The reception of the Emirati president by Emmanuel Macron questions

The reception of the Emirati president by Emmanuel Macron questions

The Emirati president is on a state visit to France on Monday and Tuesday (July 18-19), to strengthen ties between France and the United Arab Emirates, against a backdrop of controversy over respect for human rights in the confederation.

This is the first official visit abroad by Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, says MBZ, since he became president of the Emirati confederation in May 2022.

The Emirati president was received with great fanfare by his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron, the Élysée having chosen the “state visit”, the highest form of reception of a foreign head of state.

The Élysée indicated that the meeting aimed to strengthen ties “in terms of security and defence, energy and technology”.

Sébastien Boussois, a researcher in Euro-Arab relations associated with the Université Libre de Bruxelles, told EURACTIV that “This reflects an extremely strong relationship, above all military and strategic”but also “a long-standing economic, political and diplomatic relationship between the two countries”.

Personal ties too, Mr. Macron having met MBZ several times in recent months, at the Château de Fontainebleau in September 2021, in Dubai in December 2021 on the occasion of the announcement of the sale of 80 gusts by France to the confederation, a record.

On May 15, shortly after his re-election for a second term, the French president went to the funeral of Khalifa Ben Zayed, brother of MBZ and predecessor at the head of the confederation, recalls Mr. Boussois.

With this type of receptions and relationships, France and Europe are falling into realpolitik”analyzes Sébastien Boussois: according to him, faced with the need “to diversify our resources, especially energy resources, as much as possible” France “is more interested in its energy sovereignty than in human rights issues”.

Indeed, France and the Emirates do not share the same positions on essential subjects, including, for example, relations with Syria: “The Emirates have been calling for the normalization of relations with Bashar al-Assad and have violated all international sanctions for years”, explains Mr. Boussois. With Russia, the UAE is one of the only countries to call for this normalization, while France is frontally opposed to it.

Associations involved in the protection of human rights were indignant at such treatment reserved for the highest dignitary of the Emirates. The Human Rights Watch (HRW) association recalled, by press releasethat “in the United Arab Emirates, activists, lawyers, teachers, students and people considered critical are arrested, prosecuted and detained”.

“Women and LGBT people are discriminated against, and domestic workers are exposed to serious abuse under the kafala (visa sponsorship) system”adds HRW, which denounces the actions of the MBZ regime against civilian populations in Yemen and Libya in particular.

Monday evening, an energy agreement was indeed concluded between France and the Emirates, with the aim of securing French energy supplies. Also, the partnership aims to “to identify joint investment projects in France, the United Arab Emirates or elsewhere in the world in the fields of hydrogen, renewable energies or even nuclear energy”, precise the Ministry of Energy Transition.

[Paul Messad a contribué à la rédaction de cet article]

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