Monday

16th Sep 2019

EU considers going virtual

  • Will Brussels go virtual? (Photo: Wikipedia.org)

The European Union is looking into entering the virtual world and opening up an office in Second Life - an increasingly popular internet-based virtual world - which the Swedish government and the French presidential candidates have already entered.

"It is certainly an idea we are looking into," commission spokesman Mikolaj Dowgielewicz told EUobserver.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

"But we do not have enough people dealing with the internet - we could but they are bogged down with other work such as for the EU's 50th birthday," he said, adding that the EU executive might look further into it at a later stage.

Second Life is a virtual world in 3D-format built and owned by its virtual residents - called 'avatars' - where they can explore, meet other avatars, socialise, participate in individual and group activities, and buy virtual items and services from one another.

It was launched by the Linden Lab company in 2003 and resident number 4 million moved in last week. Several real-world companies have already created virtual shops in Second Life while Reuters has a correspondent there.

Alternative ways of communicating

Europeans make up the largest block of Second Life residents with more than 54 percent of active users in January ahead of North America's 34.5 percent, according to Linden Lab data.

Mr Dowgielewicz, spokeman for EU communication commissioner Margot Wallstrom, explained that an EU office in the virtual world would be part of the commission's effort to get closer to the EU citizens and communicate better with them, adding that the EU institutions are still quite weak on communication in some areas.

"We're looking at communicating through untraditional channels such as the internet and it is a very serious consideration in the reflection of our future internet strategy," he pointed out.

"Second Life is just one of them but an interesting one," he said. "We're open to new ideas."

No details have been suggested on how the commission could involve itself in Second Life but Mr Dowgielewicz said it was more likely to be a project of the commission's communication department rather than of the entire EU executive.

The European commission is responsible for the 27-member union's EU embassies around the world.

Sebastian Kurpas from European think tank CEPS told EUobserver that it is necessary for any governmental body to look into alternative ways of transmitting its message.

He explained that the commission has lately changed its communication strategy from communication through mainly mainstream channels such as print media and television to a more diversified approach including the internet.

Mr Kurpas said the commission could "reach a different public that may not normally be interested" in its work.

"But the important thing is how you do it," he pointed out. "whether it's tailor-made or just general information."

Swedish embassy and French president hopefuls

In the meantime, Sweden has announced that it is - as the first country in the world - going to open an embassy named House of Sweden in Second Life. It will be run by the Swedish Institute, a promotional body which works alongside the foreign ministry.

"In order for Sweden to reach out in the world we need to work with alternative as well as traditional ways of communication," said Olle Wästberg, head of the Swedish institute.

The embassy's ambition is to attract and provide a conscious and selective young target group with information about Sweden, the institute said in a statement recently.

"Well, it's usually the foreign minister's responsibility to open or close embassies, but in this case I give Olle the green light," Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt wrote in his blog, adding that he hoped he would get an invitation to the grand opening.

French presidential hopefuls - the socialist Segolene Royal, centre-right Nicolas Sarkozy and far-right Jean-Marie Le Pen - have all opened election headquarters in Second Life sharing out free pizza slices and t-shirts while promoting their campaign.

However, the presence of Le Pen's anti-immigration, ultra-nationalist National Front has proved particularly divisive among virtual users, some of whom protested outside the party's first headquarters until it moved.

Agenda

Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK

Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Boris Johnson for the first time, but no breakthrough is expected in Brexit talks. MEPs are preparing to hear from the commission-designates, while Hungary will be grilled at the EU affairs' ministers meeting.

Analysis

How should the EU handle Russia now?

Should West help Russian opposition in its struggle against the regime, or make new deals with Putin, as France is keen to do?

News in Brief

  1. No new backstop proposal at Juncker-Johnson lunch
  2. Saudi oil production in flames after drone attack
  3. US: attack on Saudi oil came from Iran or Iraq
  4. Poll: Belgium's far-right Vlaams Belang largest party
  5. Nationalist parties to support Sanchez if he makes deal
  6. EU finance ministers support simplification of fiscal rules
  7. Italy's Renzi ready to set up new political force
  8. Two independents come top in Tunisia presidential election

Agenda

Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK

Jean-Claude Juncker will meet Boris Johnson for the first time, but no breakthrough is expected in Brexit talks. MEPs are preparing to hear from the commission-designates, while Hungary will be grilled at the EU affairs' ministers meeting.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  2. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNo evidence that social media are harmful to young people
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersCanada to host the joint Nordic cultural initiative 2021
  6. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  8. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  9. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  10. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  11. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat

Latest News

  1. In detail: Belgium's EU nominee faces crime probe
  2. France urges EU virtual currency rules amid Libra risk
  3. Brexit and new commission in focus This WEEK
  4. As recession looms Europe needs more spending
  5. How should the EU handle Russia now?
  6. EU defence bravado criticised by auditors
  7. Central European leaders demand Balkan EU accession
  8. Luxembourg's cannabis legalisation is EU opportunity

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  4. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  5. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan
  8. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  10. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us