Latest update: 16/10/2012
Qatar says investments in France not driven by 'politics'
Qatar defended its continuing investments in France on Monday, claiming they were not motivated by "political ambitions". The Gulf state has sparked fears in some quarters that its financial ventures are inspired by a desire to promote Islamism.
Qatar insisted on Monday that there was nothing sinister behind its multi-billion euro investments in France.
The Gulf state’s Prime Minister Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem Al-Thani said there was no cause to be suspicious over the motivation for his country’s purchase of stakes in French companies, insisting it had nothing to do with politics.
"Qatar is not a country with great political ambitions ... and it wants no political role from its investments in France," Sheikh Hamad said at a press conference in Doha. "We don't do anything without coordinating with the French side," he added.
France has proved attractive to Qatari investors, who have bought Paris Saint-Germain football club and acquired three percent of energy giant Total as well as stakes in building firm Vinci and in media group Lagardere.
But a Qatari plan to create a fund for entrepreneurs from France's deprived suburbs has led to accusations that the state’s real intention was not to benefit the country’s under-privileged youth but to promote Islamism.
A large number of France’s estimated five million Muslim population reside in the country’s poorer suburbs, many of which have cripplingly high unemployment rates.
“There’s something going on. Nothing is free, that’s for certain,” French Middle East expert Karim Sader previously told FRANCE 24. “We’re tempted to link the funding for the suburbs to Qatar’s Islamist leanings.”
Critics from across the political spectrum condemned the prospect of increasing Qatari influence, pointing to the Gulf state’s involvement in the Arab Spring as well as its support for Islamist groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood and Libyan Islamist factions.
Never slow to air an opinion on the sensitive subject of France and Islam, the leader of the far-right National Front party Marine le Pen slammed the project as a “major political mistake” and blasted the government’s minister for industry and growth for accepting it.
“Arnaud Montebourg has shown that our country is indeed up for sale to oil monarchies who support radical Islam and jihadism across the world,” Le Pen wrote in a statement titled, “The Trojan Horse of Islamism”.
In the end, President François Hollande’s government was forced to step in and decided the scheme would not, as was first intended, be funded entirely by Qatar, but would be a joint initiative between the two countries instead.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)