The Qatari Takeover of France | GATESTONE INSTITUTE | OCT 10 2012
French politicians such as President François Hollande hope that Qatari funds will help fight poverty in disadvantaged Muslim neighborhoods, They assume that poverty is the cause of France’s social problems. They should, however, know better. The problems in the suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis and elsewhere are not caused by poverty, but by the unwillingness of many Muslims to integrate into French society.
Qatar announced last February, when Nicolas Sarkozy was still the President of France, that it was willing to invest €50 million ($65 million) in the French banlieues, the suburbs which are home to the vast majority of the six million Muslim immigrants in France. Meanwhile, Qatar has doubled the sum to €100 million, which it is apparently going to spend through an investment fund in support of small businesses owned by Muslims. Last month, the French government approved the fund, which the French newspaper Libération describes as a “Qatari take over of the banlieues.”
French politicians such as President François Hollande hope that Qatari funds will help fight poverty in disadvantaged Muslim neighborhoods. They assume that poverty is the cause of France’s social problems. They should, however, know better.
The Muslim suburbs surrounding Paris are mainly situated in the département (county) of Seine-Saint-Denis. In 2005, heavy rioting broke out in this département, where Islam is the largest religion. The French government seems to have lost control over this département where the French police no longer dare to venture and where French civil law is being replaced by Sharia law.
Seine-Saint-Denis is the 15th richest of France’s 96 départements. The poorest are Cantal, Ariège and Creuse – rural areas with hardly any immigrants. The problems in the suburbs of Seine-Saint-Denis and elsewhere are not caused by poverty, but by the unwillingness of many Muslims to integrate into French society.
While Mr. Hollande may think that he has found a solution to alleviate tension in France’s banlieues, the Qatari influence threatens to radicalize further the Muslim population there.
The French government dismisses the fear that Qatar wants to impose a de facto Muslim Caliphate in the banlieues. President Hollande says that with the assistance of countries such as Qatar, France will be capable of detecting business talent in the banlieues – something which the French authorities are presumably not capable of doing on their own.
Qatar, though posing as a pro-Western nation, subscribes to the radical Wahhabi sect of Islam that rejects Muslim integration in the West and actively encourages jihad against non-Muslims.
Qatar is a major supporter of the Wahhabi fighters who seized power in Libya and are trying to do the same in Syria. It is also a major sponsor of Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood. Moreover, Qatar hosts the controversial Al-Jazeera television network, which includes among its presenters Sheikh Yusuf al-Qaradawi, the Dean of the Faculty of Sharia and Islamic Studies at the University of Qatar, who is notorious for his praise of suicide bombings and other terrorist activities.
As Soeren Kern pointed out here earlier, the Qatari Emir, who rules his country as a dictator, has vowed to “spare no effort” to spread the fundamentalist teachings of Wahhabi Islam across “the whole world.”
The move into the banlieues is merely the next step in Qatar’s global strategy. The Emir of Qatar, who is also financing the construction of mega-mosques in Sicily and Ireland, has already invested heavily in the French economy. Qatar has bought shares in top French companies such as Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH), the world’s largest conglomerate of luxury products, the French oil company Total and media group Lagardère. Qatar also owns the French football club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) and the prestigious Carlton Hotel on the Croisette in Cannes.
Through its stake of 13 percent in Lagardère, the Wahhabi regime in Qatar has an interest in EADS, the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company. Lagardère owns 7.5 percent of EADS, the mother company of Airbus, the world’s leading manufacturer of commercial aircraft. Qatar also hopes to buy a direct stake of 7.5 percent of EADS from the German automaker Daimler. It is ironic that a sponsor of Wahhabi Islam, which has previously hijacked and bombed passenger planes, is now acquiring a stake in the company that constructs such planes.
Outside France, Qatar Investment Authority owns a small stake in Royal Dutch Shell, which it has announced it wants to raise to 7 percent. It also owns the London department store Harrods and is the largest shareholder of the British supermarket chain Sainsbury’s. It was also part of the investment group that in December 2010 bought the American movie giant Miramax, thereby ensuring that Miramax will never make a movie critical of Muhammad or Islam.
