This election is different

The election on July 15 was about whether Jean-Claude Juncker gets the chance to form the next Commission. That I granted him this mandate does not mean that I will also vote for the Commission he is now putting together. In order for that to happen, the members of the Commission would need to make significantly greater concessions than he has done so far.

To vote for him was only even an option for me because the European Parliament had just successfully fought for the right to influence the nomination of the candidates for the Commission presidency: All big, pro-European party families had named EU-wide top candidates and communicated to their electorate during the campaign that the result of the EU elections would directly decide about the Commission presidency. In Amelia Andersdotter and Peter Sunde, the European Pirate Party also nominated European top candidates and supported this process. In Germany, televised candidate debates debuted as part of the EU election campaign and the turnout increased for the first time in a long time.

Had Juncker not been elected Commission president, the Council would have declared that democratic experiment a failure and had reverted to having this post decided by national governments in a back room deal. Because the Pirate Party stands for the strengthening of the European Parliament, voting for Juncker was an option for me, even though he is the candidate of the European People’s Party.

Juncker and copyright reform

Apart from these institutional reasons, some of Juncker’s positions also spoke for him. In my opinion, he came as close to Pirate positions as we could have hoped for without becoming unsupportable for his own parliamentary group.

Most importantly, he has clearly committed himself to European copyright reform. The topic made it into his five point plan with priority 1, where he argues for harmonisation of copyright regimes.

He expanded on that in response to my question during his hearing in our parliamentary group:

„Copyright may not impede the digital ambitions of Europe, but must be an instrument to mobilise the European digital potential.“

It is a milestone for a Conservative to acknowledge that copyright can in fact turn out to be hampering digital progress.

Since the European Commission’s public consultation on copyright last winter, which received over 10,000 responses thanks to participation tools like copywrongs.eu, we’ve been waiting for the Commission’s proposals for copyright reform. A leaked proposal that has already been circulating on the web gives a lot less hope for real copyright reform than Juncker’s latest statements. In this leaked white paper, the need for reform of European copyright is downplayed and in most matters it only suggests that the Commission issue non-binding recommendations to the member states. Juncker, on the other hand, has clearly stated in our hearing:

„For 13 years this topic has not been worked on in the European Union and now – since after all, there have also been unlikely revolutions in this area – the moment has come to seriously reengage with the questions of copyright, to make things easier, to make them clearer and to take simplifying actions.“

Since the Commission has indeed issued recommendations over the past few years, but the last legislative reform dates back 13 years, it is clear that Juncker wants to exceed the recommendations from the leaked whitepaper by the Internal Market Directorate General. Juncker finally wants to act legislatively and not leave it at mere recommendations. That there is movement within the Commission has also been shown by the fact that the official release date of the weak whitepaper draft has been pushed back to September, to incorporate the criticisms of other directorates into the text. It is now important to publically support Juncker so that he can put through bold copyright reform within the Commission. That Juncker has not committed himself concerning the question into which directorate’s competence the issue will fall also raises hopes that he may end up assigning it to a more progressive part of the Commission. Should no significant progress be made in the whitepaper until the election of the Commission in October, Juncker certainly can’t count on my vote for his Commission.

It is obvious that we need a European copyright system. „This video is not available in your country“ has got to go. Legally distributing knowledge and culture across the entire European Union currently requires licenses that take 28 different national copyright laws into account. Many other regional differences complicate everyday life in unified Europe: For example, in some countries you may not publish photos of public buildings online, because these countries lack so-called freedom of panorama, causing architect copyrights to conflict with the free reproduction of images of these buildings – which even applies to the seat of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

Other encouraging signs

Additionally, Juncker has announced (Pg. 5) to introduce legislation on the digital single market within 6 months and to break the months-long blockade of the data protection regulation in the Council that the Pirate Party has sharply criticised.

