France: Qatar backtracks, no direct aid to suburbs

50 mln fund remains; but for schemes chosen by government

25 June, 20:31

Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani meets French President Hollande Qatari Prime Minister Al Thani meets French President Hollande

(ANSAmed) - PARIS - Qatar has backtracked on its controversial proposal to finance entrepreneurs from France's underprivileged suburbs, a scheme that provoked a raft of criticism in France. The oil-rich Persian Gulf Emirate, which is increasing its investments in France, announced a 50 million euro package last December to finance schemes designed by inhabitants of the suburbs of France's major cities. But following the election as President of the Socialist François Hollande, Doha has agreed to review its decision.

The 50 million euro fund remains, but will be used to finance small and medium-sized enterprises that will not be directly selected, but rather chosen from a wide pool of projects drawn up by the French government. "The fund is available to the French authorities", according to sources close to the Qatari Prime Minister, Hamad Ben Jassem Al-Thani, who during his recent visit to the Elysée at the start of the month discussed the issue with President Hollande. The Doha initiative prompted a barrage of criticism, beginning with that of the leader of the far-right National Front party, Marine Le Pen, who pointed the finger at an announcement that she claimed was designed to develop "Muslim fundamentalism". Meanwhile, other more moderate sections of the political sphere spoke only of meddling in a sector usually under the jurisdiction of the state such as that of urban policies.

"Qatar is not only words," Qatar's ambassador to France, Mohamed Jahan al-Kuwari, said last December, during a meeting with representatives of some of the most deprived areas of France, all of them of North African extraction. "There is a need for action. The Emir has decided to create a 50 million euro fund to work with you. The fund could be increased". Discussing the spirit of the 50 million euro fund, the diplomat said: "This is not aid, we do not want to be a charity. Serious projects are needed in all sectors, reasonable, solid and long-term projects (.) I hope that we will soon show that this partnership will contribute to relations between Qatar and France", a country that he said was "strategic" and "very important for us". "French people of Arab origin can help us in our partnership with France," he added.

Doha and Paris entertain a special relationship and have close ties in the main economic sectors, but also in football, after the recent purchase by the Qatari Emirs of PSG, the club from the capital, and of television rights. Qatar also assisted western forces in the war in Libya, which was strongly advocated by France. (ANSAmed).


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