Dutch strategy to influence Ukraine “yes” vote leaks out

Victoria Koblenko (Photo: Andre Engels/Wikimedia Commons)Victoria Koblenko (Photo: Andre Engels/Wikimedia Commons)

The Dutch government recruited dozens of Dutch celebrities and opinion leaders to convince the public to vote "yes" in the so-called Ukraine referendum, according to a comprehensive communication strategy around the referendum that RTL Nieuws managed to get hold of.

The Ukraine referendum takes place on April 6th. In the referendum, the Dutch public can vote whether or not to accept an association agreement between the European Union and the Ukraine.

The strategy calls these Dutch celebrities "support channels". Their goal is to talk about the referendum in a positive light, so that the Dutch are more inclined to vote in favor of the referendum. The list includes actress Victoria Koblenko, former soccer player Evgeniy Levchenko, Hilversum mayor Pieter Broertjies, publicist and D66 senator Petra Stienen, gay interest group COC and the Clingendael Institute.

All ministers will be given a copy of this communication strategy and it will be discussed in the council of ministers on Friday.

The communication strategy advises the politicians not to call the agreement with the Ukraine an "association agreement", but a "cooperation agreement" instead. The team who drew up the strategy sees association agreement as a far too complicated word which is difficult to understand.

Politicians should also emphasize that the referendum is not about the quarrel with Vladimir Putin and Russia, or about the European Union's management. It is only about the cooperation agreement with the Ukraine, and how it will be good for the Dutch market and for "ordinary Ukrainians". It is simply a trade agreement with a country neighboring the EU which will open the door to "a market of 45 million people", which will be good for the Dutch economy.

The document also contains answers to a number of questions. On the question of what the government will do if the public votes no, for example, the answer is: "At a valid no the government will reflect on the next steps and also discuss it with the parliament. The content of the public debate about the agreement will play an important role in that."

The strategy finally also outlines what the cabinet should absolutely not do. The intention is to keep the discussion away from the geopolitical struggle between Russia and Europe for more influence in the Ukraine. The government does not want to give the "security argument" for or against Russia and Putin too much weight. The strategy team thinks that this will feel too much like "power games" and "scaremongering" to the public.