This Bastille Day, we celebrate nearly 50 years of Franco-Emirati relations
Read the Op ed published in The National by the Ambassador of France to the UAE, M. Ludovic Pouille, on the occasion of the French national day, on the 14th July, 2019
From culture to education, health care and new technology, there is no limit to the co-operation between our countries
Almost half a century after the establishment of diplomatic relations, France and the UAE can take pride in what they have achieved together. From culture with Louvre Abu Dhabi, an architectural masterpiece and the first universal museum of the Arab world, to education with Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, the first French-speaking university in the Gulf; from health to renewable energies; from new technologies to the protection of environment and artificial intelligence, I can proudly say there is no limit today in the fields of co-operation between our two countries.
Walking past the doors of the Chateau de Fontainebleau last month, alongside Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed as well as Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of State Zaki Nusseibeh and Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, chairman of Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority, I knew I was witnessing a historical moment. After a century-and-a-half, there it was: the Imperial Theatre, a jewel of France’s past, brought back to life with the support of the UAE leadership and renamed after the UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed. This makes perfect sense in the light of our two countries’ firm belief in the universality of culture. In fact, just a few days later, Aliph, the global fund spearheaded by France and the UAE to protect cultural heritage in conflict areas, announced new funding for 14 projects in Iraq and the wider Middle East.
Our two countries made regional security and the fight against terrorism a priority. Thanks to a longstanding strategic partnership and in-depth dialogue, we are able to respond to the world’s most acute crises. Next November, we will celebrate the 10th anniversary of the permanent base of the French forces in the UAE. I pay tribute to their dedication in protecting our citizens and their unique co-operation with their Emirati allies.
Our ambition is to do even more. More in terms of human exchanges, notably by encouraging more student mobility between France and the UAE, as culture and education are the keys to rapprochement between our people. One of the most beautiful images of the past year was that of the meeting in the Louvre in Paris between Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and about 50 Emirati students in France. My hope is to multiply this figure tenfold in the coming years.
More in terms of Francophonia, since the UAE last year announced the reintroduction of the French language in public schools and joined the International Organisation of La Francophonie as an associate member last October.
More to strengthen the Emirati-French economic partnership, after the success of the second edition of the Emirati-French Business Forum in Paris last October and the visit of French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire in February, which has allowed us to raise the level of our ambitions. The innovations of the French tech sector are at the heart of Emirati-French co-operation, notably in the field of artificial intelligence, an ambition now recognised in the agreement signed between the French minister and Omar Al Olama, the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence.
And more to make our planet great again. In many cities across the world, thousands of young people the same age as my own daughters have taken to the streets to call on our leaders to be serious about climate change. As stated by the Abu Dhabi Climate Meeting earlier this month, I see this not only as a challenge but as a great opportunity to do better in terms of renewable energy, waste management, the protection of biodiversity and the development of green finance, and finding new ways to conceive sustainability-driven projects developed in the UAE with the participation of French entities, such as the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park.
To achieve these goals, I know that companies, banks and sovereign funds play a key role in speeding up the global transition towards a low-carbon economy. As an example, the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority is part of the sovereign fund’s coalition launched in Paris in December 2017 during the One Planet Summit, an initiative led by French President Emmanuel Macron.
Our eyes are now looking toward World Expo 2020 in Dubai. The French pavilion, on a theme of “light, enlightenment”, will evoke France’s unique, pioneering vision of sustainable development, harmonising a strong architectural heritage with one-of-a-kind immersive scenography for audiences.
As we approach the 50th anniversary of the creation of the federation, the time has come to write the next pages of the Franco-Emirati partnership, a diverse, open-minded dialogue based on a long-lasting friendship and shared ambitions for a safer, fairer and more harmonious world.
Ludovic Pouille is the French ambassador to the UAE
Read the Op Ed online, on the website of The National