Bilateral visits and meetings are held frequently. The President of the French Republic made an official visit to Qatar on 22 and 23 June 2013.
Emir Tamim was received at the Élysée Palace on 21 September 2013 for a working visit on the situation in Syria; he then chose France for his first official visit to a country of the European Union, on 23 and 24 June 2014.
The President of the French Republic travelled to Doha on 4 May 2015 for the signing of the contracts on the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter aircraft. His meeting with the Emir was an opportunity to confirm our strongly converging views on regional issues.
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.
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.
Our domestic security cooperation is governed by a memorandum of understanding (1996) and a technical arrangement (2005) concluded with the National Gendarmerie. It consists of an extensive training programme for domestic security forces. Less regular cooperation is conducted with the Emiri Guard, the Military Police and the Ministry of the Interior.
The National Gendarmerie provided noteworthy security support at the 2006 Asian Games and Qatar has expressed its wish to include the latter in its security plans for the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
In addition, Milipol, the annual worldwide exhibition on internal State security, is held alternately in Doha and Paris. The tenth exhibition was held in Doha in October 2014 and attended by the French Minister of Defence, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, and Minister of the Interior, Mr Bernard Cazeneuve. The Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of the Interior, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Nasser Bin Khalifa Al-Thani, will be the guest of honour at the eleventh exhibition, which is to be held in Paris.