Sweden’s Pirate Party targets EU Parliament

Sweden's Pirate Party has announced plans to coordinate copycat parties around Europe in an attempt to win seats in the EU Parliament in the 2009 elections.

Speaking to The Local, the party’s vice chairman Christian Engström said that it was a realistic goal.

“To form a parliamentary group you need 19 people from five countries. We already have sister parties in Germany, Austria, Italy and France,” he said.

The Pirate Party’s objective, according to Engström, is to make sure that all of these parties run on a common message – and one which extends far beyond the most public issue of downloading movies and songs for free.

“We’re all about the issue of what an information society should look like in future. Should it be American media giants owning everything and charging for access? Or should it be a more sharing online culture, like it is now?”

Engström describes the alternatives as a ‘Read only’ society or a ‘Read/Write’ society.

“Although I didn’t come up with that expression,” jokes the 46 year old.

Before the Swedish election on September 17th, there was speculation that the Pirate Party would snatch enough votes from among the country’s youth to gain a seat in parliament.

The larger parties appeared to be rattled, with the Greens using the file sharing issue in their own advertising, and the biggest party, the Social Democrats, acknowledging that the law needed to be changed.

In the event, the party earned only 0.63 percent of the vote.

“Obviously we didn’t do that well in the national election – we were a long way from the 4 percent you need to get a seat in parliament,” said Engström.

“But for a party that started only nine months before the election, and which hasn’t had any funding at all, there’s no reason to be ashamed of the result. It was the same for the Feminist Initiative and the June List.”

And it is from the latter party, the June List, or Junilistan, that the Pirate Party draws encouragement for its assault on the European Parliament. In 2004 the party astonished the Swedish political establishment by winning 14.4 percent of the Swedish vote and three of Sweden’s 19 seats in the EU parliament.

That’s something Engström believes the Pirate Party can emulate.

“European elections are different to national elections. Voters tend to be less locked in to what they normally vote for,” he said.

He dismissed the suggestion that the party suffers in the wider political world because of its association with outlawed activity – not least through its name.

“In many ways, the name is our greatest asset. We’re concerned with copyright, patent, and civil liberties and personal integrity issues. To people who feel like we do it’s immediately understandable,” he said.