Facing pressure to create jobs in neighborhoods where unemployment has reached up to 40 percent, the French government plans to unblock a Qatari fund to stimulate its economy.
The move to accept some $65 million in investments from Qatar was put on hold by former president Nicolas Sarkozy following criticism during election season earlier this year.
“I think this situation could be very dangerous,” Marine Le Pen, far-right French presidential candidate, had said. “We are letting a foreign country choose its investments with regard to the religion of this or that part of the French population or of French territory.”
But current President Francois Hollande is also taking criticism from the left for tying up with Qatar.
Meanwhile, left-wing commentators argued that France should be wary of signing deals with a monarchy that shares few of its ideas about democracy and could be seeking to buy influence due to France’s seat on the United Nations Security Council.
Still, other expressed satisfaction that France is taking the funds, which will be matched by the government and will finance first-time entrepreneurs looking to set up businesses.
And despite the criticism, Qatar and France’s business ties continue to grow, most recently through the country’s purchases of football club Paris Saint Germain and the Virgin-Monoprix building on the Champs Elysees, as well as four French luxury hotels.
Credit: Photo by Graham Chandler