UAE-French ties continue to flourish, says ambassador

Sheikh Mohamed, Macron have 'a really special relationship'


Rasha Abu Baker

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Published: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 5:04 PM

Last updated: Fri 22 Jul 2022, 11:23 PM

The Ambassador of France to the UAE Xavier Chatel has expressed his enthusiasm for the ever-growing relations between his country and the UAE, saying that the friendship bonds and deep level of cooperation have existed between the two nations for decades.

"Relationships between France and the UAE have been excellent since the onset of the UAE," Ambassador Chatel told Khaleej Times.

The one-on-one interview was done shortly after his return from France, where he was part of the delegation accompanying President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed on his first state visit.

The ambassador also shared his views on why the UAE President chose France as his first state visit, saying it was thanks to a decades-long bond he has developed with France ever since he was a little boy.

"During this visit, we unearthed a beautiful picture of the late Sheikh Zayed in 1975. Visiting then President Valéry Giscard d'Estaing, with a young and smart looking boy in a striped suit, and it was Sheikh Mohamed as a child."

"This was more than 40 years ago, and there was already this concept of friendship and deep cooperation. In the years to follow, we have done more and more, and I have to say that there is a really special relationship between Sheikh Mohamed and the French President Emmanuel Macron."

"All this put together," he noted, "these old threads of a very vibrant relationship and friendship, I think was the recipe for having a first state visit in France."

During the two-day state visit, the two leaders signed 10 agreements and MoUs on various sectors, including education, climate action, defence, and space.

Ambassador Chatel said two of the most notable agreements signed were in the energy and health sectors.

"If I were to single out one item among the many progresses made during the visit, I would say energy, and that's because we are at a particular juncture in international relations, where there's very high energy price. There's a war in Ukraine, and there's issues of shortages and price hikes as we are going into the winter. And the fact that we could strike a deal on this, I think, was very significant and very important."

The ambassador refers to the establishment a France-UAE Comprehensive Strategic Energy Partnership, representing a major step in fostering energy security and affordability.

Another substantial collaboration, Chatel added, was the agreement signed in the field of health – an MoU for cooperation between the Pasteur Institute and the Abu Dhabi Public Health Centre (ADPHC).

"I think we have opened new domains in relations in the field of health, which I'm very proud of," he said. "And we're also working on new elements in the field of culture, which I think are very important because it's like the deeper fabric of relations; it's really playing the long game and the future of people-to-people relations."

Chatel has also unveiled his plans for another groundbreaking project he is developing in the area of music, saying he is keen to help young Emirati musicians develop their talents by providing access to French musical expertise.

"I'm trying to open new domains in the field of culture. One of them which I think is promising is music, which there is a lot of experience on the French side."

"We recently opened a big concert hall, the Philharmonie de Paris. We have an incredible number of very high-level soloists. We also have institutions like the Conservatoire de Paris. So I think we can do more in the field of music."

He added that French musical programmes have already been introduced in the UAE, such as with the initiative that provides musical and orchestral education to children, named Demos.

“We brought music professors from France to the UAE, and they started training young Emirati musicians. With this, you can hope that you can develop a whole crop of very talented musicians, which can form the future musical ecosystem in the country.”

There are over 30,000 French expats in the UAE working across various sectors, enjoying success and helping the country achieve its goals and objectives. Ambassador Chatel said he hopes to see this "vibrant community" grow and penetrate even more fields.

Speaking about the French population in the UAE, he said, "They are a very vibrant community, quite young, two-thirds are below 45."

"They are present across all sectors, although initially a lot of them were in oil and then investment. They are now branching out into the breadth of what we [UAE and France] do together."

He said today, many French nationals are involved in hospitality, infrastructure and the energy field, especially renewable energy.

"For instance, EDF has been building the largest photovoltaic field in the world, here in Al Dhafra. And also, there's a large presence of Airbus in the field of air transportation.

"With all the sectors, some of which are pretty high tech, they are really contributing to the life of the country."

The ambassador said there are two areas where he would like to see more French people and in which "French excellence" can be utilised – nuclear and rail.

Ambassador Chatel also touched on the successful French supply chain as it pertains to key projects in the UAE. "I believe that there's space [for the French supply chain] to be involved in the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant."


He then touched on the expansive Etihad Rail project. With prime passenger connections expected between Abu Dhabi and Dubai, and throughout the UAE, France's history of rail is a source that can be drawn from.

"Railroad is an area which is very developed because of history in France. There's a great supply chain in France, and I hope who would be able to contribute to this project."

Ambassador Chatel believes these two region-impacting projects can capitalise on the French national employees' invaluable contributions and the expansive connections France's supply networks have in place.

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