The Two Persons Who Plan to Steer PPI on a True Course

The Two Persons Who Plan to Steer PPI on a True Course

During the General Assembly of Pirate Parties International (PPI), held in Paris April 2014, the delegates elected a new board. The two persons elected as co-chairpersons were Maša Čorak (from Croatia) and Koen De Voegt (from Belgium). Many of the delegates have big hopes for these two and they were even called a dream-team by some. Here is a short interview to let you know who will be leading PPI over the next year:

Pirate Times: Hello Maša and Koen! You two were recently elected co-chairpersons for the PPI, therefore we would like to introduce the two of you to the pirate movement. Could you please start by introducing yourself and give us a short overview of your involvement up until the GA?

CC BY - Koen De Voegt

CC BY – Koen De Voegt

Maša: I’m Maša Čorak, a Pirate from Croatia. At the moment I’m still a chairperson of the Pirate Party Croatia but my mandate will expire in a few weeks. Considering my new function in PPI and the obligations it carries, among Croatian Pirates I’ll just stay as an international coordinator or part of the international coordination team. This is the third mandate I’m finishing, but only the second one since we’re a formally registered political party in Croatia.

I’ve been involved in the international Pirate movement just a bit shorter time than in the movement in Croatia, which is about three years now. The last two years, I mostly spent travelling across Europe, working as a delegate in the process of the PPEU founding. Wherever and whenever I can, I advocate/lecture for and about copyright reform, net neutrality, freedom of speech and free flow of information in general.

Last year, I was PPHR top candidate on the extraordinary EU elections and we managed to gain an impressive 1.3% nation wide. Impressive, since those were our first elections and we had just a bit over two weeks to prepare and execute the whole campaign. Unlike Koen, I’m not a computer geek! I have a BA in economics but I’ve also studied engineering in maritime transport.

CC BY - Maša Čorak

CC BY – Maša Čorak

Koen: My name is Koen De Voegt, I’m a 34 year old engineer in Electronics. I’ve been a long time user of open source software and a strong believer in the principles behind it. While working at Bell Labs Antwerp, a traditional research lab, I came into contact with patents on a regular basis. Although I co-authored one patent during this period my conviction of the ineffectiveness of this system to stimulate innovation only grew stronger.

I’ve been active in the hackerspace community of Belgium since early 2010. Around this time I first learned about the Pirate Party. It was however only after the break-through victory for the German Pirate Party in Berlin that I decided to join the Belgian Party. First as a regular attendee during the start of the Ghent crew. A few months later I started the Pirate Party of Antwerp, my home city. From then on PP became my main occupation outside work.

In September of 2012 I was asked to join the Belgian delegation for the PPEU conference in Barcelona. Since then I’ve become really active in the international Pirate movement. Both on the conferences and during election campaigns of other European Pirates. This all culminated in my election as co-chairperson of Pirate Parties International exactly on my 34th birthday.

Maša: You see what I mean! His introduction is totally geeky (I mean it in the best possible way) and closer to the general presumptions people have about Pirates. Maybe just because of that, we will represent a good balance for each other. He’s covering the technical part, I’m covering the social one (LOL)!

Pirate Times: What was your motivation to get involved in the international part of the pirate movement?

Maša: Exactly that – international part! I strongly believe that international aspect is our biggest strength (though I also believe that we’re not using that aspect as well as we could and should). Instead of writing you some philosophical sentences in a form of motivational speech, I will describe just one event for you.

Ok, I have to go back to those extraordinary EU elections I’ve already mentioned in my introduction. Since the time-frame was tight, we were sure we wouldn’t even participate in that election and then, the most beautiful thing happened. A few days after our President announced the exact date of the elections, we were hosting a PPEU meeting in Zagreb. Anyway, I’ve just mentioned that election to Mab [editor comment: the assistant of Amelia Andersdotter in the EU parliament at that time] and didn’t even needed to add anything else.

