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 stationing of permanent French forces in Abu Dhabi, joint projects in the area of renewable energy, cooperation in the areas of new technologies, artificial intelligence, food security, health and the space sector, among others. Consultations take place very regularly at the highest level, and the strategic dialogue established in 2012 helps ensure operational follow-up of the major projects which structure our bilateral relationship. On 3 June 2020, France and the United Arab Emirates thus adopted a roadmap for the next ten years of their strategic partnership (2020-2030).
The UAE is home to the largest French community in the Gulf, with over 26,000 French nationals registered with the consulate (of an estimated 35,000 French residents) and over 600 companies. The French Consulate-General is in Dubai.
Regular French ministerial visits to the United Arab Emirates help maintain intense political dialogue in all areas.
- 9-11 February: Visit by Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance
- 17 June: Visit to Paris by Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.
- 27-28 October: Visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
- 7 November: Visit by Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Minister of State
- 23-24 November: Visit by Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces.
- 17 December: Visit to Paris by Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs.
- 15 January: Visit to the United Arab Emirates by Laurent Fabius.
- 24 January: Visit to Paris by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.
- 26 January: Visit by François Delattre, Secretary-General of the Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
- 24 February: Visit by Bruno Le Maire, French Minister of the Economy and Finance.
- 16 November: Visit by Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces.
- 24-25 November: Visit by Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness, attached to the Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs.
- 21 January 2021: Meeting between H.E. Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed and his counterpart Jean-Yves Le Drian, in Paris.
- 21 February 2021: Visit to the United Arab Emirates by Florence Parly, Minister for the Armed Forces. Meeting with Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed. Tour of the IDEX international defence exhibition in Abu Dhabi.
- 8 April: Visit by Franck Riester, Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness.
- 3-14 April: Visit to Paris by Sheikh Shakhbout bin Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of State for African Affairs.
- 23 August: Visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian and Florence Parly, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Minister for the Armed Forces
- 15 September: Visit by Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, crown prince of Abu Dhabi.
- 2 October: Visit by Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs and Franck Riester, Minister Delegate.
- 8 November: Visit to Egypt by Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister Delegate for Transport.
- 9-10 November 2021: Visit by Mr Alain Griset, Minister Delegate for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises, attached to the Minister of the Economy, Finance and the Recovery.
- 31 January 2022: Visit by General Thierry Burkhard, Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces. Meeting with Mohammed Ahmed Al Bowardi
- 8 April: Visit to Paris by Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed.
- 15 May: Visit to Abu Dhabi by Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic.
- 2 June: Visit by François Delattre, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
With €3.3 billion in French exports to the Emirates, the UAE is France’s second-largest export destination in the Gulf. The volume of bilateral trade stood at €4.8 billion in 2019, its first increase after five straight years of decline. Our exports cover a wide range of sectors. The three leading export sectors (accounting for more than 70% of our sales) are capital equipment, chemicals, perfumes, cosmetics, textiles and clothing. Conversely, imports (estimated at €1.5 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 Gulf Cooperation Council, after Qatar.
The Louvre Abu Dhabi museum was inaugurated in 2017. It is the first universal museum in the Arab world and the largest cultural event promoted by France abroad. With a collection covering all civilizations and periods, from Neolithic to modern times, it is a symbol of tolerance and openness to the world and has received over 2 million visitors in its first two years.
The Abu Dhabi International Conference on Safeguarding Cultural Heritage in Conflict Areas in December 2016 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). Cultural and creative industries are a major new part of our cultural cooperation, including in the sectors of video games, design and cinema.
Created in 2006, the Paris-Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi is part of the UAE strategy to prioritize investment in an economy of culture and knowledge. In addition to human and social sciences, law and economics, it has developed training and research in mathematics, physics, archival science and artificial intelligence. INSEAD, the campus of 42 Abu Dhabi coding school, Esmod Dubai, the Panthéon-Assas campus in the Dubai Free Zone are other key components of French higher education in the country.
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) at the Yerevan Summit on 11-12 October 2018. Several Alliances Françaises (including a new one in Sharjah) contribute to the outreach of French-speaking culture, and the decision to re-introduce French teaching in UAE State schools from the 2019/2020 school year now enables over 8,000 Emiratis to learn the language. The seven accredited French lycées, with their 11,000 students and numerous private schools which teach French complete this extensive network.