Doha on the Seine. And on the Thames



For Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, money is not the main problem, although he has 25 children from three wives and everyone needs it. In his understanding, the emirate should become a point on the map, which any schoolboy in the world must show without error, like France or England, although the size of his power is slightly smaller than Kabardino-Balkaria.

He is a man in the prime of life, he is 43 years old. He loves sports, especially soccer, although Qatar is not a soccer country at all. But France is a soccer one. His father thought of buying Marseille Olympique, but then French President Nicolas Sarkozy, a fan of PSG, persuaded to buy the Paris club, and promised to push the idea of holding the World Cup in 2022 in Qatar.

Emir paid for the club 70 million euros and did not even notice the emptiness in his pocket. The main task — to make the name of his country repeated with no end all over the world. For this purpose, PSG bought the «world team» — Ibrahimovic, Neymar, Messi, Mbappe, and at the same time the Paris stadium of the club along with the rights to broadcast all matches.

Sport is one of the main components of «soft power» for the Emirate. France’s main horse race, the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, is now called the Prix de Qatar — Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe. 200 billion euros have been thrown at the FIFA World Cup, Formula 1 rounds and the ATP 250 series tennis tournament are held in Doha.

This, by the way, is another curious feature. The Emir does not just buy up high-profile brands, but also brings high-tech industries to his capital. For example, such a sports medicine hospital Aspetar was built in Doha that the technical director of the French Athletics Federation, Ghani Yalouz, was aghast.

“This is some exceptional equipment. Aspetar is of course a world-class clinic. I was amazed by the level of training of the medical staff. Very competent and demanding approach. Money alone is not enough here».

The second direction of investment after sports is the luxury industry. It is easier here. Purchases, taking into account the national traditions of the buyer, are made according to the principle of «everything that glitters». In Paris, the iconic Printemps store, five-star hotels, and entire blocks of houses in prestigious neighborhoods have been bought. In Cannes, the Emir obtained the historic Martinez and Carlton hotels on the Croisette.

The Emir’s father once had his eye on the building next to the Arc de Triomphe, which belonged to the French Foreign Ministry. Large-scale international meetings were held there, and in 1973 even agreements were signed to end the Vietnam War. Now there is a high-end Qatari hotel.

Mother has her own investment funds investing in luxury brands. Balmain, Valentino, Le Tanneur. Again, they do not forget about themselves. A villa in the form of a flying saucer will be built in Doha, and Philippe Starck was invited as a designer. Almost all fashion and gastronomic houses of France are present in the capital of Qatar, but on franchise terms.

Since 2008, Qatari investors are exempt from paying real estate tax in France. This privilege was granted to them by Sarkozy, who really wanted to attract investors from the emirate. He did. But now it turned out that the budget is short 150–200 million euros a year. Macron tried to somehow change the situation, but he backed off.

The third direction is investments in energy resources. In the 90’s Qatar established close relations with the French group Total, which helped then Sheikh Hamad, who overthrew his father, with money. Now Qatar owns 5 percent of the French oil company, and it has been chosen as the emirate’s main energy partner in the exploitation of offshore gas fields.

«If we are going to be completely without Russian gas in 5 years», says Francis Perrin, an expert at the Institute for International Strategic Studies, «we have no other way but to Qatar. Germany has already signed a strategic partnership agreement with it in 2022».

«Since 2008, Qatar’s investments in France have flowed in a river», says Arnaud de Pierrefeux, a lawyer specializing in the Gulf, «Now they will diversify their risks by investing in the US and Asia. In France, they are more likely to manage existing assets».

Qatar’s investments in France are estimated at €25 billion. The emirate invests about the same amount in Germany. But the most investment, 45 billion, is going to the UK.

In a few weeks, a huge 20-year project will be announced in England. Interestingly, this time it is not about buying existing world-famous hotels or stores — Harrods has long been Qatari — but about investing in research.

Namely: green fuel for aviation. Hydrocarbon storage and production. Long-term energy storage. Development of environment-friendly technologies. Improvement of nuclear energy.

In the “university triangle” Oxford — Cambridge — London it is planned to create a training and research cluster, which will deal with developments in the field of “green energy”. It is allocated £4 billion, of which £1.5 billion will go to British start-ups working in this field. It should resemble the campus of the famous Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and subsequently compete with MIT.

Such an idea came just in time for the British — they are just puzzling over how to keep promising companies from fleeing overseas and stop the drain of the best brains of the Kingdom. Now the means are in place.

Moreover, the McKinsey consulting firm estimates that Project Onyx, as they call it among themselves, will create 7,500 highly skilled positions for scientists by 2030 and 30,000 jobs 15 years later.

Rolls-Royce is also involved in the project: it will provide engineering and expertise, but is not yet participating in the investment, although, as managers admit, «is in the stage of positive dialog».

Well, in addition to the construction of campuses in Britain, the creation of a relevant specialized center in Doha is also envisaged — all according to the old scheme.

In the end, this soft power policy has indeed been effective. It is increasingly difficult to act without Qatar in the international arena. The Emirate mediated negotiations between the heads of Lebanese parties, between Hamas and Fatah, in Darfur, in Chad last year with its assistance an agreement on a ceasefire between the groups was reached. Qatar even participated in indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran on the nuclear program.