Interview by Michael Nevradakis
MN: Share with us an introduction for our listeners about the Pirate Party in Greece and in Europe, a brief historical overview and a description of your party’s basic positions.
We believe in the free exchange of ideas and opinions of the citizens and believe that these ideas and opinions need to be supported by our elected officials
TG: For starters, what I would like to share with your listeners is that the Pirate Party in Greece has been in existence for almost three years, since 2012. It is a sister party to the other Pirate Parties all across Europe and the world, it is recognized by the Greek Supreme Court, and it has participated in three electoral contests, the two parliamentary elections of 2012 and the European elections of 2014. It is an official and founding member of the PPEU, the Pirate Party of Europe, and it is a member of the PPI, the Pirate Party International. We have a common political platform with all of the other Pirate Parties, and each party adds its own issues which concern each individual country.
The basic characteristic of the party is that it began in Sweden at the time that Pirate Bay was being investigated, and most of its members are very active Internet users. Its basic principles are transparency, democracy, and a free internet, opposition to any imposition of control over the internet and over the free exchange of ideas through this medium, and what I can say is that our party, in its three years of existence in Greece, has accomplished a lot. For instance, in last year’s European parliamentary elections we finished with almost 1% of the vote, which is a significant number for us. We have developed, across many segments of society, an activist presence as well, not with the traditional definition of activism however, but with a view towards allowing citizens and workers to be able to have a voice and to decide upon issues which concern them. We have been especially successful in doing this in the field of education, where we have created the Pirates in Education, which is an activist group in the broadest possible sense of the term, and whose goal is to become an organ through which educators can participate in the decision-making process, above and beyond existing unions or organizations, which often are closely related to political parties. Now, one could say that the Pirates in Education are themselves part of the Pirate Party, but we do not operate in the same way. What we believe is that we as citizens should be informed about everything and should have the ability to make decisions on our own, instead of having others make decisions for us. In other words, one could say that we are against representation, either through labor unions or through the parliament. We believe in the free exchange of ideas and opinions of the citizens and believe that these ideas and opinions need to be supported by our elected officials. We are against the representative form of democracy in that sense and instead favor direct democracy.
MN: Continuing along this line of thought, what are the positions of the Pirate Party of Greece as far as the key economic issues which the country is currently facing?
The citizens should then have been asked, at the start of the economic crisis, which policy route to take, prior to the memorandums and the loan agreements being signed.
TG: The truth is that we have not developed, nor do we want to develop, an economic ideology which says that everything will be owned by the state and that the state will be the primary employer, for instance, which is a leftist point of view, or conversely, the libertarian point of view that everything must be privatized in order for there to be competition. We have not developed and we do not wish to develop such an ideology. What we are saying, especially at the present time for our country, is that the citizens need to be fully informed about the state of the country’s finances instead of passively living through the crisis, and based on this, citizens should have the ability to make decisions. This is something that should have happened a while ago, beginning with whether Greece should have joined the euro, the common currency, an option which was never given to the citizens. The citizens should then have been asked, at the start of the economic crisis, which policy route to take, prior to the memorandums and the loan agreements being signed. They should have then been consulted about the continuation of these agreements, and they should be asked now, in the condition that Greece is now in, what must happen next.
MN: In what way does the Pirate Party evaluate the actions undertaken by Greece’s new government in its first months in office, especially in light of their pre-election promises and pledges?
TG: The truth is that we are abstaining from adopting any firm position for now, we are allowing some time to go by first to see where things will end up. As a result, we don’t have an official position at the moment. Many of our members are beginning to become uneasy with the government’s broken promises on a number of issues, while other members are adopting a wait-and-see approach. My personal position on this lies somewhere in the middle. It doesn’t bother me so much that certain things aren’t happening, as much as the fact that certain promises are not being kept. It is much worse to promise 100 things and deliver on three of those, than to promise three things and to deliver on all three. That’s where my problem lies. Either the new government didn’t know what it would do once in office, which I don’t believe is the case, or they are completely amateurish.
