France-Qatar bilateral relations have been exceptionally good all along, French ambassador Franck Gellet told Gulf Times in an interview in connection with the Qatar National Day.
“The co-operation in such areas as defence and military, fight against terrorism and its financing, advocacy for climate change action, sports, economy and culture has grown by leaps and bounds,” he observed.
Recalling the two visits made by His Highness the Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani to France this year, he said it is significant that both the visits were made after French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit of Qatar in December 2017.
The envoy said Qatar is a friend and reliable partner of France and their ties have remained strong as Qatar is pursuing its rapid development in line with its National Vision 2030.
Speaking on the political dialogue between the two countries, he said: “Indeed, both the countries have a common ground as far as such areas as multilateralism, international law, environment issues, security, fight against terrorism are concerned.
“The co-operation is focused on some of the major threats we have to deal with such as terrorism and organised crime, including cybersecurity. This year our partnership has witnessed a qualitative leap, covering a wide range of issues such as crisis management, public order, specialised intervention or VIP protection. We have not only strengthened our historical relations with the Internal Security Force (Lekhwiya) but also paved the way for a successful co-operation with the Ministry of Interior.”
The co-operation was enhanced in the fight against terrorism, its financing and radicalisation with the signing of MoUs in the presence of President Macron and the Amir in December 2017, said Gellet.
Both Qatari and French companies and institutions have enhanced their joint efforts in such sectors as culture, education, research, health, sport and Francophonie.
“France and Qatar share a common passion for sport and our co-operation in the past few years has built growing confidence. As Qatar is a country which hosts major sports events at regular intervals, France has also shared its expertise and experience with this country in such areas as hospitality, security and healthcare sectors.
“France stands with Qatari authorities to make the 2022 FIFA World Cup a success as we are able to meet some of Qatar’s major requirements. France will continue to propose the best solutions and the most advanced technology for Qatar.”
“France is looking forward to lessons from Qatar’s experience in 2022 for the Olympic Games to be held in Paris in 2024.”
The cultural bilateral co-operation plays an important part in bringing together common projects as the forthcoming Qatar-France Year of Culture in 2020, as well as featuring French cultural excellence in artistic genres (music, dance, storytelling, cinema), the ambassador said.
As Qatar has been an associate member of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF) since 2012, the Francophone environment in the country need to be increased, felt Gellet.
The ambassador also highlighted the importance of academic and professional exchanges with French-speaking countries. While answering a query on 2018 being considered as an exceptional year for Qatar’s diplomacy despite all challenges of the crisis, the ambassador said: “Qatar is now a major player who wants to be part of shaping the world of tomorrow. Qatari authorities have capitalised on the challenges of the crisis whether they are economic, political or security-related with relevant behaviour, policy and diplomacy.”
Replying to a query on the progress in cultural and education co-operation, the ambassador said France is strengthening its co-operation in education with different Qatari institutions.
“In partnership with the Minister of Education and Higher Education, France is promoting education in France for Qatari students,” he said, while recalling his attendance in a meeting on the benefits of studying in France organised last month by the Ministry of Education and Higher Education with secondary public school students.
Gellet also remembered attending the maiden University Expo Qatar held in Doha where the French pavilion showcased higher education opportunities.
The ambassador recalled the first joint committee meeting between Qatar University (QU) and the French embassy earlier this year.
“It focused on areas of co-operation, regarding the training and rehabilitation of students, scientific research and development and promotion of French language education at the university”, he said.
Gellet said he is really proud of the works being initiated by HEC Paris in Qatar, which he said is providing world-class executive education to students in Qatar. “I am proud of this successful partnership with Qatar Foundation”.
The ambassador also informed that as part of the run up to the Qatar-France Year of Culture 2020, several projects have already been scheduled. “This includes exhibitions and events to be held both in France and Qatar.”
The envoy also noted that the economic relations between France and Qatar shot up phenomenally by almost 30% last year compared to the previous year (2016). “We hope it will still continue to rise rise this year and a new record will be set with a volume exceeding QR12bn (over 3bn euros). French companies are doing their best to meet the Qatari market’s high expectations.”
Aircraft, pharmaceutical products, chemical products, perfumes and metal products are France’s main exports to Qatar with Qatar Airways being one of Airbus’ major clients.
The Qatari investments in France exceeded QR72.8bn (18mn euros), based on official figures released in Qatar. “It reflected France’s call to Qatari public and private investors. They include participation in some of the biggest French, real estate assets, and investments in fast-growing SMEs and start-ups, for the latter ones mostly through our joint investment fund.” France is welcoming more Qatari investments in innovative companies. “Some of my Qatari friends have invested in world’s biggest startup campus ‘Station F’ in France,” he said.
French investments in Qatar have also been on the rise, reflecting dynamism and the level of commitment of French companies operating in Qatar, some of them for decades. “Around 200 French companies are working on key projects in oil and gas, electricity and water, transport, urban development assisting Qatar in achieving its goals, enshrined in the Qatar National Vision 2030.”
French companies operating in Qatar were involved in the construction of Hamad Port, the metro and the tram, roads and other industrial facilities, recalled the ambassador.
He also remembered that MoUs were signed between the Ministry of Municipality and Environment and the French Ministry of Agriculture and Food during the Amir’s visit to Paris earlier this year.
Last month, the French embassy and the French Federation of Businessmen, MEDEF International, organised the first Qatar-France Business and Investment Forum. For the first time, a delegation of 60 leaders of major French groups and SMEs visited Qatar to discuss new export and investment opportunities in order to build new partnerships in a wide range of fields, as agriculture, food production, logistics, health, information and communication technologies, thereby strengthening business and investment relations.
French energy major Total is a natural and reliable partner for Qatar and they started here more than 80 years ago, said the ambassador while speaking about growing co-operation between the two countries in oil and gas sectors.
Replying to a query on post-blockade Qatar, Gellet said he is very impressed by Qatar’s ability to overcome the challenges and he said even a year and a half after the embargo began Qatar has been able to transform the crisis into an opportunity with remarkable achievements in self-sufficiency, food security, and logistics with the development of air and sea freight at the Hamad International Airport and Hamad Port.
The ambassador also added that about 30,000 visas were issued by the French embassy so far this year.
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