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Uzbekistan-France: the course towards rapprochement

French President Emmanuel Macron is paying a visit to Uzbekistan on November 1-2. Uzbekistan and France have been developing fruitful and mutually beneficial cooperation since the establishment of diplomatic relations in March 1992.

The official visit of President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev to France, which took place on October 8-9, 2018, marked the beginning of a new stage of interstate ties characterized by active dynamics.

On November 21-22, 2022, the head of our state made a second visit to France, which had a rich program of meetings and negotiations at the highest level. During this visit, meetings were also held with the President of the National Assembly of France Yaël Braun-Pivet and representatives of leading companies and financial institutions of France.

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The proximity of the Development Strategy being implemented in Uzbekistan with the reform program of the French leader, the similarity and proximity of the two countries’ approaches to addressing major international and regional issues have a serious impact on the Uzbek-French relations reaching a new level. This contributes to the development of new forms of regional and international cooperation and joint counteraction to the new challenges and threats of our time. Uzbekistan’s regional policy aimed at achieving constructive and good-neighborly relations with Central Asian countries has created a completely different regional environment, which contributes to the achievement of French foreign policy goals in Central Asia.

High-level contacts have also gained new momentum.

Uzbekistan-France friendship groups are actively functioning in the Senate and Legislative Chamber of the Oliy Majlis. Parliamentarians of the two countries regularly discuss prospects for deepening inter-parliamentary dialog within the framework of the established exchange of mutual visits.

Uzbekistan and France are also partners in multilateral structures, interacting on the platforms of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the European Union and others.

France is an important partner of Uzbekistan in economic, investment, financial and technical spheres. Trade-economic, investment and financial-technical cooperation between our countries is intensifying.

Today, 47 enterprises with French capital are operating in Uzbekistan, including 17 on the basis of 100% French investments. The activities of such leading French companies as «Veolia», «Suez», «EDF», «Total Eren», «Voltalia», «Orano», «Airbus» and others in our country are successful examples of partnership in the spheres of geological exploration, energy, production of construction materials, automotive industry and tourism. They are present in the key sectors of utilities, energy and transportation.

The Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation serves as an important platform for considering all aspects of Uzbek-French cooperation in this area. Its work contributes to identifying new areas for greater diversification and deepening of trade and economic relations between the two countries.

A vivid confirmation of the growing interest of French business in expanding cooperation was the business forum held in April this year in Tashkent, organized jointly with the Movement of Entrepreneurs of France “MEDEF International”, which was attended by representatives of more than 35 companies of France.

Cooperation with the French Development Agency, which has had its representative office in Tashkent since 2018, is developing fruitfully. Within the framework of the Program of Cooperation with the FDA for 2023-2025 signed in November last year, the implementation of projects worth over one billion euros is envisaged.

According to the Agreement on Partnership and Cooperation between Uzbekistan and the European Union, most-favored-nation treatment has been established in trade with France.

Uzbek-French relations in the cultural and humanitarian sphere are multifaceted and promising. They are characterized by the breadth of coverage of spheres, as well as high dynamics and mutual interest in further expansion.

A striking event in the history of the development of cultural ties between our countries was the opening last November by Presidents Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Emmanuel Macron of the exhibition “Treasures of the Oases of Uzbekistan. At the crossroads of caravan routes” at the Louvre Museum in Paris. This exhibition was prepared for several years and included items from museums in Uzbekistan and other countries. Several joint Uzbek-French expeditions took place, during which a number of archaeological discoveries were made. In addition, specialists from the Louvre and Uzbekistan carried out large-scale restoration work in several stages. This exhibition, as well as the exhibition “The Road to Samarkand. Wonders of Silk and Gold” at the Institute of the Arab World in Paris for more than three months of work have familiarized a huge number of residents and guests of France with the rich and unique historical and cultural heritage of our country.

The Association for the Study of Art and History of the Temurid Era, established in 1988, and the Association “Avicenna-France”, which operates in France, also testify to the great interest in the history and heritage of the Uzbek people.

