The bilateral relationship initially began to develop in the early 1990s in the area of security (signature of a defence agreement in 1994) and hydrocarbons. The Qatari wish to diversify the economy of the country and reduce its dependence on gas revenue has helped to broaden the scope of our cooperation to include aviation and cultural and educational cooperation. The signing of agreements and contracts in the fields of the economy, education, defence and counter-terrorism during the visit by the President of the Republic on 7 December 2017 enhanced the bilateral partnership.
Visits and meetings are held frequently. President François Hollande made an official visit to Qatar on 22 and 23 June 2013 then on 4 May 2015 to sign contracts regarding the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter aircraft.
After being received at the Élysée Palace on 21 September 2013 for a working visit on the situation in Syria, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani chose France for his first official visit to an EU country, on 23 and 24 June 2014. He visited France again on 15 September 2017 and then on 5 and 6 July 2018.
The Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, visited Doha on 15 July and 3 September 2017.
The French President, Mr Emmanuel Macron, visited Qatar on 7 December 2017, accompanied by the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, and the Minister for the Armed Forces, Ms Florence Parly.
Our economic ties with Qatar are solid, both commercially and financially. Our bilateral trade has systematically totalled more than €2 billion every year since 2014. According to 2017 figures, Qatar represents France’s eighth-largest trade surplus at €1.3 billion (€2 billion of exports and €680 million of imports).
France also remains one of the leading destinations for Qatari foreign investment, along with the United Kingdom, Germany and the United States (Qatari investments in France were estimated at nearly €25 billion in 2016). The bilateral investment fund “Future French Champions”, endowed with €300 million, was created in 2013. It is a partnership between the French Caisse des Dépôts et Consignations and Qatar Investment Authority sovereign fund.
French businesses have a strong presence in Qatar in the areas of infrastructure (preparation of the 2022 FIFA World Cup), energy, the environment and new technologies. During the French President’s visit to Qatar on 7 December 2017, emblematic contracts worth in excess of €16 billion were signed in the areas of defence, transport, aviation and clean-up.
Cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
While Qatar is seeking 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 a branch in Education City. This is the case with the HEC School of Management, Paris, from which more than 550 students have graduated since 2010.
In the area of culture, a cooperation agreement was signed in June 2014 during Emir Tamim’s visit to France. The National Museum of Qatar, designed by Ateliers Jean Nouvel, should open in spring 2019, and 2020 will be an important year for French culture in Qatar.
Finally, Qatar – with its 200,000 French speakers – has been an associate member of the International Organization of La Francophonie since October 2012. That same year, French was re-introduced in State education (option offered to students in their last two years of secondary school). The creation of a minor in French at Qatar University from the 2016 intake was a major step forward in promoting the French language. In addition, 60 students with scholarships from the Qatari Government are currently working in language centres and attending French universities.
Two French schools have been set up in Doha: Lycée Bonaparte was established in 1976, and Lycée Voltaire in 2006. Some 3,000 students are enrolled there.
Security and defence cooperation between France and Qatar, which was formalized in 1994 by a defence agreement, is a pillar of our bilateral relations. The signing on 4 May 2015 of a contract for the purchase of 24 Rafale fighter aircraft, and then the activation of the option for 12 additional fighters in December 2017, have confirmed the close relations between Paris and Doha.
Bilateral military exercises are organized on a regular basis in the emirate. Cooperation between France and Qatar to combat terrorism and its financing was deepened with the signing of a common declaration of intent and road map on 7 December 2017, during the French President’s visit to Doha. Qatar also took part in the “No Money for Terror” conference to combat terrorism and its financing, held in Paris on 25 and 26 April 2018.
Updated: 12 October 2018