Europe’s disparate pirate political parties have gained a new ally in their quest to overhaul convention, promote digital awareness, and generally bring a bit more structure to its ranks. It’s called the Young Pirates of Europe (YPE) and, in terms of organization, it’s already setting an example for its pirate forefathers to follow.
YPE formed earlier this month with eight founding member countries: Germany, Sweden, France, Finland, Norway, Luxembourg, Flanders and Belarus. Young Pirates in Iceland is the latest to join, after founding their group on August 20. The Czech Republic is currently working on establishing its own wing and joining up.
Creating a separate “young” group of pirates seems a little redundant, considering that the original party, Sweden's Piratpartiet, is only 7 years old, and that the bulk of Pirate Party parliamentarians are themselves in their 20s and 30s. (Age limits for the Young Pirates members vary between countries, but it’s safe to say that if you’re 30 or above you need not apply.) Consider that Swedish Pirate Amelia Andersdotter was elected to the European Parliament in 2011 as a 24-year-old university student.
But beyond simply hosting pirate meet-ups for teens, there’s hope that the YPE can help flesh out a wider range of policy ideas and act as a kind of dry lab for policy theory and experimentation.
“Youth wings traditionally run more extreme politics. They test ideas and can throw them around without the same political consequences as established parties testing those ideas,” said Josef Ohlsson Collentine, the international contact for Sweden’s Pirate Party. The YPE can then, in turn, hand their ideas over to the established parties.
One of the proposals being kicked around would lower the voting age for European Union elections to 14. It’s the age at which European courts will hand down adult-sized sentences, when sex in some European countries becomes legal, and when individuals can decide their religious preference, said Florian Zumkeller-Quast, the 22-year-old chairman of the Young Pirates of Germany.
“The law says you're trusted to make your decisions in a moral way and I think that we should also trust you to vote,” he said. It’s not such a crazy notion, considering that some European lawmakers have in recent years tossed out the idea that people should be awarded voting rights from birth (initially to be cast by parents).
But first things first. At the top of the YPE’s list of priorities is avoiding the communication and coordination pitfalls that plague the respective wings of the greater pirate movement in Europe. Here are the group’s goals, taken from its wiki page:
The main goal of YPE is to bring together European pirate youth organisations and their members, improving not only the coordination of their political work, but also supporting cultural and personal exchange. As a federation of youth organisations, education and personal development of young people as well as the exchange of ideas and support of each other is an equally important aim of YPE. YPE supports access to information and education, copyright reform and the protection of fundamental human rights.
And to achieve those goals: organizing meetings among youth camps and member groups, information sharing, and broadly promoting the kind of open communication one should expect from the pirates. Transparency and accountability are, after all, foundational pillars of the movement.
“We think a pan-European organization which specifically aims to connect across borders will work better than having the organizations talk to each other through sub-corporations,” said Zumkeller-Quast. Whether the Pirate Party will take cues from the YPE, there’s no telling.
Any proud pirate will tell you that the party’s continent-wide ascendance wasn’t coordinated—that each campaign was purely independent and distinct. But that overlooks the obvious overlap in each party’s attitudes and principles, including digital privacy, patent and copyright reform, and government transparency, as well as the timeliness of the party’s rise.
Even if it’s true, the fractionated formation of regional groups is not counted among the party’s strengths, and members know it. That’s why pirates met in Warsaw in July and discussed forming an umbrella group called the European Pirate Party (PPEU). They aim to officially form by next spring.
Meanwhile, their successors just had their first official board meeting. On a conference call last week, YPE members talked basics: achieving nonprofit status, creating a Young Pirates bank account, finding legal representation, and basic duty delegations.
The group also met new brother and sister pirates around the world. One person who phoned into the board meeting wants to launch a Young Pirates group in Russia. Another guest who chimed in expressed an interest in setting up shop in New Zealand.
The YPE won’t move quickly enough to have an impact in this year’s German elections, held on Sept. 22, says YPE Chairwoman Julia Reda, a 26-year-old German. She’s got her sights set on making an impact during the 2014 European Union elections.
“We need to start a transnational discussion about issues among young people,” she said.