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Economy

Qatar Keeps Pouring Millions Into France - What's The End Game?

Even Darth Vader supports the Qatari-owned PSG
Even Darth Vader supports the Qatari-owned PSG
Pascal Boniface

-Analysis-

PARIS - A specter is looming over France. That specter is calledQatar.

Qatar's announcement that it would invest 50 million euros in the impoverished suburbs outside Paris, an investment that will be matched by a fund partly financed by the French government and partly by the private sector, has sparked growing controversy.

Some people would have you believe that France’s independence is being threatened by this tiny Arab state of 1.7 million people -- of whom only 300,000 are Qatari nationals. From the comments, you’d think France is about to be invaded by Qatar.

If we are to believe the critics, the 50 million euros Qatar wants to pour into Paris’ troubled suburbs will endanger French national identity -- which mustn’t be that strong if it is threatened by so little.

Huge investments

Let us take a rational approach, which has so far been lacking from this debate. Qatar has been investing billions of euros in France for numerous years. It also buys large amounts of capital goods from France.

However, this current investment fund plan has provoked more commentary than the much larger investment deals in French industrial groups, or utility companies. Since Qatar's 40 millions euro acquisition of 70% of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer club last year, Qatar seems to have become the center of a continuing debate in Paris.

There is no doubt that the news of the Qatari investment brought to mind, for many people, the image of a horde of imams that would come preaching Wahhabism and hatred of the West in our immigrant suburbs -- that are already close to implosion. However, when the American Embassy in France announced in 2010 that youth outreach in Paris’ disadvantaged suburbs was one of its key priorities, we hardly said a word.

No doubt if the actions funded by the Qatari fund aren’t 100% kosher, sensationalist and denunciatory media coverage from the French press will ensue.

Unjustified fears

Unfortunately, the French government has abandoned these disadvantaged, immigrant suburbs -- and the people who live there are neither being valued nor considered. Both the U.S. and Qatar recognize this, as well as a handful of French politicians.

It is amusing to witness the French hysteria over the news of this Qatari investment, a tiny investment compared to the billions spent by Qatari investors in other sectors.

When a Qatari investment fund bought the PSG soccer club, the Sports Minister at the time, Chantal Jouanno, publicly complained about the fact that the club would be held by foreign capital. The only problem with this was that the club’s previous owners were a U.S. investment fund -- that didn’t put much money in the club, truth be told.

People said that after the Qatari buyout, the French women's team would not be allowed to play at the PSG's Parc des Princes stadium. In fact, the women’s team had never played there before the buyout. It’s worth noting that since the Qataris bought the PSG, the women’s team has gone professional and seen its budget multiplied by four.

People also said that the club’s agreement with the Paris Foot Gay (PFG) team would be repealed, since Qatar, like many Arabic countries, penalizes homosexuality. However, the agreement was renewed. Qatar respects the French legal system whilst they are in France. The hotels that they own here serve alcohol too.

French benefits

France and Qatar started enjoying a close relationship when the current emir came to power in 1996. In 2000, when the country launched a project to mine liquefied petroleum gas, the only company to jump on the opportunity was France’s Total, while Anglo-Saxon companies shied away. At the time, a barrel of oil was not much more than $10. Since then, political, military, economic and strategic relations between the two countries have developed to mutually benefit one another.

Yes, Qatar is pursuing its national interest, but what's wrong with that? It's a win-win situation for both countries, with France being a permanent member of the UN Security Council and Qatar being a small, extremely wealthy, yet fragile country that needs to assert itself on the map in relation to neighboring Saudi Arabia and Iran.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

Dnipro, A Heinous Attack Sparks Hard Questions About Weapon Supplies — On Both Sides

After Dnipro was left devastated by one of Russia’s deadliest attacks on Ukrainian civilians to date, the problem of arms delivery in a war that keeps escalating has never been more urgent.

Photo France's AMX-10 RC light tanks

France will be sending AMX-10 RC light tanks to Ukraine, but has not committed to heavy combat tanks.

Gouhier Nicolas/Abaca via ZUMA
Pierre Haski

The Russian missile that struck a residential building on Saturday afternoon in Dnipro killed at least 40 people, a number that keeps growing as bodies are discovered under the rubble in the central Ukrainian city. It appears to be a war crime with no legitimate target near the neighborhood.

Stay up-to-date with the latest on the Russia-Ukraine war, with our exclusive international coverage.

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This bombing is also particularly informative about what’s happening right now on the Russian side of the war: The KH-22 cruise missile used is designed to sink an aircraft carrier, the biggest one in Moscow’s arsenal.

This precision missile was fired from an aircraft hundreds of miles away and has no link whatsoever to the target.

This enormous gap between the type of missile used and its ultimate target might actually reveal a missile scarcity in Russia, after weeks of continuous bombing in Ukraine. Tapping into strategic Russian weaponry (the KH-22 can be equipped with nuclear warheads) can never be justified considering the innocence of the target. Russian arms plants running at full capacity, for the time being at least, cannot keep up supplies.

But this tragic strike is also a clear sign of a progressive escalation in a war that, at this stage, shows no signs it can be stopped.

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