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The most extreme weekend in Brussels ever

Founding of European Pirates. Conference of the Young Pirates. 370 people that came to Brussels, journalists, good speakers and interesting debates. These were the major features of the last weekend.

One might say that all of this cannot be achieved in only Saturday and Sunday. Indeed it's not – and that is why this weekend was unique. It started actually on Thursday evening already. That was a great moment – opening and keynote speeches by Amelia, by Julia Reda and Rick Falkvinge.

The Conference. Venue: European Parliament

We spent many weeks by preparations so we could be sure that all we do will run smoothly. And so did the Young Pirates, who gathered right after us on Saturday and Sunday in the very nice BYRRH abandoned factory/cultural center/community space in northwestern Brussels.

Yeah, we wanted to do the foundation of Pirate Party Europe. But not only that. Shortly after the official celebration, after the historical moment (and after lunch) we had a huge conference full of panels with specialists, NGOs, evangelists, activists... simply all the people that one can imagine when speaking about Internet Governance.

The hardest work was indeed to form a program that will be interesting and that will bring a lot of attraction from all over the Pirate movement, but also from outside. A cheap policy-babble talks (that are actually very common here in the parliament) were not an option. We had 34 speakers in total; one MEP, one Pirate deputy from local administration in Germany, independent journalists, NGO lawyers, hackers, scientists... Even EU organizations (such as the European Commission, or European Consumer Organization – BEUC) sent their representatives as speakers. This was a good certainty that various backgrounds will be taken into accord during the talks.

In the end 371 people registered for our event. Pirates came from all over the world, from faraway countries like Iceland, Croatia or even Japan. The entrance to the parliament was for one moment kinda crowded. The topics for discussion (all eight of them) were defined in order to describe the current issues of the cyber world in the best way. We discussed the copyright reform, as it will most likely be the outcome of recent copyright consultations arranged by the Commission. The talks about net neutrality also brought us very closely to the current negotiations in the Parliament. Internet security (and insecurity) was also debated. And many more.

One of the topics I personally liked, where I put the most effort in preparations was TTIP – the currently negotiated Trans-Atlantic partnership. This topics was discussed as the last one, at the largest panel. The speakers were very good – Willi Kampmann, Gregory Engels, Glyn Moody, Ben Borges, Kostas Rossouglou – all of them presented what can the impact of adoption of such a treaty can be. Examples from North and South America were presented as well as possible benefits that the treaty might or might not bring.

We've also registered some minor problems and issues during the event. Some of the visitors were actually confused by the size of the “small” room (that had 217 places compared to the “big” one with 417) and also late arrivals, that kinda made complications with the registration. But in the end the opinions of our visitors about our event were mostly positive. European Parliament provided us with all we needed; there was streaming, audio-visual service, catering was provided. The administration even dispatched one person to help us with everything we wanted to have. Security was present after the working hours to check if everything will work just fine...

Young Pirates meeting

And now to Saturday and Sunday: The parliament is closed for the weekend (some assistants actually can enter the building even on weekends if they want to, but interns can't, not to mention the visitors). The good thing is that the Young Pirates managed to get a very nice place – BYRRH. It is a factory, located in Brussels-Laeken with all spaces needed for presentations, for workshops, barcamps or even afterparties. In essence: It was kinda similar to the parliament (we only missed a supermarket or a canteen). Why was it similar? Well, there was actually no reason to go to the “outside world”. And the guys inside also prepared breakfast, lunch and dinner for all the participants! (Almost) all vegan.

The discussions during the YEEA were about all possible topics, but focused mostly on the level of political theory. We've talked about various planes how all the ideologies interact, evolve, change and where Pirates can be on which axis. Kinda reminds me the panel I wanted originally to have on the opening of the European Internet Governance and Beyond (that we decided to cancel due to focus on less political and more technology-related topics).

An interesting part of Smári McCarthy's speech was exactly about this – about axes that define extreme positions in the political competition and that define parties. Most of us know about the right-left definition of politics (that is more or less already a branding than real politics in the postmodern world), or even the liberal-conservative distinction. But about centralistic-decentralistic principle? Or individualist-collectivist one?

I would say I liked this presentation the most from the whole YEEA meeting.

So as the conclusion – yes, this was the most extreme weekend ever. The preparations started already in December and they were long, lots of work was supposed to be done. Some of our partners were not very helpful, sometimes I had a feeling that I am in some kind of Kafka-esque novel. But in the end so many Pirates helped us. Especially the Pirate Party Germany showed a great deal of interest in the founding of PP EU and so the Pirate Party Sweden. I am wondering if we would be actually able to do the stuff without their assistance.

Image credits: 

Founding session of the Young Pirates: Maša Čorak, CC-BY-SA 3.0, A colleague holding a poster of our event in front of Amelia's office: Anders Jensen-Urstad CC-BY-SA 3.0, YEEA facility: Jan Loužek CC-BY-SA 3.0


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