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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


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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Legalizing Moonshine, A Winning Political Stand In Poland

Moonshine, typically known as “bimber” in Poland, may soon be legalized by the incoming government. There is a mix of tradition, politics and economics that makes homemade booze a popular issue to campaign on.

Photo of an empty vodka bottle on the ground in Poland

Bottle of vodka laying on the ground in Poland

Leszek Kostrzewski

WARSAWIt's a question of freedom — and quality. Poland's incoming coalition government is busy negotiating a platform for the coming years. Though there is much that still divides the Left, the liberal-centrist Civic Koalition, and the centrist Third Way partners, there is one area where Poland’s new ruling coalition is nearly unanimous: moonshine.

The slogan for the legalization of moonshine (known in Poland as "bimber") was initially presented by Michał Kołodziejczak, the leader of Agrounia, a left-wing socialist political movement in Poland that has qualified to be part of the incoming Parliament.

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”Formerly so-called moonshine was an important element of our cultural landscape, associated with mystery, breaking norms, and freedom from the state," Kołodziejczak said. "It was a reason to be proud, just like the liqueurs that Poles were famous for in the past.”

The president of Agrounia considered the right to make moonshine as a symbol of "subjectivity" that farmers could enjoy, and admitted with regret that in recent years it had been taken away from citizens. “It's also about a certain kind of freedom, to do whatever you want on your farm," Kołodziejczak adds. "This is subjectivity for the farmer. Therefore, I am in favor of providing farmers with the freedom to consume this alcohol for their own use.”

A similar viewpoint was aired by another Parliament member. “We will stop pretending that Polish farmers do not produce moonshine for their own use, such as for weddings,” the representative said, pointing out the benefits of controlling the quality. “Just like they produce slivovitz, which Poland is famous for. It's high time they did it legally.”

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