Qatar has announced a $393 million cash injection into small and medium-sized French companies, in a bid to deflect criticism over a previously announced plan to invest $65 million into businesses in Muslim-populated French suburbs.
The two countries launched the deal yesterday, during French President Francois Hollande’s inaugural visit to Qatar.
Critics of the initial suburb investment plan were concerned that Qatar was trying to exert too much influence in culturally sensitive areas of the France. For example, Marine Le Pen, the far-right French presidential candidate, said of the plans:
“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.”
The criticism prompted former President Nicolas Sarkozy to put the plans on hold.
However, France’s cash-strapped Socialist government has now put forward a compromise deal. Hollande told journalists in Doha:
“We do not refuse Qatari investments in France but we say there are conditions to meet, areas to focus on and rules to explain.
I said that it was best to create a joint investment fund with Qatari and French funds to help small- and medium-sized companies.”
The fund will begin next month, and will be open to companies across France.
Also during his visit, Hollande announced ongoing talks with Qatar to provide military equipment, including twin-engine Rafale fighter jets.
“We have always helped Qatar in security. France supplies two-thirds of military equipment to Qatar. The companies which accompanied me have spoken about their products and, yes, in particular about Rafale” he said.
He also spoke of cultural ties, offering to share France’s experience of hosting major sporting events, and hinted at plans for new museums in Qatar.
Credit: Photo by Omar Chatriwala