More French schools set for the UAE, pledges ambassador

The new French ambassador says more schools and institutions are planned for the UAE, and he thinks an EU visa waiver for Emiratis will be in effect by spring.

Michel Miraillet, the newly appointed French ambassador, has promised to build more French schools and institutes in the UAE amid the growing presence of French expatriates in the country. Christopher Pike / The National
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ABU DHABI // More French schools and institutions will be built across the UAE as demand for them surges.

With only five French secondary schools in the nation and the population of expatriates from France expected to double in the next 10 years, the country’s new ambassador to the UAE said education was a crucial objective.

Michel Miraillet also said he hoped an EU visa-waiver system for Emiratis would be in place by spring, and that he wanted to build on the already strong relations between the two countries.

“The French community in the UAE isn’t just exploding, it is skyrocketing,” said Mr Miraillet, who arrived to take up his post six weeks ago.

“The growth of our French presence in Dubai is 10 per cent a year, and with that we have a huge problem because we have to provide all of the French community with an educational system.”

There are two French schools in Abu Dhabi accommodating a few thousand children, and three in Dubai.

“It is not enough. We have to develop it and it is a crucial issue because if French companies want to send their best men here, they can only do it if you can provide them with schools for the kids,” Mr Miraillet said.

“When you look at the next 10 years, I am sure that the French population here may double. How do you deal with that? We need to find new innovative solutions in order to tackle this growing demand.

“We have systems managed directly by the French administration and other systems led by entrepreneurs.”

Helene Conway-Mouret, the minister delegate for French nationals abroad, is expected to visit the UAE at the end of the month.

“She will spend a lot of time here to look at what the scenery is, what we may do, how we may build on private initiatives and what kind of partnership we may create,” Mr Miraillet said. “There are many opportunities to be made.

“What we are looking for now is to develop institutions like the Sorbonne Abu Dhabi, but we also have other missions to develop in terms of hard science, mathematics, providing expertise and teaching business, because it is also a way to help the French entrepreneurs here.”

He reiterated France’s support to allow visa-free travel for Emiratis to most of Europe.

“We have been at the forefront to get rid of that measure and I think that we are very close to the final result,” Mr Miraillet said.

“We are expecting a definitive vote and we’ve been instrumental at the Committee of Permanent Representatives to push the decision of the European Council.

“We are now expecting a final decision by the European Parliament at the end of the month.”

He said once the decision was made, there would be negotiations for a formal agreement with Emirati diplomats and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

“My deep feeling is that by spring a visa waiver will be enforced for Emiratis,” Mr Miraillet said. “They are citizens of the world and I expect to see more of them in France.

“Relations between France and the UAE have never been so good and, in terms of a bigger role, we have to develop our economic-trade relationship. There are a lot of ambitions and we have to build on this strategic relationship.”

He said that with the instability of much of the Middle East, his country knew it could rely on the UAE’s vision for the future and its leadership.