Europe needs a breath of fresh air? Doesn't sound particularly original - more political parties are propagating that they are the catalyst for change.
True, but we don't just talk about it, we are change.
Let's start with some familiar issues for the Pirate party. In recent news, European Court of Justice issued its support for the right to be forgotten. Do you really believe that right of privacy can be extended to include the right to be forgotten?
Yes, at the end of the day the right to be forgotten should be given priority. Just imagine how obstructive it could be when some very personal information about you can be found on the internet. If the information is about you as an individual, I believe that you should have the right to be in charge of your information. In most cases it would actually make more sense to tackle the source that distributes that personal information. Now, in the case with Google, Google merely acted as a referral.
Ah, so not necessarily Google's worst nightmare?
They won't be happy with it, no. But in this respect the interests of a person simply merits the interests of a big multinational company such as Google.
Should Europe strive for more independence from the US when it comes to internet?
If you're referring to an European internet, or a cloud, I don't believe this is very realistic. There is much doubt whether this is something that can be accomplished. I also believe that this is not a direct solution. A much better solution can be found in reinforcing thorough regulation, so companies are obliged to handle personal data in a responsible way, and making international agreements, also with the US.
Should there be more protection on a European level for fair use of copyright material for educational, creative and journalistic use?
We are proponents of the Creative Commons licence, which essentially means that you can recycle material for non-commercial use. Remixing becomes much easier, as long as you reference the original author. The Pirate Party fights for reformation of intellectual property laws. We believe that it is important that we have the right to share something once it has been created. Actually, it is a waste of resources if you are inhibited in doing this. If something has already been created, it is a pity if you cannot use it. We need alternative models. A big part of industry, the successful big players who benefit from copyright court cases, will try to adhere to old models, but we should give new innovative voices a chance - hence the Creative Commons license. Perhaps a myth, but there is a story about the band Iron Maiden that illustrates creative use of music downloads. They collected data on where their music was most downloaded illegally and then subsequently geo-targeted their live concerts corresponding to the download numbers, selling concert tickets, merchandise etc. In contrast, the copy right industry is suing music's biggest fans. The income for the music industry has stayed the same - downloading does not need to be at the expense of artists. Besides, adherence to copyright laws is only possible through mass surveillance and censorship - websites are blocked and espionage on internet user's behaviour take place.
The views of the Pirate Party seem to focus on the digital domain, but what are your thoughts on social issues such as youth employment? How would the Pirate Party ensure a less obscure future for interns such as myself?
We believe an effective strategy to tackle unemployment is to reduce patents. Companies buy up patents, and often big companies even buy up patents from from other smaller and more innovative companies to stall progress, because they benefit financially from the status quo. Stopping patents allows innovation to flourish and jobs to be created. The Pirate Party also concerns itself with sharing information, and this includes education. In a society in which increasingly more tasks are taken over by machines, especially lower qualified jobs, it is extra important to invest in good and accessible education. I think we foresee this trend better than other political parties.
How about Europe's borders with the rest of the world, but also amongst itself?
We stand for a more human asylum policy, human rights are really our priority. With regards to enlargement of Europe, we hold a fairly restraint view. In recent years, many countries have joined the EU, and it is partially the reason why support for Europe has declined. Because Europe has become bigger, less connections are found. Furthermore, the democratic system is no longer in place. An increasing amount of decision which are taken by Europe are not equally important for everyone. Democracy in the EU is broken, we need to fix it. And naturally, if we were to consider any countries to join the EU, these countries will have to comply with appropriate human rights norms.
Where do you position yourselves in the spectrum of European political coalitions?
Not long ago, the European Pirate Party was established, which is a international political party. For the European Elections we have teamed up with 15 other countries. For the past 5 years, the Pirates have found themselves in the Green coalition, because we did not have enough seats to have our own. If that is the case again this year, we will continue this way.
How do you see your chances for the elections?
Currently we have got 2 seats in the Parliament. We are hoping to reach at least 6 seats and are optimistic as the party has gone through a lot of international growth. In The Netherlands, polls showed that 5% considered to vote for us. Our campaign is going well. We're receiving quite some attention so we trust that we'll be able to score one seat in The Netherlands.
Compromise is the magic word in the European parliament. Should you make it there, aren't you afraid that your ideals will simply be taken over by other more represented political parties?
Not really, it is only a positive development. In the past we were able to convince the Green coalition of our views on file sharing policies. We have also worked a lot with Marietje Schaken and the Liberals. They come to us, because they know that we are experts on certain issues. This way, we've also managed to stop ACTA, a treaty which would have led to internet censorship. We have also managed to save net neutrality, which would have led internet users to pay extra for services such as Spotify, Netflix and WhatsApp, because companies would have forced you to pay extra to use these types of data.
Last question, do you have any special message for young people in Europe, and us interns in Brussels in particular, who may have the ambition to go into politics?
I'd say go for it. There are a lot of things that are wrong in Europe , but the only way to correct these, is by being there and doing it better. That's also what drives us. There could be a lot more transparency and democracy in Europe, but in order to achieve that you should initiate it yourself. Go vote, and vote for a party who really wants to tackle the issues that Europe struggles with.
This interview originally took place in Dutch.
Matthijs Pontier is candidate MEP for the Dutch Pirate Party.
Beilinda Li is a trainee for DG Comunications in the European Parliament and the EurVote editor of Brussels' intern magazine Internal Voices.