PARIS: Holding World Expo 2023 in Riyadh would be “the culmination of Vision 2030,” the leading French politician Nathalie Goulet told Arab News on Monday.
“It is not a date chosen at random, but a date which corresponds to a project, to the culmination of what has been promised and which is in the process of being carried out under the impulse of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman,” said Nathalie Goulet, the senator from Orne in the Normandy region.
Saudi Arabia officially submitted its full bid to host the 2030 World Expo in Riyadh in October last year, in a letter sent by the crown prince. The event will run from Oct 1, 2030 to March 31, 2031, under the theme “The Age of Change: Together for a Provident Future”.
South Korea, Italy and Ukraine have also applied to host the World Expo. The vote to designate the host city will take place in November. France has already announced its support for Riyadh.
Vision 2030 is a strategic plan designed to transform the Kingdom ’s economy, reduce its dependence on oil and develop a vibrant society characterized by strong roots and strong foundations that support moderate Islam, national pride, Saudi heritage and Islamic culture.
“I met Mohammed bin Salman in Paris in 2016,” Goulet said. “I found him determined and he made it very clear to me what he wanted to achieve with the 2030 vision. That is exactly what he is doing. We now consider that he is on the way to winning his bet.
“People who don’t know Saudi Arabia don’t see the difference, but I, who have been going there for 20years, can see it. Whether it is the role of women, the end of wearing the abaya for foreign women, modernization, music, openness, tourism. You can see it very well in the streets of Riyadh or Jeddah. All those sports shops, all that music, all the liberated youth. It is obvious.
“There are really only people of bad faith who do not see the difference, or who do not know the country or who remain on fixed ideas.”
Goulet believes that Expo 2030 could be “an opportunity for the country to show the achievement of Vision 2030, the opening up to tourism, which has obviously already started with AlUla, whose management is moreover entrusted to the French.”
The Kingdom plans to welcome 40 million visitors to Expo 2030. Goulet believes this influx of tourists will modernize and transform the image of the country. “Franco-Saudi relations are in good shape. From now on, it is necessary to win the hearts of the inhabitants, it is more difficult,” she said.
“What is difficult with Saudi Arabia is the question of image, but it has improved a lot in recent years, in particular thanks to ambassador Khalid bin Mohammed Al-Ankary, who was in office from 2016 to 2020.”
Goulet says Saudis should be encouraged to make the Kingdom better known to the French. “Not just to Parisians, ministries and businesses,” she said. “The Saudis need to gain popularity and that is happening in the regions. I invite all Saudi companies to come to Normandy, of course!”