At the instigation of Sheikh Zayed, the authorities of the United Arab Emirates decided early on to acquire a deterrence-focused defence system and turned to France for it. Our relations, which at first were limited to hydrocarbons and security cooperation, now involve a wide spectrum of activities: cultural and academic cooperation, the installation of permanent French military bases in Abu Dhabi, and joint projects in the area of renewable energy among others. Consultations take place very regularly at the highest level, and the strategic dialogue established in 2012 helps ensure technical follow-up of the major projects of our bilateral relationship.
Regular French ministerial visits to the United Arab Emirates help maintain intense political dialogue in all areas.
- 15 July 2017: visit to Abu Dhabi by Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
- 21 June 2017: visit to Paris by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
- 6 September 2017: visit to Abu Dhabi by the Minister of Culture, Ms Françoise Nyssen.
- 5 October 2017: visit to Paris by Mr Khaldoon Al Mubarak, President of the Executive Affairs Authority (EAA) of Abu Dhabi and CEO of the Mubadala Investment Company for the tenth session of the strategic dialogue between France and the United Arab Emirates.
- 8-9 November 2017: visit to Abu Dhabi by the President of the French Republic.
- 10-11 February 2018: visit to Abu Dhabi and Dubai by the French Prime Minister for the World Government Summit.
- 4 September 2018: visit to Abu Dhabi by the French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, Mr Jean-Yves Le Drian.
- 25 September 2018: visit to Abu Dhabi by the Minister for the Armed Forces, Ms Florence Parly.
- 11 November 2018: visit to Abu Dhabi by the Minister of Culture, Mr Franck Riester.
- 29 November 2018: visit to Paris by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
- 9-11 September 2019: visit to Abu Dhabi by the Minister of the Economy and Finance, Mr Bruno Le Maire.
- 2 May 2010: visit to Dubai by the Minister of Transport, Ms Elizabeth Borne.
With €3.4 billion in French exports to the Emirates, the UAE has become France’s second-largest export destination in the Gulf. The volume of bilateral trade stood at €4.5 billion in 2017, down 3.3% on the previous year. Our exports cover a wide range of sectors. The three leading export sectors (accounting for more than 70% of our sales) are non-agrifood consumer goods, equipment goods and transport equipment. Conversely, imports (estimated at €1.1 billion) are dominated by hydrocarbons. There are more than 600 French companies working in the United Arab Emirates (+10% per year), including most major CAC 40 groups. In France, the United Arab Emirates is the second largest investor in the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf after Qatar.
Educational, cultural, scientific and technical cooperation
The Louvre Abu Dhabi museum was inaugurated on 8 November 2017. It is the first universal museum in the Arab world and the largest cultural project promoted by France abroad. With a collection covering all civilizations and periods, from Neolithic to modern times, it is a symbol of openness to the world and tolerance. It is an exceptional bilateral project in terms of both its architecture and its scientific and cultural project, and has strategic importance for France and the United Arab Emirates. Its inauguration, on 8 November that year with President Macron in attendance, also marked the completion of a French-Emirati programme which has showcased cultural and artistic cooperation between France and the United Arab Emirates since March 2016.
The Abu Dhabi Conference of December 2016 on cultural heritage in conflict situations was another high point in our cooperation. It led to the creation of the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH).
Created in 2006, the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is part of the “2030 Abu Dhabi Vision” strategy of the United Arab Emirates, with the goal of pointing the State towards an economy of culture and knowledge. It focuses on human and social sciences, law and economics. The new UAE University Strategic Plan (2019-2023) provides for a diversification of training provision through the development of scientific programmes.
The UAE is home to the largest French and Francophone expatriate community in the Gulf and became an observer member of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) on 24 February 2010. At the Yerevan Summit (11-12 October 2018), its status was upgraded to associate member level. In 2018, France and the UAE confirmed the decision to re-introduce French teaching in UAE state schools starting from the 2019 intake.
Defence cooperation between France and the United Arab Emirates is extensive and diversified. It is a genuine strategic partnership, and has increased in recent years against a shifting regional backdrop in which instability factors are multiplying. France is the United Arab Emirates’ second-largest partner given the nature and the number of cooperation activities. Our cooperation has a highly operational dimension thanks to the pre-positioned French forces in the United Arab Emirates (700 soldiers) and now covers a wide range of areas. To ensure their security, since their independence, the United Arab Emirates have turned towards several Western countries, including France. The defence agreement with France and the opening of our UAE base in 2009 are emblematic of this strategy.