Operation: ‘Let’s prepare Croatians for the elections’ was started that same moment. We were brainstorming and discussing the whole weekend and of course, during the whole campaign and the result were those 1,3% but also, something way more important. It was a joined success because pirates from Croatia, Sweden, Belgium, Serbia, Bosnia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Germany and The Netherlands (I’m sorry if I’ve managed to left somebody out), were working on it together. I’m telling you… Some pretty amazing things can happen when you put pirates from a few different countries in the same room.

Koen: I’ve always been a strong believer that international cooperation is the natural way forward for the human race. There are no borders on the internet, and those who want to create them should be stopped. Likewise there is no longer a need for imaginary lines on maps. This is a vision shared by lots of Pirates in my opinion. So it’s only logical that I wanted to actively encourage multinational cooperation between Pirates.

Pirate Times: Why did you decide to run for co-chairperson?

Maša: I decided that in the last possible moment. Why? Probably because a few fellow Pirates believed in me more than I believed in myself at the moment (my current co-chair included). If you’re asking what the breaking point was, then I have to answer that I was tired of listening to constant complaints from Pirates all around the world, saying that PPI needs a strong change of course. Also, I couldn’t agree more with them so in the end, the only sane option was for me to run and to try and figure out what went wrong in the first place. Then, fix it! PPI is in a bad shape right now, let’s be honest. There’s not a lot of confidence in the organization from Pirates world wide and who could blame them? But there is still that great idea behind it and all that PPI needs right now are the people capable to bring that same idea to the surface again.

Koen: PPI hasn’t really been run very efficiently in the last couple of years. I thought I could help a bit trying to put things right again. My main reasoning was that PPI needed someone on the ground in Belgium to help sort out the by-laws and the bank accounts. I didn’t really set out to become co-chair of Pirate Parties International. I only asked a few international coordinators who where also my friends if they could nominate me. And some did. I didn’t even bother to ask for a nomination from my own party because there was simply no core-team meeting between the time I decided to be a candidate and the GA. However, during the weekend in Paris I received a lot of support and encouragement from Pirates from all over. This boosted my motivation and ambition as co-chair and my belief that PPI is still relevant and much needed. This ambition was boosted even further by the fact the I was elected co-chair together with Masa, a close friend, in whom I have great confidence. The amount of people voicing support and trust in us has been completely heart warming. Some have even called us a dream-team. I hope that I don’t let anybody down.

Pirate Times: What do you want to focus on during your time as chairperson? What do you consider current issues, and what might be possible solutions for those?

Maša: Did I mention that PPI is in a really bad shape 🙂 First thing first, we need to work out all those boring but important issues. There’s a lot of pure bureaucracy to do, we need to resolve some financial issues as well. Just try to find some bank statements, financial reports for example.. “You won’t succeed because they simply don’t exist” which is unallowable and preposterous for the organization with transparency as one of the core values.

That bureaucracy will take some time but after that, we’re going ahead full speed! We simply need to do all that so we can even begin to think about what are we going to do for the Pirate movement and it’s promotion, for helping new Pirate Parties etc. Surely, one of the goals is to transform PPI into a real international organization, an organization that will connect Pirates not just from different countries, but from different continents. We already have some great ideas but since they’re still ideas, you’ll just have to wait a bit to find out. It will be a fantastic journey, that much I can say!

There is one other thing I have to mention. There’s only so much the Board itself can do. To do really great things we need to involve everybody! The Pirate movement is full of fantastic individuals and when they sense that their work is not only necessary but valued, they are capable of doing amazing things!

Koen: The first focus will be to get the administration of the organisation working again. Some trouble with the bank accounts and the by-laws need to be resolved. The web infrastructure needs a main overhaul. When those things are done we can focus on organizing another Think Twice conference or maybe two. Of course we also need to organize next years GA in a way that cannot be criticized by anybody.

Another point of attention is the relationship between PPEU and PPI. We need to make sure that both organizations complement each other and don’t compete. To make all of this happen we need, not just nice compliments and expressions of confidence in the new chair people of PPI, we will also need your help. Don’t ask what PPI can do for you, but what you can do for PPI’!

Pirate Times: Thank you both for your time!

Featured image: CC BY Wolfgang Preiss