France and Bahrain

Presentation

Political relations

Bahrain is increasingly looking to France with a view to diversifying its partnerships. In 2012, our respective Heads of State laid the ground for a High-Level Coordination Commission, aimed at deepening our bilateral relationship, which has met in November 2013 and November 2015. The next meeting is set to take place in Manama in the second half of 2017.

Bahrain shows commitment, through its high-level participation, to the international conferences organized by France, such as that on the stabilization of Mosul in October 2016 and the Paris Conference for Peace in the Middle East on 15 January 2017.

France is attentive to the human rights situation in Bahrain, including that of political opponents, and raises the subject during bilateral meetings with the country’s authorities.

Visits

President Sarkozy made an official visit to Manama on 11 February 2009, in the first visit by a French President to Bahrain since 1990. The French Minister of State for Foreign Trade, Mr Mathias Fekl, visited Bahrain on 21 January 2016.

The King of Bahrain, Sheikh Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, has been received three times by the President of the French Republic at the Élysée Palace: on 23 July 2012, 28 August 2014 and 8 September 2015.

Economic relations

Trade between France and Bahrain is traditionally subject to extreme fluctuations linked to the supply of aircraft to Gulf Air, Bahrain’s national airline. This was demonstrated again in 2014, as the delivery of two Airbus A321s for €111 million increased the volume of our 2014 exports to €235 million, a 70% rise on 2013. In the first half of 2016, France produced a trade surplus of €26.1 million.

Our imports mainly consist of refined oil and aluminium.

The renewal of the Gulf Air fleet was announced in January 2016 during the Bahrain International Airshow, where an order was placed for 29 Airbus aircraft. The development of our economic potential remains closely tied to our involvement in major infrastructure projects.

Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation

Our cultural cooperation with Bahrain has so far been limited, but it presents opportunities for France to forge partnerships in fields including science and technology, management, the French language, and medicine. An agreement between the Arabian Gulf University and ESSEC Business School enabled the creation in December 2011 of the French-Arabian Business School (FABS), which opened an MBA programme in October 2012.

Moreover, French teaching is being introduced to Bahraini state education. While it has hitherto been restricted to the last two years of secondary education in some public and private establishments, it will now be taught every year from the first year of secondary school to the end of high school as a compulsory second foreign language.

In terms of culture, France has a good image in Bahrain. Our embassy in Manama is involved with the main actors in the local cultural scene and the Bahrain Authority for Culture & Antiquities is developing ambitious collaboration with renowned French partners. “So French”, Bahrain’s French week (18-23 January 2017) saw great success and was much publicized in the local press. Our cooperation is also active in the fields of archaeology and heritage.

Updated: 11 May 2017

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