decision was taken in accordance with our fight against monopolies, which constitute a restriction to the freedom of enterprise. We do not forbid ourselves from taking a stance on certain economic or social issues if they are relevant to our main commitments – freedom on the internet, the fight against monopolies and free access to health and culture for all”.

The French party is not the only one venturing into new themes.

In Belgium, the pirates recently spoke out against communitarianism, the acknowledgment of blank votes and the right to vote for foreigners who have lived in the country longer than five years.

In Austria, the pirates denounce the European Stability Mechanism, which for them is a symbol of a democratic deficit in the decision-making process in Europe. They also condemn the “supremacy of finance over the people”.

That is enough food for thought to prepare for the Prague Conference and come up with a credible joint platform. A development worth keeping an eye on.