It is notable that he first foreign leader to be received by French President François Hollande at the Elysée Palace after his election last May was Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the Emir of Qatar — an event that illustrates the importance to Hollande of this Persian Gulf Emirate that is barely the size of the French province of Corsica.
Libyan conflict brings French-Qatari ties to the fore | REUTERS | APR 13, 2011
“PARIS/DOHA, April 13 When Nicolas Sarkozy took office in 2007 he could have invited any number of Arab leaders to France for a first contact to define his stance towards the Middle East. He picked the emir of the Gulf Arab state Qatar.”
“The economic rationale for boosting ties was clear: Qatar is the world’s top exporter of liquefied natural gas, has one of the highest per capita income levels globally and is a major client of the French aerospace and arms industry.”
“Yet it was arguably Doha’s political role as home to the influential pan-Arab television news channel al-Jazeera, and its aspiration to act as an honest broker in the region that tweaked Sarkozy’s interest and has cemented the closeness between the two countries in the Libya crisis.”
“Qatar was the first Arab country to send warplanes to help enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, giving the French-led military campaign vital Arab political cover.”
STRONG ECONOMIC TIES
The diplomatic partnership with Sarkozy has helped boost the business relationship.
On his first visit to France, the emir bought 80 Airbus EAD.PA aircraft for Qatar’s state airline and French exports to the emirate now regularly exceed 1 billion euros a year.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund — believed to be worth about $70 billion — has snapped up key French assets, with stakes in Airbus parent EADS, energy group EDF (EDF.PA) and construction firm Vinci (SGEF.PA).
“In addition to signing a defence pact in 1994, France has supplied something like 80 percent of Qatar’s weaponry and are dealmakers par excellence, expertly inserting themselves into any available crevice of Qatari interest,” he said.
While Sarkozy has courted the Qataris, making four visits since taking office, more than to any other Arab state, the relationship has not always gone down well in France.
In 2008, France passed a law granting special tax exemptions to the emir and other Qatari investors who had bought property in Paris.
The Strange Power of Qatar | NY BOOKS | OCT 27, 2011
On August 23, Libyan rebels raised their flag over Bab al-Aziziya, the once-impregnable complex housing Muammar Qaddafi’s headquarters in Tripoli. Though the dictator himself still remained at large, the overrunning of one of the nerve centers of his regime had enormous symbolic power and seemed to offer definitive proof of the rebels’ strength. And yet on several newscasts, a different story about the uprising was emerging: along with the rebels’ tricolor with white crescent and star, the presidential compound at Bab al-Aziziya was briefly shown flying the maroon and white flag of Qatar, the tiny, gas-rich Arabian emirate more than two thousand miles away.
Though little noted in the West, Qatar’s enthusiasm for the Libyan revolt had been on display from the outset. The emirate was instrumental in securing the support of the Arab League for the NATO intervention back in March, contributing its own military aircraft to the mission. It also gave $400 million to the rebels, helped them market Libyan oil out of Benghazi, and set up a TV station for them in Doha, the Qatari capital. Following the conquest of Bab al-Aziziya, however, it became clear that the Qataris were deeply involved on the ground as well. Not only did Qatar arm the rebels and set up training camps for them in Benghazi and in the Nafusa Mountains west of Tripoli; its own special forces—a hitherto unknown contingent—helped lead the August offensive on the capital.
In fact, the battle for Libya is only one of several Arab uprisings this year in which Qatar has played a provocative part. In Tunisia and Egypt, no Internet and broadcast medium did more to spread the cause of popular protest than Al Jazeera, Qatar’s government-backed satellite television news network. In early April, the Qatari prime minister publicly called for the resignation of embattled Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh—a statement that departed from the more conciliatory position of other Gulf nations and led Saleh to charge that Qatar “has conspired against Yemen.”
In May, the Qatari government hosted the Doha Forum, an annual, Davos-like conference about democracy and free trade that featured an opening session about the “revolutions” that have “rocked the Arab world.” And in July, despite Qatar’s good relations with the Assad regime before the Syrian uprising began, it became the first Gulf nation to close its embassy in Damascus.