MN: From what I understand, aside from your position in the Pirate Party, you are an educator in a school in central Athens. In what way would you say that the economic crisis has impacted the quality of education and the operation of schools in Greece, and in addition, how has the crisis impacted the students and their families?
So right now, for the second year in a row, we have secured for our almost 450 students meals that are being delivered through a non-profit organization, Prolipsis
TG: What I can say is that in my 30 years as an educator, what I have seen happen these past 4 or 5 years is without precedent. There are children who come to school having eaten one meal the previous day, perhaps consisting of plain rice or bread. About 20 to 30% of their families do not have anyone that is employed. As a result, what we have done these past two years is to request the assistance of the Greek state at first, which however turned its back to us, initially denying that there was such a crisis in Greek schools, that there were students who were hungry and who were fainting, claiming that this was an exaggeration, even though we were seeing this happen every day. As a result, we were forced to turn to private initiative, despite us not wanting to do so, in order to attain support for the students and their families. We requested assistance from the municipality of Athens, and from the church as well. So right now, for the second year in a row, we have secured for our almost 450 students meals that are being delivered through a non-profit organization, Prolipsis, which is affiliated with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
MN: There is also the issue of bullying in schools, which we saw again recently with the suicide of student Vaggelis Giakoumakis. How do you respond, as an educator, to this phenomenon?
TG: What I will say is that we are in favor of the peaceful resolution of conflict and differences, whether it is between students, between families, or between citizens in general. Violence only leads to more violence, which is then transferred onto somebody else, or onto ourselves, as was the case with the apparent suicide of this student, Giakoumakis. These issues, however, need to be resolved at a very early age and at the start of a person’s life. For example, in my school, there is a tremendous percentage of students, about 70 to 80%, who are immigrants or children of immigrants who were born in Greece. We have developed in our school various facilities in which difference can be understood and resolved. For example, when we have a student who is not performing well with their studies or is facing a learning disability or some sort of psychological issue, we have developed a special unit in our school with special teachers who work directly with these students every day in order to allow them to overcome the issues that they are facing and to be brought back along with the rest of the student body, without fear of being bullied or harassed by any other students.
MN: In closing, where can our readers find out more information about the Pirate Party in Greece, its positions, and its actions and initiatives?
TG: They can visit our main website, www.pirateparty.gr, they can find the website for the Pirates in Education, www.piratedu.gr, as well as the website for the Pirates in Athens, at www.piratesinathens.gr, and they can also find us on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+. We have a forum on our main website, where there is a section that is open to the public, as well as a section which anybody can read but which is only open to our members to participate in. All of our party procedures are open and transparent. We’ve developed a mobile app for Android devices which allow users to be informed about everything that we do, and I should mention that all of our central meetings of our board, which are held at least once per month, are broadcast live over the internet, are open for anyone to participate in if they request it, and after the meetings, we post the recordings as well as the transcripts of these meetings online on our wiki, as is, without any editing or changes, allowing any member of the public to find out what we have to say, what was said, and what decisions were made, in any of our past meetings. This is extremely important as no other political party does this. There is no such transparency, nor will there be, from any other party in Greece. We are very proud of this, we have nothing to hide, we are ordinary people and citizens who want to change things for the better without going in a left or right-wing direction. We just want positive change, a different and better society that will move forward, with cultural understanding and peace between nations. That is why we are also in favor of open borders, of a Europe where all member-states will not have borders between each other. And anybody can also find out about the actions of the European Pirate Party and our member in the European Parliament, Julia Reda, as all of the documentation is available online and translated, in terms of what the European Pirate Party has to say about Europe. This is very important. We were a part of this process from the very establishment of the Pirate Party and were influential in many of the positions that were adopted, and anybody can go online and read and find out how different and how progressive we are compared to many other parties which unfortunately want to take us back to a previous time.