Ins and Outs of the EU: Sex Video Clouds Europe's YouTube Launch

The EU has long had a public relations problem. To help improve its image, the bloc launched its very own YouTube platform in late June -- complete with some of European film's best sex scenes.

Ask a European about the European Union and words like "bureaucratic," " boring," and even "invasive," are likely to get a mention. But thanks to the bloc's new YouTube channel, the EU may soon be more closely associated with "climax," "heavy petting" and, well, "coming together."

Alongside a number of videos focusing on more mundane aspects of EU policy -- such as "For a Smoke-Free Europe" (561 views), "The European Anti-Fraud Office (1,437 views), and "The Reform of the Common Market Organisation for Sugar" (215 views) -- is a short, 44 second video with the unassuming title "Film Lovers Will Love This." In two weeks, it has been viewed over 280,000 times. Criticism hasn't been far behind.

The film, part of a series of short outtakes highlighting an EU fund that helps distribute films made in Europe across the continent, shows racy sex scenes from a number of European movies. As the groaning, moaning and shrieking reaches a crescendo, the words "Let's come together" flash across the screen.

European Commission spokesman Martin Selmayr says that the mini-film has generated a huge amount of complaints, including many from Poland about one brief image which shows two men having sex. A Polish member of European Parliament from the conservative party League of Polish Families says the commission is using "immoral methods" to connect with European citizens.

A number of MEPs from the UK have also complained in the British press about the video. "They do have an image problem," Conservative MEP Chris Heaton-Harris told the BBC in reference to the EU, "but I think cobbling together 44 seconds of soft porn on the Internet is not a brilliant way of solving it." Euro-skeptic MEP Godfrey Bloom told the tabloid Sun that it was "cheap, tawdry and tacky."

Selmayr, for his part, has expressed disdain for the criticism. "The European Union is not a Bible belt, we believe in freedom of expression and artistic creativity," he said. The clips, he made clear, are from award-winning European films.

Many of the short films now available on the EU YouTube site, called EUTube, have long been viewable on the commission Web site, but only with the launch of the YouTube platform on June 29 did they begin to see much traffic.

In launching the site last Friday, Margot Wallström, European Commissioner for Institutional Relations and Communication Strategy, said: "It is very important for the commission to use all the means at its disposal when it comes to communicating with European citizens." Ever since the French and the Dutch voted down the EU constitution in 2005, Wallström has made it a priority to improve the EU's public image and communication.

The new video promises to assist that endeavor. "Boring" it is not.

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