German Pirates debate Europe, Economics and Eurocrisis

German Pirates debate Europe, Economics and Eurocrisis

On 29 and 30 September 2012, over 100 Pirates from the Pirate Party of Germany met to discuss Economic and European Policy at the Conference for Europe, Economics and Finance (or EuWiKon, as the German acronym goes) in Essen, North Rhine-Westphalia.

The meeting was a preparatory measure for the upcoming 2013 German national elections. The German Pirates previously had been criticised for having little substance in their manifesto beyond the International Pirate consensus. Last weekend they set out to fill in some of the blanks in two important policy fields.

The goal of the conference was to put forth motions for approval by the national party convention in the end of November this year. In the run-up to the conference the PPDE’s permanent working groups, as well as individual pirates, had already done a lot of preparatory work. The task for EuWiKon was to determine the best of those drafts and refine them. Or, as Laura Dornheim of the Working Group Economics put it in her opening keynote: “Let’s dig for gold!”

The participants entered into very lively discussions about an abundance of issues. Wherever possible, they were joined by external commentators who followed the conference via teleconferencing or video stream.

The trolls, who often plague mailing lists and the Twittersphere, mostly seemed to have stayed at home. Because of this, even though debates were very thorough and some controversial arguments were brought up, the discussions did produce an impressive list of results.

The working group for European topics debated and finished several draft motions. This included a preamble with a clear pro-European stance. The text acknowledges the achievements of European integration, but calls for increased democratic legitimacy.

There was also a draft, for part of the election manifesto, which states some clear demands with which to tackle this problem. This included a strengthening of the European Parliament as well as facilitative measures for starting a European Citizen’s Initiative. They also drafted a motion about which requirements, in terms of democratic legitimation and transparency, the German Pirates should demand for the process of a European Constitutional Convention, when the time comes.

The EuWiKon Pirates also debated a wide array of economic topics. A working group, which was originally founded to discuss the European Stability Mechanism, prepared a motion to help Europe’s ailing economies by allowing another haircut on debt, while protecting smaller investors. Another discussion about European economics ended up producing a draft motion about a strict separation of commercial and investment banks.

The working group on taxes and a guaranteed basic income further discussed one perspective of implementing such a basic income. A motion on this has already been entered into PPDE’s internal online voting system, LiquidFeedback (LQFB), to assess how it would function at the party convention. Another group discussed whether the party manifesto should include a chapter on entrepreneurship and self-employment. Yet another working group worked on a motion on fighting lobbyism through greater transparency. These groups were also testing the waters in LQFB.

Gilles Bordelais, coordinator of Working Group Europe, and Laura Dornheim of Working Group Economics present the final results after two days of intense working sessions at EuWiKon

Besides the fixed schedule there were so-called “Bar Camps” on additional topics related to EuWiKon’s core subject. Most of these groups did not produce finished draft texts, as they were merely meant to be entry-points into certain topics and did not have the same preparatory backing as the fixed events. Even though the Pirate’s debates on these issues is in a very early stage, some very interesting ideas have been brought up there.

Topics included what is called the 3rd Industrial Revolution, a concept that predicts economic prosperity from decentralized and renewable electric power generation, backed by an internet-powered smart grid. In the words of Anke Domscheit-Berg, who introduced the topic, the aim is “power to the people, with a double meaning”.

Another group discussed the impact of European agricultural policy on development, and discussed whether abolishing import tariffs on agricultural products might be an effective way of development aid. They formulated an aim for European agriculture to consist of sustainable and organic farming.

All in all, EuWiKon was a very productive working session for the German Pirates, which complemented their usual online working methods. Anders Bernhard, one of the three coordinators of the Working Group Europe, when asked to give his overall impression of the conference, said “[EuWiKon] is a damn good method to […] really get some work done.”

Laura Dornheim of the Working Group Economics stated in a summary interview about the whole weekend that “Now nobody should say we had no clue about Euro[pean], Economic or Finance policy. We have a lot of super smart and committed people [on these topics].”

The deadline for submitting motions for the national convention is still a few weeks away, so PPDE’s working groups can now concentrate on putting the final touches on the drafts, before subjecting them to the scrutiny of the whole party. It is expected that at least some of the motions will make it into the PPDE’s manifesto, thereby strengthening their profile and making good on the party’s announcement to fill in the blanks.

Some quotes were kindly provided by the “Krähennest” Pirate Podcast.

Further reading:

EuWiKon Homepage (German)

Pages of Working Groups Economics and Europe in the PPDE party wiki (German)

Krähennest Podcasts about the conference, includes a large number of interviews (German)