Offering Direct Legal Benefits to a Country’s Citizens as a New PD Strategy?

Is it possible that some governments came to a conclusion that granting citizens of other countries special benefits is a good technique for winning hearts and minds? It sure looks like it in two news pieces that drew my attention this week- Germany and Russia.

This week Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived with an official visit to Israel. The biggest headline of this visit was a signing of two very progressive agreements- one gaining young Israeli citizens an automatic provision of temporary working permits when visiting Germany and the other offering Israeli citizens consular services through German embassies in countries with which Israel doesn’t have diplomatic relations (unfortunately there are quite a few). Though officially marketed as a mutual progressive agreement between the two governments, to me it looks much more as a “Forget all the bad we did and come and like us!” call for young talented Israelis with potential to contribute to German economy, who might still have their doubt due to historic residues.

Second somewhat similar act appeared on the website of one of the largest Russian News agencies (unfortunately I can’t seem to find a source in English for now): Russian Parliament is  considering a bill granting automatic citizenship to every Ukrainian citizen who chooses to claim one. Here it seems like an even more brutal act of reaching out directly to citizens and trying to attract them to the country. Of course the long shared history of these states and the predominant nature of Russia in this history explain the case.

So could this become a phenomenon? I think that this is actually a genius technique of reaching out to people directly even if it’s done by signing agreements between governments.  As opposed to other PD techniques we explored that usually target specific audiences within a nation, here we are witnessing acts that reach out to the whole population creating potential for a more significant and direct impact.

And here are the articles:

92 thoughts on “Offering Direct Legal Benefits to a Country’s Citizens as a New PD Strategy?”

  1. Interesting! That does sound as the most effective form of public diplomacy ever, because if I were to sign up for a different nationality I would make sure to know exactly what I am signing up for, therefore finding out more about that country than any amount of information a classic awareness campaign could hope for me to retain. I heard a couple months ago about green card lotteries, or diversity visa ( but had never thought about it in terms of public diplomacy. Now that I think about it in those terms, I see how it relates to our discussions about establishing trust, and it’s difficult to express trust more explicitly than “we’ll accept you as our citizen” .
    This makes me think back to the whole Depardieu media event, where a rich French actor was granted Russian citizenship, I guess it could be seen as a public diplomacy endeavor as well, although it would only be perceived as positive by a certain portion of the population, and an accumulation of such moves could be detrimental to first-track diplomatic relations.
    The whole issue here comes back to what we’ve often discussed in class: consistency. This relates to the above in supporting the first-track diplomacy provocation effect rather than deep trust building, for example hosting Edward Snowden while imprisoning Russian activists.If a country like France or Italy for example was to open up a visa/citizenship lottery while it was publicized that it was deporting a great number of people at the same time, it would have to have a well crafted communication strategy for the trust building to actually occur. Examples of actually consistent national discourses are extremely rare, the case of Germany, to my available knowledge, seems to be the closest to this goal. Yet they are also one of the biggest arms sellers along with other security council members, which remains for me an ultimate evidence of appalling inconsistency. Is there any country that could actually be a role model? Uruguay?

    1. A very interesting post. Russia did the same thing in South Ossetia( when they invaded Georgia in the conflict that resulted in the two republics South Ossetia and Abkhazia declaring unilateral independence. I think they handed out some passports in the Baltic republics at one time as well. It is a good PD and political tactic to curry favor in general much less invasive than forcefully moving settlers somewhere to colonize as other countries have done in the last 70 years. Maelle is right every country is inconsistent, but a good public diplomacy strategy should be able to expose the policies you want exposed while concealing those you want kept quiet. The Pro-Israeli consular services policy is very inconsistent for Germany which has a history of resisting integration and naturalization of immigrants outside the EU The EU policy of critiquing Israeli policy in relation to Palestinians and boycotting products made in settlements is also being undercut by a Germany that seems to be trying to attract educated Israelis like Alana alluded to above. Though as a PD tactic meant to bring closer cooperation between Israelis and Germans it is a good idea much more of a way to use get citizens involved rather than government level weapons transfers or trade concessions that the average Israeli will likely never personally benefit from. Passports, work visas, educational opportunities, free trips, and other services are some of the best ways to impact a foreign public. As the authors we have read have indicated longer term public diplomacy efforts gain more success than a short campaign to promote a single short term policy.

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