Three Pirates Speak On the Dutch Referendum
This is a guest post from Rico Brouwer, Pirate Party Netherlands
On April 6th 2016 there will be a Dutch referendum on the association agreement between the EU and Ukraine. Me and a few Dutch Pirates created an English (and Dutch) website called dutchvote.eu about everything related to this referendum. The website gives campaign information without being biased toward a particular vote.
The Pirate Party Netherlands took the initiative to create the website about the Dutch referendum to provide information and connect to people, enabling more people to give an informed YES or NO vote on April 6th. We decided to talk with three Pirates from different countries (Ukraine, Russia and the Netherlands) to get their perspective on the vote.
Meet Sergiy from Ukraine, Nikolay from Russia and Steven from Holland
Pirate Times: Could you briefly tell us a little about your Pirate Party?
Sergiy is the head of the Pirate Party Ukraine: The current Pirate organisation was created in 2010 and is the third reincarnation of the pirate movement in Ukraine. The main activities of Ukrainian pirates are:
- wrestling with information monopolies and creating alternatives (e.g. free software, legalization, Creative Commons)
- changing the education system for the raising of free-minded citizens. (Implementation of Liquid Democracy in schools)
- education about self-organization and its promotion at the local level, assistance in the creation of institutions of civil society, and the development of skills of independent decision-making at the local level.
Nikolay from Russia is the international coordinator for the Pirate Party in Russia and also a board member of Pirate Parties International: The Pirate Party in Russia isn’t large at the moment, but we are very active on social media. We have several projects. The largest one is RosKomSvoboda – RuBlackList.NET where we are working to protect internet freedom in Russia and are fighting against resource blocking and censorship in the Russian segment of internet.
Pressure from the copyright industry is also a problem on the Russian segment of the internet. We try to reform it through our campaign – ChangeCopyright (changecopyright.ru).
Unfortunately, we are not registered because our Ministry of Justice doesn’t like our “Pirate” name. We are trying to challenge this refusal to register with the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).
Steven from The Netherlands about the Dutch Pirate Party; There’s been a Pirate Party in Holland since 2010 and we take part in elections on all levels. In 2014 the Pirate Party got their first representative seat in Amsterdam-West Municipality. A main focus there is getting citizens involved in the formation of new policies. Which takes us to the referendum that in itself is a form of direct democracy.
The manner in which the referendum is now embodied in our law has the potential of a dead sparrow. In democracy the way the Pirate Party would have it, citizens can put items on the agenda, with a say about a solution in a way earlier stage. Not focused on ideology but on topic. All facilitated by e-democracy systems.
Pirate Times: What’s the people’s view about the association treaty in your country? What is the general opinion?
Sergiy: Association for Ukrainians means:
- the possibility of upgrading the civilized state peacefully: the elimination of corruption, stable protection of human rights, the rule of law, development of democracy, the expansion of freedom of speech;
- creation of conditions for business development;
- the development of civilized trade with more countries. Today Ukraine has trade treaties with almost 30 countries – Israel, Lebanon, the countries in Central and South America.
Nikolay: Literally, we don’t care too much. We think it is an internal matter of the Netherlands, EU and Ukraine. Many people have not even heard about this referendum. EU isn’t a threat and never was.
Steven: I think most people find it difficult to form an opinion on this treaty. I could not find a leading opinion, though the opponents of the treaty appear to shout the loudest. In the run up to the referendum, I see different opinions: vote no; vote yes; do not vote; inform yourself and vote.
Pirate Times: What do you think the relationship between the EU, Ukraine and Russia would be like in, let’s say, ten years from now, and what influence do you think the referendum on April 6 in the Netherlands could have on that?
Sergiy: Unfortunately, the Kremlin’s aggressive policy towards the countries of the former Soviet Union, the annexation of Crimea, military intervention to the East of Ukraine, the information war against Ukraine, all contributed to the almost complete cessation of relations with Russia.
Before all these events Russia played a significant role in the economy of Ukraine. I am sure that after a change in the political course of the Kremlin and the recognition of the rights of the independent states, eventually all things will return almost to their previous level of relations. I am sure that after a while we will assist the establishment and development of democracy in Russia.
Nikolay: We know for a fact that they became worse, but that has nothing to do with the NL-referendum or association treaty. NL referendum will not effect on relationships between Russia and EU, or between Russia and Ukraine. The so called “relationship issue” is overrated in media. Russian government have fears on NATO, but not on EU.