Nor is 2011 the first time Qatar has been accused of stirring up trouble against entrenched regimes in the Middle East. As long ago as 2002, nearly every country in the Arab League had formally protested unfavorable coverage on Al Jazeera, and no fewer than six—Jordan, Saudia Arabia, Kuwait, Tunisia, Libya, and Morocco—had at some point withdrawn their ambassadors to Doha. “In the past, many Arab leaders didn’t even want to talk to me,” the Qatari emir, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, told the Financial Times in an interview last year.1
At the same time, Qatar has been something of a gadfly in Middle East diplomacy, styling itself (not always successfully) as a third-party broker everywhere from Israel and Lebanon to Darfur and Afghanistan. Since the autumn of 2010, Qatar has helped stage a series of meetings between Western officials and representatives of the Taliban—leading to speculation that the Taliban might open an office in Doha. In mid-June, WikiLeaks released a US State Department cable showing the extent to which Qatar’s tentacular involvement in regional politics had managed to irritate Mubarak’s Egypt, with a native population some three hundred times larger:
EGYPTIAN DCM: CAIRO TO THWART ANY QATARI INITIATIVE | WIKILEAKS 10DOHA39_a | JAN 28, 2010
— Egyptian DCM Adham Naguib told P/E Chief January 26 that Egypt is determined to thwart every single initiative Qatar proposes during its current term as president of the Arab League, to include proposals that are in Egypt’s national interest.
— Naguib recounted how he was summoned the previous week by Egypt’s Foreign Minister while in Cairo on a long-planned trip and had his “head nearly taken off” when he suggested to the FM that Cairo consider ways to improve its relationship with Doha.
— The Egyptian DCM said Qatar’s involvement in Sudan, Palestine, and Al Jazeera’s vitriolic broadcasts against Egypt were the main causes of Egyptian leaders’ ire, to include that of President Mubarak.
— Challenged to list actions Qatar had taken in Sudan against Egypt’s interest, Naguib readily conceded there were none. Qatar’s offense, he said, stemmed from the mere act of its mediation in Egypt’s back yard.
— Naguib suggested that emotion, more than reason, was driving Egypt’s current view of Qatar.
Continuity trumps change on Hollande’s Qatar visit | FRANCE 24 | JUN 22, 2013
French President François Hollande arrived in Qatar on Saturday at the end of a week that saw the oil-rich Gulf kingdom in the international spotlight once again following the opening of a Taliban office in the capital, Doha.
Hollande’s entourage includes top French business leaders as well as Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius, who will attend a meeting of the Friends of Syria group.
Participants at the Friends of Syria meeting include US Secretary of State John Kerry, who arrives in Doha weeks after the White House announced that the US would begin sending arms and ammunition to Syria’s rebels.
Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia, is believed to be among the biggest suppliers of light arms and ammunition to the Syrian rebels although the two Gulf states have never publicly confirmed their involvement in shipping arms.
Hollande is expected to discuss the Syrian uprising with Qatar’s Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani during his two-day visit, according to French officials.
But the focus of Hollande’s visit is boosting economic ties between the two countries – a continuation of the policies of his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, that have made the wealthy Gulf emirate a key player on France’s economic stage.
Over the past five years, Qatar has invested – directly or indirectly – around $15 billion in France, according to the French Foreign Ministry. This does not include the private investments of the Emir and his family.
Supporting Arab uprisings, crushing dissent
With a GDP of $183 billion and a population of 1.9 million, Qatar has the highest per capita income in the world. The oil wealth and lack of public consultative forums have largely kept a lid on public dissent across the kingdom.
But there have been rumblings about the lack of openness on the country’s considerable oil wealth, which critics note is often regarded as part of the ruling family’s assets.
Over the past two years, Qatar’s support for the Arab uprisings has raised questions over the absence of democratic reforms in a country where political parties and trade unions are banned.
In the wake of the Arab uprisings, Qatari authorities have banned a book, published in Beirut last year, by a group calling themselves Qataris for Reform that criticises the lack of transparency and access to information in the kingdom.
