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

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Hind Al Soulia - Riyadh - Ties between the UAE and France are setting the benchmark of bilateral relationships, a senior member of the Emirates leadership team has said, as new efforts intensify to extend the partnership in the digital, education and healthcare realms.

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

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

Mr Al Mubarak told The National that the countries were adding new pillars to the alliance after the 12th meeting of the UAE-France Strategic Dialogue earlier 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 the area of 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," he said. "We discussed potential co-operation between the recently established Mohammed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence and the Sorbonne Centre for Artificial Intelligence – Abu Dhabi."

The Strategic Dialogue was a virtual meeting that took place 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 medicine, 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 the country to treat victims of Covid-19 and other patients during the French lockdown.

The meeting of officials by video link also renewed their focus on promoting stability and relieving the tensions 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 that 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 the recent opening of a coding school in Abu Dhabi in partnership with the French leader in the field, Ecole42. "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," he said.

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

The Louvre, Abu Dhabi, which has now reopened after it was closed for 100 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Victor Besa / The National
The Louvre, Abu Dhabi, which has now reopened after it was closed for 100 days due to the coronavirus pandemic. Victor Besa / The National

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 EDF Group are jointly building large-scale renewable energy facilities around the world, including a 400 megawatt wind farm in Saudi Arabia, the largest in the kingdom, the 800MW third phase of the Solar Park in , and a hybrid solar power plant in Morocco.

Ahead of the Bastille Day celebrations, Mr Al Mubarak added that 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 29, 2020 06:38 PM

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