Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 2 July 2020

Khaldoon Al Mubarak: UAE-France friendship the benchmark for global partnerships

Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority chairman says shared vision for digital, sustainable future will drive new phase of French-Emirati relationship

Louvre Abu Dhabi welcomed more than two million visitors in its first two years. Victor Besa / The National
Louvre Abu Dhabi welcomed more than two million visitors in its first two years. Victor Besa / The National

Ties between the UAE and France are setting the benchmark for bilateral relationships, a senior member of the Emirates leadership team says.

And they are set to become even stronger in digital, education and health care.

Speaking before the July 14 French national Bastille Day, Khaldoon Al Mubarak, chairman of the Abu Dhabi Executive Affairs Authority, told The National that both sides approached policy with a view to the long term.

Mr Al Mubarak said that "like-minded disposition" drove a constant broadening of shared initiatives.

"As a country whose ongoing prosperity is contingent upon a diversified, knowledge-based economy, we seek projects in which world-class education, expertise exchange and professional skills development are essential," he said.

"In France we have a partner that is fundamentally aligned with this priority.

"In these profoundly critical ways, the UAE-France friendship represents the benchmark for how we can co-operate with our international partners."

With a shared vision for a digital future underpinned by sustainable development goals, the UAE and France are building a new phase of their relationship.

Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, receives Prof Jean Chambaz, president of Sorbonne University, at the Sea Palace. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court
Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, receives Prof Jean Chambaz, president of Sorbonne University, at the Sea Palace. Mohamed Al Hammadi / Crown Prince Court

Mr Al Mubarak said the countries were adding new pillars to the alliance after the 12th meeting of the UAE-France Strategic Dialogue this month.

"The 10-year road map that we endorsed during our most recent meeting looks forward to the next decade by outlining what we plan to achieve together," he said.

"In terms of specifics, both countries will explore investing in the innovative sectors of the other country, including biotechnology, medtech and agritech.

"We also aim to enhance bilateral exchange in advanced sciences, technology, and research and development."

If Covid-19 has a silver lining, it has to be its force as a rallying cry for accelerated innovation and collaboration

Khaldoon Al Mubarak

One priority will be joint undertakings in artificial intelligence, under a joint agreement.

"The field of advanced technologies and artificial intelligence is, of course, a priority focus for the UAE and is a strategic component of the bilateral partnership," Mr Al Mubarak said.

"We discussed potential co-operation between the recently established Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and the Sorbonne Centre for Artificial Intelligence, Abu Dhabi."

The strategic dialogue was held online amid restrictions on travel and contact made necessary by the coronavirus pandemic.

Both sides noted the shared imperative of improving healthcare co-operation.

"We are very proud of the ever-strengthening health sector collaboration between institutions in the UAE and France, including in public health, academia, research and international patient care," Mr Al Mubarak said.

"If Covid-19 has a silver lining, it has to be its force as a rallying cry for accelerated innovation and collaboration, and we see this happening across governments, societies and entities.

"In relation to the UAE and France bilateral relationship, our substantive existing partnership has allowed us to pivot quickly, helping each other build national capabilities in critical areas such as food security, medical supplies and pharmaceuticals.

"This will remain strategically important for the future."

Under the terms of the French-Emirati Medical Specialisation Programme, UAE specialists have the opportunity to work and study in France to develop skills in areas such as emergency and internal medicine, and surgery.

Some of the doctors, such as Mohamed Al Falasi, who specialises in neurosurgery in Marseille, were praised when they chose to stay in France to treat victims of Covid-19 and other patients during the French lockdown.

The meeting also renewed the focus on promoting stability and relieving the tension in the Middle East.

“Both sides vowed to continue working hand in hand to prevent tensions and promote the resolution of crises in the Middle East, especially in our present times when we are challenged by a global pandemic,” Mr Al Mubarak said.

Cultural and education links have developed rapidly since Sheikh Zayed, the Founding Father, visited France in 1971, the year the UAE was formed.

Khaldoon Al Mubarak attends a virtual meeting with Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, for the 12th annual UAE-France Strategic Dialogue. Courtesy Executive Affairs Authority
Khaldoon Al Mubarak attends a virtual meeting with Dr Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, for the 12th annual UAE-France Strategic Dialogue. Courtesy Executive Affairs Authority

Louvre Abu Dhabi welcomed more than two million visitors in its first two years and the Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi has had more than 2,000 students pass through its portals.

On top of this is a UAE venture with 42, a global coding school network with a free programming methodology, to be based in Abu Dhabi.

"This new model of learning focuses solely on computer programming and software engineering, and relies on peer-to-peer interaction and digital industry engagement to prepare students for careers in that sector," Mr Al Mubarak said.

Joint investment talks have led to the establishment of an alliance between Mubadala and Bpifrance for funding participation in leading French companies.

Sustainable development under a joint framework has emerged as a cornerstone of the relationship.

"The [framework] lists areas for sustainable co-development, including leveraging technology and innovation to the benefit of sustainable development, particularly in the fields of climate change and environment, health care, efficient management of oceans and marine resources and low carbon technologies," Mr Al Mubarak said.

Meanwhile, Masdar and the EDF Group are building large-scale renewable energy facilities around the world.

They include a 400-megawatt wind farm in Saudi Arabia, the largest in the kingdom, the 800MW third phase of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Solar Park in Dubai, and a hybrid solar power plant in Morocco.

With Bastille Day celebrations near, Mr Al Mubarak said Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, wanted to share his best wishes "with all the French citizens who call the UAE home on the occasion".

Updated: June 30, 2020 10:56 PM

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