Macron on a deal tour in the Gulf states

During a tour of the Gulf states French President Emmanuel Macron has sealed a deal for the sale of 80 Rafale fighter jets to the United Arab Emirates. He also visited Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and thus became the first Western leader to visit bin Salman since the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, which the latter allegedly commissioned. Commentators don't like what they see - for different reasons.

Open/close all quotes
Mediapart (FR) /

Paris arming authoritarian regimes

Macron is tossing principles to the wind in the name of business, Mediapart criticises:

“He is demonstrating in the Gulf that he is willing to turn a blind eye to the fate of imprisoned dissidents in order to cultivate relations with a crown prince with full but bloody hands like Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) - or with another crown prince, Mohammed bin Zayed (MBZ), buyer of 80 Rafale fighter jets. ... According to Macron's advisers the fight against terrorism is his 'top priority' on this tour, above stability and regional security. ... But apparently the fight against terror is above all serving as a pretext for the authoritarian regimes in the Gulf region and Egypt to arm themselves against their peoples with France's help, and to advance their strategic ambitions in the region.”

Der Standard (AT) /

Breaking the Khashoggi ban

The French president is also pursuing economic interests in Saudi Arabia, observes Der Standard:

“Macron defended his meeting with MBS [Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud], which opened with a lengthy handshake. He said there was no question that dialogue with Saudi Arabia was necessary, but that did not mean forgetting Khashoggi. He said he had spoken to MBS without taboos and also addressed human rights issues. Macron's visit comes just a few months before the presidential elections in France, however it was also dedicated to economic interests: a delegation of dozens of businessmen travelled with him. ... In Saudi Arabia, a joint venture between Saudi Arabian Military Industries and Airbus and [aircraft parts manufacturer] Figeac Aero was announced, and five new contracts with the state oil company Aramco were also signed.”

Les Echos (FR) /

France shines, Europe disappoints

Les Echos commentator David Barroux criticises something else entirely:

“In order not to be completely dependent on the US, the Old Continent should join forces in the defence industry or at least reward those manufacturers whose products are successful internationally. ... In defence matters, Europe remains a jigsaw puzzle of players shooting each other in the foot - or even in the back. For decades we have been incapable of uniting our industrial forces, and still prefer to import F-35 fighter jets [from the US]. Our division weakens us and strengthens our competitors.”