Military and Strategic Journal
Issued by the Directorate of Morale Guidance at the General Command of the Armed Forces
United Arab Emirates
Founded in August 1971

2022-01-03

Vibrant UAE-French Ties a Triumph of Pragmatism

Those who keep an eye on developments in the Middle East may not have failed to notice that the UAE-French relationship has strengthened to the extent that it has become strategic, mature and deep-rooted. The bonhomie is aptly in tune with the times.
 
Signals of growing disinterest from the Joe Biden administration in Washington to engage deeply in the Middle East unlike in the past, and the visible failure of durable engagement between the European Union (EU) and the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have pushed individual nations to boost bilateral partnerships for mutual benefits. 
 
A glaring example on the European aspect is the failure to reach a free trade agreement in 2008 between the EU and GCC even after marathon efforts. 
 
Though the UAE and France have been engaged in no holds barred interaction for years to keep the ties intact, the need of the hour and pragmatism have prodded the two nations to deepen their bond. 
 
Macron’s Visits
What is significant is that French President Emmanuel Macron has made several visits to the Gulf region in the recent years and initiated diplomatic efforts to tackle varied issues, both as part of the EU and as an individual nation. 
 
Macron hosted His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces at the historic Chateau de Fontainbleu outside Paris in September. The Château de Fontainebleau’s historic Imperial Theatre had reopened in 2019 to the public, following years of restoration works made possible by contributions from the UAE’s Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi.
 
In recognition of Abu Dhabi’s contribution to the restoration, the theatre was renamed as the Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan Theatre.
Macron reciprocated Sheikh Mohamed’s visit by travelling to the Gulf region in December. A slew of agreements signed between Abu Dhabi and Paris did not cover just defence, but extended to multiple spheres, including economy and culture. 
 
The defence agreement signed in 1995 and renewed in 2009 had contributed greatly to the UAE and French security priorities, by strengthening regional stability, enhancing maritime security, and enabling the fight against terrorism.
 
Sheikh Mohamed and Macron reaffirmed the expansion of partnership, with France supplying 80 Rafale fighter jets to the UAE Air Force Squadron in addition to 12 Caracal H225 Helicopters including weaponising, training and spare parts, with contracts worth 16.6 billion euros.
The agreement on the supply of Rafale arms equipment between the UAE’s Ministry of Defence and MBDA Missile Systems was signed by Tareq Abdulraheem Al Hosani, CEO of Tawazun Economic Council and Eric Beranger, CEO of MBDA.
On the defence and security front, cooperation has always been extensive and diversified. 
 
The two countries work in close coordination to de-escalate regional tensions in the Middle East and enhance stability. Counterterrorism is a shared priority for both nations: France and the UAE are aligned on the importance of peace and security in the region. 
Both countries also work with partners in Africa to sustain peace and security, support economic and social development and advocate for the rights of women.
 
Evacuation from Kabul
It was the UAE that facilitated the evacuation of French citizens from Kabul to Abu Dhabi after the Afghanistan capital fell to the Taliban.
Also, a joint military exercise between the UAE and France concluded in November, which involved mountain units from the UAE Ground Forces and the French 27th Mountain Infantry Brigade.
 
On the economic front, Abu Dhabi-based sovereign investor, Mubadala Investment Company (Mubadala), signed two agreements aimed at facilitating investments in sectors of mutual priority and interest in France. These two agreements were part of comprehensive economic agreements valued at more than €15 billion signed between Emirati and French companies.
 
The highlight on the cultural front was an amendment to the agreement between the Governments of the UAE and France on Louvre Abu Dhabi, signed by Mohamed Khalifa Al Mubarak, Chairman, Department of Culture and Tourism - Abu Dhabi, and Roselyne Bachelot, French Minister of Culture, ostensibly regarding extension of the licence to use the Louvre brand name.
 
Continuous interaction has kept the ball rolling for vibrant bilateral relationship. For example, the UAE-France Strategic Dialogue is an annual meeting that aims to identify opportunities for potential partnership and coordination and to facilitate ongoing collaboration on individual projects and initiatives.
 
The meeting discusses key sectors of bilateral cooperation, such as economy, trade and investment, oil and gas, nuclear and renewable energy, education, culture, health, space and security, in addition to other sectors of mutual priority.
All these go to prove one critical point: As an essential link between Europe and the Arab World, cooperation between the UAE and France will remain critical to addressing the regional and global challenges.  
 

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