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Pirates of the Carpathians

April 29, 2012

While the Pirate movement in Serbia and Romania is struggling for recognition as a political party, it is already campaigning in Croatia. Pirates in Greece have their eyes on winning seats in parliament.

Pirate Party logo seen at a party conference in Germany
Image: dapd

The founder of the Romanian Pirate Party grew up at a time when every owner of a typewriter was subject to regular checks by authorities since the Communist regime in Romania wanted to prevent citizens from printing leaflets. Freedom of expression is therefore something the now 55-year-old Claudiu Marginean does not take for granted - unlike the so-called "digital natives" from his homeland, the young people who have grown up with new media after the fall of communism.

Transparency, grassroots decision-making, freedom to use data on the Internet - like their political counterparts across Europe, that's also what the Romanian Pirates are calling for.

"In the Pirate parties, there are no significant national differences. We are almost a kind of Internet nation that exists in this moment on the entire planet," said Marginean, founder of the Romanian Pirate Party. The former architect is not the only Pirate in the family: His 20-year-old daughter, who is studying in London, is involved in the British Pirates.

Although the Romanian Pirates belong to the founding members of the umbrella organization "Pirate Parties International" (PPI), they are not registered in their own country as an official political party. The reason: In Romania, 25,000 signatures are needed to found a party. Marginean and his colleagues hope to collect enough signatures before the general election in November.

Greek Pirate Party logo
The Greek Pirates use a variant of the international party logo

Technology for more civil liberties

In neighboring Serbia the Pirate movement is still thousands of signatures short of registering as a party and taking part in elections. Many people in Serbia are of the opinion that the movement is only concerned with Internet piracy, according to Ivan Vukovic, coordinator of the Serbian Pirate movement.

"We are not advocating the sale of copied CDs, but are simply people who want to share everything they have with others freely: ideas, links, music, videos," he said. "Because that's possible, we are convinced that no one should take the right to do it away from us."

The Pirates are concerned about more than just the freedom of the Internet, agreed Dario Vidovic. He is co-founder of the movement in Croatia, which took the step of registering as a party in mid-April: "The technology is so advanced that it allows more civil liberties - this makes direct democracy feasible."

Dario Vidovic
Dario Vidovic, co-founder of the Croatian PiratesImage: DW

Transparency as an economic program

Pirates in southeastern Europe share these call for a "liquid democracy" - that all citizens help determine political decisions - with the political buccaneers from all over the world. There are Pirate parties and organizations elsewhere in the region including in Bulgaria, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina. At the international level, there are approximately 60 countries with Pirate movements, most of them in Europe.

The Pirates in Germany have been particularly successful, where the latest poll numbers suggest they have 11 percent to 13 percent of the vote. This has given hope to their colleagues in southeast Europe. They will need it in the coming weeks, especially the Greek Pirates, who will be standing for office for the first time on May 6.

German Pirate Gregory Engels wearing a pirate costume
German Pirate Gregory Engels dresses the partImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Officially recognized three months ago, the Pirate Party is the newest party in crisis-torn Greece. While the established parties in Greece have thousands of paid election staff, the Pirates have to make do with 150 volunteers. Their goal: to fight the dramatic economic crisis with Pirate ideals.

Making public records available

"We explain to people that transparency and a functioning judiciary are the best way to fight corruption. This is our most important economic issue," said Anestis Samourkasidis, spokesman for the Greek Pirates.

Anestis Samourkasidis
Greek party spokesman Anestis SamourkasidisImage: privat

Estimates show that the country loses millions of euros of tax revenue to rampant corruption. To make each civil servant deal with money more conscientiously, the party is demanding that every Greek citizen be allowed to view public records in every area - though an exception would be made for classified material and matters relating to national security

Just like the Greek Pirates, the Romanians hope to enter parliament later this year. They are demanding an unconditional basic income for every citizen. Marginean said he doesn't yet know how the country will be able to institute it.

"First we have to come parliament and see exactly what happens," he said. "Only then can we say exactly what is feasible because in our country there is too much happening behind closed doors."

Only if they get into the top circles of politics can the Pirates gain access to the information necessary to change things, he said. They hope especially to win the votes of young people who have had enough with the established parties. That, too, connects them with Pirate movements all over Europe.

Author: Alexandra Scherle / sgb
Editor: Sean Sinico