The establishment of twinning ties between the cities of Rueil-Malmaison-Bukhara and Lyon-Samarkand is a testament to the interaction between the cultures and traditions of France and Uzbekistan, as well as to the fruitful development of friendly relations. In recognition of the rich spiritual, cultural and historical heritage of the Uzbek people, the French side has opened an “Uzbek garden” in French cities and erected monuments to the encyclopaedist scholar Abu Ali ibn Sina and Mirzo Ulugbek.

In turn, Uzbekistan pays great attention to the study of the French language, literature and culture. At present, some three thousand teachers working in specialized secondary and higher education teach French to some 200,000 pupils and students. French is taught in 700 schools in Uzbekistan and 6 specialized schools. Thirteen universities have established departments of French or Romance languages, where students study French as their main language; many students study it as a second foreign language. In 2019, specialized school №43 in  Samarkand was named after French citizen Lucien Keren, the founder of the Association for the Study of History and Art of the Temurid Era.

The French Alliance and the French School, which are successfully operating in our country, play an important role in the development of the French language and culture in Uzbekistan and in strengthening Uzbek-French cooperation.

The Association of Teachers of French of Uzbekistan has been established under the International Association of Teachers of French.

Inter-university and academic cooperation is strengthening. In 2018-2023, more than 50 agreements and memorandums of understanding were signed in the field of education in such areas as tourism, archaeology, design and fashion, French philology, aviation, inclusive education, business management, energy, political science, aviation and others. In particular, in recent years interuniversity links have been established with such educational institutions of France as the Universities of Paris-Sud, Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris II Panthéon-Assas, Paris IV Sorbonne, University of Grenoble, University of Nice Sophia-Antipolis, University of Brittany-Sud, National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations, University of Toulouse, Institute of Political Studies of Toulouse, Higher National School of Architecture of Versailles and others. The productive links between the Academy of Public Administration under the President of Uzbekistan and the French National School of Administration should also be noted.

In 2019, a joint faculty of the Paris International Fashion Academy at the Tashkent Institute of Textile and Light Industry; a branch of the Business School of Tourism and Hospitality Management “Vatel” at the Bukhara State University were established. The Tashkent State Transport University, in cooperation with the French National School of Civil Aviation, has opened a school for training civil aviation pilots since the 2021/2022 academic year.

In turn, the National Institute of Oriental Languages and Civilizations at the Sorbonne University has opened Uzbek language teaching courses.

In October 2021 in Tashkent and November 2022 in Paris, the first and second Uzbek-French educational forums were held with the participation of rectors of universities of the two countries.

The French Higher Institute for Training and Research, in cooperation with the Ministries of Preschool and School Education of Uzbekistan, is assisting in the development of inclusive education in our republic.

Currently, work is underway to establish an Uzbek-French multidisciplinary university in Tashkent with the participation of a consortium of French universities.

Ties in the field of archeology and preservation of cultural heritage are actively developing. French partners are assisting in the implementation of projects on the restoration of cultural heritage sites in Uzbekistan. One of them is the restoration project of the “Ambassadors” fresco in the Afrosiab Museum.

In the sphere of cinematography, an important event was the “Uzbekistan” Pavilion at the 71st Cannes International Film Festival in France, which opened for the first time in 2018. In 2019, the Uzbek pavilion was opened in Cannes as part of the 72nd International Film Festival at the “Marché du Film”.

French tourists traditionally occupy the first place in the number of visits to our country. This is largely facilitated by the wide propaganda and promotion of Uzbekistan’s tourism potential in France. Thus, the film about Uzbekistan on the popular TV channel “France 5” as part of the program “Beautiful Walk” was viewed by an audience of 1.4 million people, which has become the best indicator in the history of the TV program. In addition, the appointment of the famous French actor Gerard Depardieu as Uzbekistan’s tourism ambassador in France has also attracted great attention to our country as a very interesting and promising tourist destination.

Thus, there is no doubt that the multifaceted Uzbek-French relations, characterized by dynamism and strategic orientation, have great prospects.

In this context, the forthcoming visit of French President Emmanuel Macron to Uzbekistan will be a logical continuation of Uzbek-French relations that have intensified in recent years and will lay the foundation for achieving new breakthrough results in mutually beneficial and multidimensional cooperation between our two countries.

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