Pandora Leak Will Aid Czech 'Pirates', Says Dutch Ally as he Calls for Pan-EU Voting System
The leader of the Dutch “Pirates”, Matthijs Pontier, has applauded the electoral success of their Czech affiliates who won 99 seats in regional councils in 2020, and he believes the global Pirate movement - a civil libertarian movement which started in Sweden in 2006 - may perform even better if the EU changes its voting system.
Sputnik: First of all, let’s talk about domestic issues in the Netherlands. In a recent tweet you mentioned the situation with US investment house Blackstone, which bought almost 800 million euros of property in your country, but doesn’t pay tax in the Netherlands. What do you think about that and is prime minister Mark Rutte's cabinet to blame in any degree?
Matthijs Pontier: I think the situation is very bad. There's a dire need for affordable housing yet the result of this scenario is a lack of affordable housing with foreign investors profiting from it. And I think the Rutte cabinet is responsible for this. Under his cabinet, they have failed to stop tax evasion so that corporations don't pay a fair amount. On the contrary, they lowered tax for big companies. They also encouraged foreign investors to buy up Dutch property, a policy that drove the prices up.
So they have actively made housing more expensive, although there was already a need for affordable housing. Moreover, they also introduced a tax for corporations that offer affordable housing. So this is a special tax that only has to be paid for those who offer affordable housing. A lot of affordable houses had to be sold by the corporations. They also created extra tax cuts for homeowners. And these are some unfair tax incentives that created a bigger difference between homeowners and people who have to rent because they cannot afford to buy. And as a result, the amount of homeless people has more than doubled in the Netherlands over the past 10 years, and the wait for affordable housing is now up to 17 years. So under the present Rutte cabinet and his previous cabinets, this situation has worsened, and this, of course, is his fault.
Sputnik: Your party has been active in promoting the need for affordable housing, but also the ideas of fair trade, supporting small and medium-sized enterprises and technological advancements for at least a decade. In 2021 we saw a new party appear – the Belang van Nederland, or the “Interest of the Netherlands”, which proclaims many of the same goals, especially when it comes to entrepreneurship. But unlike you, these people are under a right-wing flag - they broke away from Thierry Baudet’s right-wing Forum for Democracy (FvD). Your party, by contrast, had lost a lot of votes in this country by 2021. Does it seem that Dutch voters are turning more towards the right, or are there other factors at play?
Matthijs Pontier: Well, Belang van Nederland broke away from Forum for Democracy after the election. Nobody has ever voted for this party, so it's hard to say whether voters have turned to them. Also, Forum for Democracy was very popular two years ago, but now it has lost most of its support. In the 2019 elections it was a lot more popular. So I wouldn't necessarily say that this is the case. Also, Forum for Democracy's campaign was mainly about being against coronavirus restrictions and denying the science around coronavirus, whereas although we have always been critical about how coronavirus restrictions have limited our freedoms, we have never denied the science around it. And part of the reason is also that you get more media attention if you are provocative, and if you're actually providing good solutions - and we are proud of trying to deliver good solutions. We will always focus on that, no matter whether that gives us more media attention or no.
Sputnik: When it comes to the European political landscape, your party has participated in two EU elections – in 2014 and 2019 - and it seems that despite calling for a transparent and democratic Europe, the voters’ interest in the Dutch Pirate Party seems to have faded significantly. In your opinion, what are the reasons for that, and what are you planning to do to win voters’ trust both throughout the EU and at home?
Well, the Pirate Party is an international movement, and actually, if you look at the European elections, in 2014, we had one seat and in 2019 we had four seats - partly because of the success in the Czech Republic. And there are also national elections coming up in the Czech Republic, and especially since the Pandora Papers exposed
the corruption of Prime Minister Andrej Babiš, the Pirates have a good chance of getting a good result again and becoming one of the biggest parties again in the elections. So we're actually very hopeful for the future for the European Pirate Party.
We would like to have a system with pan-European parties, because actually, if you look at the vote for the Pirate Party around Europe in a lot of countries, they do not get a seat because you need a lot of votes to get a seat. And we're still a relatively small party compared with the traditional, really big parties. But if the seats in the European Parliament reflected the collective seats in various countries, then we would get more seats than we have now. And in the Netherlands for the European elections, some people voted for other parties because they are afraid we might not get a seat. They actually agreed with us, but then they voted for another party because then they are sure that their votes will count - that's how they look at it. I think it's not very democratic to vote strategically, but still, if there were pan-European parties and every vote counted Europe-wide, then we would definitely get seats and then a lot more people would vote for the Pirate Party.