German Pirate Party Sets Course For European Parliament

The European elections are only two weeks away, and Pirate Party candidates vie for seats in different countries. We speak with some of them, starting with Andreas Popp, lead candidate for the German Piraten Partei.

piraten parteiThe German Pirate Party (or Piratenpartei) is often overshadowed by the success and popularity of their Swedish brethren. Recently they were even removed and banned from a major German social networking site. They shouldn’t be discounted though, as they have every bit as much grit and determination as their Nordic associates, as one of their adverts for their European Election campaign shows.

TorrentFreak spoke with their lead candidate, Bavarian party chairman Andreas Popp, to discuss his views on the upcoming election.

What do you see as being the most important issue in the election?

Currently the most important issue in EU (but also national) politics are the civil rights. This includes the fight against the censorship of the Internet as well as against the transformation of our western societies into police states. IT, especially the Internet, plays a very important role in these topics. The politicians who are in power right now fear the Internet and are doing everything to get control over it, just like the content industry does. What makes these topics so important is the immediate danger we are facing. If we do not fight for our civil liberties now, we might just find ourselves in a new form of dictatorship.

What is your opinion of Commissioner McCreevy’s attempts to extend copyright terms in the EU?

This extension really was some kind of a joke. They said they wanted to enhance the financial situation of retired musicians. This is already strange, since while other people have to save money for their retirement, musicians get their pension for free by copyright. But then all the experts stated that musicians will not benefit from this extension, because they normally sell all their rights in buy-out-contracts. So only music labels benefit from the law. They passed it anyways.

What about copyright in general?

I think it would take too long to explain what needs to be changed here, but you can read about it on the program (english) page of our campaign site.

How many members does the German Pirate Party have right now, and has there been any boost from the Pirate Bay trial, as the Swedish party has seen?

Nationally, we just had our 1000th member. Yes, we have had a great boost during the last few weeks, but I cannot tell you if it is because of the Pirate Bay trial or because of the new censorship law.

Are you seeing the ‘older generations’ supporting the party in significant numbers, or is it mainly 18-30 year-olds?

Of course the generation of the “Digital Natives” are the main supporting group for the Pirate Party. But there are also a lot of people who are already out of their thirties and are supporting our activities. Even if you look at our list of candidates there are only three people who have not passed thirty yet. So I would say yes, there is a significant number of ‘older’ people supporting the pirates. I think the only difference is the medium we use to communicate. You can get in touch with the younger ones mostly through the net. The older ones are more likely to come and talk to you when you are standing on the street.

What is the method of election in Germany for the European Parliament?

It is basically the same as in our national elections. Each party nominates a list of candidates for the election and the citizens can put their cross next to one of the party. Germany has 99 seats in the EU parliament. These seats are divided proportionally among all parties with more than 5% of the total votes.

5% would be roughly how many votes?

There are about 60 million voters, but Germans are not really interested in EU elections so only about 50% of them are going to vote. So that might be round about 1.5 million votes to break the 5%-line. 50% is rather low compared to national or local elections, but the turnout is falling. People here get kind of annoyed with politics. The 60 million figure is about 10 years old, but there is a small difference to the national elections because citizens of other EU countries can register for voting in the EU elections in Germany too. It is a fair number to base things on though.

Some say you have little chance of making that 5% barrier, so why should people vote for you?

One of the most important chances in the EU elections is to get enough votes (0.5%) to qualify for public party funding. That is one of the things I like to tell all the people out there who do not want to vote for us, because they think we cannot make the 5% threshold. Even if we do not, qualifying for public funding would be a big step. One of the parties who gets public funding and is about the same size as we are, got around 80,000 Euro (about $108,000) last year – that would mean more than tripling our funds – and making it it possible to hire people for the administrative tasks, giving us more time for politics.

How much of an issue is funding in German elections?

It is a big issue. As a small party we do not get any public funding yet, so we have to get along with the money we get from our membership fees and donations. All of us are working unsalaried right now. Considering the organizational stuff that has to be done, we are limited in activity. If people want to make a donation, they can do so either to the national party, or directly to their state party. And if they cannot afford to donate money, voluntary helpers to do local work are always a big help.

The European elections take place in early June. The Germany party has a campaign website, www.piratenpartei.net

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