Steven: If there is (political) will, there will be good relations. Russia and Ukraine are our (EU) neighbours and a good neighbour is better than a distant friend. The referendum has minimal impact on it, as a lot can happen in ten years.
Pirate Times: What impact do you expect from the Association Agreement on the economy of Ukraine as a whole, and the economic situation of the Ukrainian citizens as individuals?
Sergiy: I do not see a direct link between the association and the development of the economy. The development of democracy, the rule of law, harmonization of legislation and only after that, as a consequence – the development of business and improvement of citizens welfare.
Nikolay: I’m citizen of Russia, so ‘I don’t know’, I’d better skip this question *smiles*
Steven: The average citizen outside of the (big) cities would notice little progress.
Pirate Times: What do you think is the impact of this association agreement to the relationship between the EU-Russia and Ukraine-Russia?
Sergiy: Ukraine is an independent country. To be honest, I do not understand why the development of democracy and business in Ukraine should affect the relations with Russia.
Nikolay: There is no problem, I think. Russia has constructive trade and political relationships with many EU-countries, the association agreement itself isn’t a problem. I believe there is no significant impact (good or bad). We do have problems on a geopolitical level though.
Steven: The way the game is currently being played, it is bad for the relations between these countries. Cooperation and trade in the long run are best for all parties involved.
Pirate Times: To what extent is the population of Ukraine as a whole represented by its government? What’s your opinion on Ukraine in its current (constitutional) form?
Sergiy: In the period of Yanukovych the most corrupt hierarchy was built from the bottom up to the President. The reason for the beginning of Revolution of Dignity was the realization of the impossibility of living in a fully corrupted state. Ukrainians are aware that it is impossible to change a system, that has existed since Soviet times, in a flash . We trust in democratically elected government bodies. But at the same time we provide them constant pressure to accelerate the introduction of democratic changes and the inability to roll back to the past.
According to the Constitution, Ukraine is a unitary state with a parliamentary presidential form of government. The vast majority of Ukrainians are satisfied with it. We have been supporting the decentralization of power and devolution of power, which is now being carried out by government authorities together with the active part of the citizens.
Nikolay: On first part of question – I have no idea. On second part – Ukraine is independent country in its constitutional form, what else I can say?
Steven: I can not say anything about that. Knowledge is missing.
Pirate Times: If there were any thing you could change about this association agreement between the EU and Ukraine, what would that be?
Sergiy: I would simplify the Association Agreement. Too many details are written. And I would not have politicized the process of association. In fact, it is more an economic agreement than a political one.
Nikolay: Nothing to change there, however I would like to suggest to change trade agreements between Russia and EU to avoid any possible negative “impacts” (or it’s better to say – fears) each time when EU keeps going to new countries. sign agreement with Russia – problem solved.
Steven: I would delete the military part, that’s not needed in a trade agreement. Should EU membership come up in future discussions, it could then become part of discussions again. (For me every European country could try seek membership to the EU. Russia also.)
Pirate Times: Is there another question that you would like to have been asked in this interview?
Sergiy: Rather, I have a question for the Dutch people: What is the EU-Ukraine Association for you? What do you expect from its implementation?
Nikolay: Why we can’t live in peace? *smiles*
Steven: Will you vote? (yes I will)
Pirate Times: Any final thoughts you would want to share with the Dutch that get to vote on April 6th, or our other readers of this interview?
Sergiy: I’d like to emphasize the point that this agreement is about the economical association and common market, not about the Ukraine`s association with EU.
Nikolay: I envy you, referendum is the best form of direct democracy.
Steven: Inform yourself and vote! (casting your vote without choosing YES or NO is also a vote).
Editors note: The original, unedited texts in Dutch and English
Bassplayer, guitarist, pirate from the Netherlands. I work there as a VMware instructor; training IT professionals through mostly Holland and Belgium. I’m married and we have two small kids. One could say I’m doing my occasional piraty-good stuff for them, but I think it’s more selfish than that; I want a better world for myself too. The last few years I read up mostly on matters of macro-economics, finance and geo-politics. This led to my participation and speaking on Think Twice II event in Istanbul 2014 and writing the https://dutchvote.eu content and the subsequent interview with Sergiy (Ukraine), Nikolay (Russia) and Steven (Holland) in 2016. I haven’t a clue what comes after as I just try to do things that feel good, rather than plan them. @ricobrouwer on twitter