But on the Internet – especially social media sites – there have been growing attacks against the tiny, but disproportionately influential nation, particularly over the kingdom’s support for the Muslim Brotherhood across the Arab world.
France’s tax-free deal with Qatar comes under fire | CNBC | SEP 8, 2013
The Champs-Elysees lures millions of tourists every year to enjoy shopping at the Elysees 26 mall, poker at the Aviation Club, plush cars and futuristic architecture in the Citroen showroom, or feather-clad showgirls at the Lido cabaret.
But for all their Parisian charisma, none of these attractions are French-owned. They belong to the royal family of Qatar, a resource-rich emirate about 3,000 miles away.
For oil-rich royalty from the Arab Gulf, part of the attraction of the United Kingdom has been the fact it charges no taxes on profits foreign investors make when they sell real estate. Five years ago, Qatar sealed a similar agreement with France.
The treaty was agreed by former center-right president Nicolas Sarkozy in 2008, and is one of the most generous Qatar has secured, exempting Qatari investors from taxes on the profits they make when they sell properties.
A popular deal
In 2008, a report for the French parliament praised the tax arrangement for encouraging Qatari investment in French real estate which “can only benefit the French economy.” The treaty has several clauses to promote the exchange of information and prevent abuse, and France has similar arrangements with other rich oil states such as Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
Qataris have been particularly active since the deal was sealed. From the Virgin Megastore flagship to the Hotel Martinez in Cannes, from soccer club Paris Saint-Germain to farmland in Normandy, Qatari royals have acquired dozens of properties.
“It is thanks to these tax advantages that the Qataris are the only ones buying French property at the moment,” said Philippe Chevalier, head of French real-estate broker Emile Garcin. “I would support more of these advantages.”
Qatar, France open new chapter in defence ties | GULF TIMES | MAY 4, 2015
8. The Emir and the French president have reaffirmed their desire to encourage investments in the two countries, as well as partnerships between companies in the two countries. The parties agreed to strengthen the financial partnership between CDC International Capital and Qatar Investment Authority, in order to achieve new investments. Moreover, France and Qatar are working now to identify joint investment projects in other countries, particularly in Africa.
9. The Emir and the French president expressed their satisfaction with the conclusion of the new partnership agreement between the French Agency for Development and “Educate A child” Foundation. They have also reaffirmed their desire that France and Qatar should undertake joint development assistance projects in Africa. Experts from both countries began to identify these projects which should be implemented by the Qatari and French specialised institutions.
France and Qatar | FRANCE DIPLOMATIE
According to the latest estimates, 2015 confirms a rising trend in French exports to Qatar since 2013, after a constant decline between 2006 and 2010, followed by a two-year plateau. By the end of the year, they should therefore reach their highest level in ten years.
During the first eight months of 2015, French exports to Qatar grew 300% compared to the same period in 2014 (+460% in the first six months) to reach €1.58 billion. Excluding aeronautics, they also rose by 55% to €463 million, continuing a trend that has been growing for several years, regarding both capital goods and consumer goods.
According to initial IMF estimates for the first quarter of 2015, we have a market share of 6.3%, up from 3% in 2014. This would make France the country’s second-largest supplier in 2015 after the United States (15.3%), ahead of China and the United Kingdom.
In recent years, France’s direct investments in Qatar have grown rapidly and French companies have managed to forge ahead in many industries: aeronautics, luxury goods, water treatment, retail, construction and arms. According to figures from the Banque de France, France’s stock of direct foreign investment in Qatar totalled €2.3 billion in 2014. France’s presence there continues to grow, with the launch of many projects linked to the organization of the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
Although the UK is, by quite a margin, the leading recipient of Qatari investments, in both number and value, France remains particularly attractive. The investments of the Qatar Investment Authority constitute a long-term portfolio and enhance the international image of the emirate, which makes many prestige purchases (such as Le Printemps, Paris-Saint-Germain FC and Le Tanneur), especially in property and luxury hotels. The Qatar Investment Authority also invests through a fund that was set up jointly with the Caisse des Dépôts group to support SMEs, called Future French Champions.