In his plenary speech, he has also committed to introducing an obligatory lobby register, not just for the European Parliament, but also for the Commission and the Council – one of the most important of the Pirate Party’s transparancy demands. Furthermore, he clearly stated in his speech that all documents concerning the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) – including all contracts – must be made public. Should that not happen, TTIP would fail. Obviously this does not go nearly far enough for Pirates, but it is more than Martin Schulz, the candidate of the European Socialists, was ever ready to promise. I believe that access to the text of the TTIP contracts will raise public protests to a new level, as previously happened in the case of the ACTA leaks. In the end, we will only be able to bring down TTIP in the streets, and for mobilisation we need as much information as possible. Making good on this promise is one of the factors my support for his Commission will hinge upon. Until its election in October, Juncker can begin advocating for the release of the TTIP documents and putting his words into action.

Finally, Juncker has announced an EU investment programme in his speech, which will among other things fund broadband rollout and renewable energies. He also gave a specific figure: 300 billion Euros. This announcement is consistent with the Pirate Party’s demands for a Marshall Plan 2.0 to boost the European economy and is a first step to depart from austerity policy.

My conclusion

At the same time, we have great differences – for example considering his position on asylum policy. However, as the only Pirate in parliament, I need to prioritise some issues over others. Hence I made my decision mostly dependent on the core issues of the European Pirate Party’s common election platform.

In the run-up to the vote I used my podcast, Twitter and Facebook to get feedback from the Pirate community on my voting decision and I joined an online plenary discussion with the German Pirate Party’s working group on European policy to discuss the possibility of supporting Juncker. All in all, the feedback was cautious, but mostly positive. It was particularly important to me to involve the Pirate Party of Luxembourg in my decision, because they had run a strong campaign against Juncker’s involvement in a secret services scandal. They also came to the conclusion that under these exceptional circumstances, voting for Juncker would be acceptable.

Of course, the question arises whether my single vote can even have an impact given the grand coalition between the People’s Party, the Socialists & Democrats and the Liberals and whether it wouldn’t have been better to take a stance and vote against a conservative albeit pro-European candidate as a matter of principle. I can relate to that position well, but did not want to take the risk, because the first votes on the Presidency of Parliament had already demonstrated that this supposed grand coalition is in fact very fragile. This has partly been proven true in Juncker’s election: Juncker received 422 votes, at least 20 of which came from other parliamentary groups. The „grand coalition“ alone represents 479 votes. This means that there were plenty of members of the three groups that did not vote along party lines – in particular because Juncker was too socially minded and/or too pro-European for some of the participating parties (i.e. from Hungary, Italy and the United Kingdom).

Had Juncker failed because of internal opposition in these groups, we would surely have gotten a President of the European Commission who would have been worse for Pirates in all respects. An election by only a very slim margin would have strengthened the position of the eurosceptic governments in the Council, who were trying to prevent Juncker’s election at all costs. The British Government has twice blocked a pro-European Commission President in the past – instead we got Santer and Barroso, who both were devastating for the European Union’s legitimacy. My conscience did not allow me to take the risk of another Commission along Barroso’s lines.

So those are the reasons I voted for Juncker as President of the European Commission. I will keep close watch for him to fulfil his promises. From today’s perspective it seems very unlikely that I will also vote for his Commission. I will closely scrutinise the candidates for the Commission posts, especially in regards to copyright reform. In any event, I will keep including all of you and the European Pirate Party in the discussion.

To the extent possible under law, the creator has waived all copyright and related or neighboring rights to this work.

My name is Julia, I'm the Pirate in the European Parliament.

I'm fighting to make copyright in the EU unified, progressive and fit for the future. Will you join me?

3 comments

  1. 1
    Fredrik

    Isn’t “This video is not available in your country” more often a result of producers who is licensing distribution to different sites/media houses based on their geographic target, rather than the lack of harmonised copyright laws?

  2. 2

    […] è stato pubblicato inizialmente da Julia Reda, unica parlamentare del Partito Pirata tedesco, sul suo sito personale e pubblicato sotto licenza CC0. La traduzione è ad opera del GdL Traduzioni del Partito Pirata […]

  3. 3

    Hi Julia, are you familiar with this article? I think it’s important for you to read this critical article about Juncker, titled “Jean Claude Juncker is everything that’s wrong with Europe all rolled into one person”. I’m willing to invest some time into translating it, if needed, but I think Google translate does a somewhat decent job.

    https://decorrespondent.nl/1352/jean-claude-juncker-is-alles-wat-er-mis-is-met-europa-in-n-persoon/116492286768-b23e1884