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
Beyond its own modernization, Qatar wishes to exert its influence abroad in the fields of knowledge, culture and information. In order to balance its partnerships, it has sought, in the last few years, to strongly enhance its cooperation with France. In the field of higher education and research, Qatar has invited several major international academic institutions to set up branches in Education City, including HEC Paris. In the field of culture, French architects such as Jean-Michel Wilmotte and Jean Nouvel have been commissioned to construct various major museums.
Two French schools have been set up in Doha. The Franco-Qatari Lycée Voltaire, which is unique compared to other local schools (mixed classes, French textbooks, etc.), provides a French education to young Qataris. A second site was opened in September 2012 to meet the growing demand for enrolment of pupils from all backgrounds.
In addition, Qatar has been a Member State of the International Organisation of La Francophonie since the Kinshasa Summit on 13 and 14 October 2012. Although it is not traditionally a French-speaking country, there are between 100,000 and 200,000 French speakers in Qatar (less than 10% of the population). Qatar has incorporated French language lessons into its public education system (in 12 schools by 1 October 2015).
A diplomatic cooperation agreement was signed on 23 June 2013 and cooperation projects involving the French National School of Public Administration (ENA) and the Diplomatic Institute of Qatar are being considered. In addition, an agreement on cultural cooperation was signed in June 2014 during Emir Tamim’s visit to France.
Security and defence cooperation between France and Qatar, which was formalized in 1994 by a defence agreement, is one of the most long-standing pillars of our bilateral relations. In 2011, the joint involvement of French and Qatari pilots during the operations in Libya marked a new step forward. The signing on 4 May 2015 of a contract on the purchase of 24 Rafale aircraft served to confirm the close relations between France and Qatar.
Bilateral military exercises are also organized on a regular basis in the emirate.
Qatari investments in France touch $20bn: Envoy | THE PENINSULA | FEB 23, 2017
Citing 2015 figures, the ambassador said that France was the second largest country in the world in terms of exports to Qatar. Last year alone, exports from France to Qatar were worth around $1.8bn.
“It is good for our economy but also contributes to Qatar’s development through our technology, expertise and direct investments in Qatar economy.”
The ambassador said that France was also second largest destination for Qatari investments. “In total, Qatari investments in France have touched $20bn.”
Chevallier said that Qatar was investing in buying shares of major French companies as well as in sectors of hospitality, housing and real estate.
“These investments are at both public and private levels; through Qatar Investment Authority’s affiliated entities, and also include personal investments.”
Asked about the type of products mainly being imported in Qatar from France, the ambassador said that they included airplanes, electrical and mechanical equipment, steel products and last but not the least, luxury items.
The ambassador said that as many as 120 French companies had established their offices and business units in Qatar. “And it does not include franchises” he added.
He said that Qatar Petroleum-Total agreement which was signed last year would come into force on July 14 this year. “Under the deal, a joint venture of both companies will develop and operate Al Shaheen oil field for the next 25 years,” said the ambassador.
Chevallier said that France was also very active in services-sector and was not only providing services to Qatar in various fields but was also “heavily involved” in capacity building of Qatari citizens.
“Qatar University has established a cybersecurity chair in collaboration with Thalès, a French company. Last November several countries organized a successful conference on energy, and environment with Qatar Foundation and Qatar University for capacity building and knowledge sharing in the field of engineering with Qatari professionals.”
The ambassador said that Dassault, a French company, would not only provide warplanes to Qatar under a contract signed in 2015 but was also imparting training to Qatari pilots, technicians, etc. “Dassault has also developed a partnership with Qatar University for capacity building of Qatari nationals in aeronautical engineering.”
He said that a number of French companies had been awarded big contracts in Qatar; in the development of new airport, new port, Lusail city, etc. “Therefore, we think French companies have duty and responsibility to develop capacity of Qataris and we are committed to that.”
He said that Qatar’s healthcare institutions had signed agreements with Pasteur Institute of France. “Sanofi – a leading French pharmaceutical company – is standing shoulder to shoulder with Qatari health organizations in the fight against diabetes,” the ambassador added.