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PARIS: The social reforms underway in Saudi Arabia are “impressive”, the vice-president of the France-Saudi Arabia parliamentary friendship group and LREM deputy, Amelia Lakrafi, told Arab News.

Arab News en Francais met with Lakrafi to discuss several topics, including Franco-Saudi relations, his visits to the Arab world, as well as the French presidential and legislative elections.

She said that the parliamentary friendship group of which she is vice-president aims to create ties and strengthen relations between France and Saudi Arabia at all levels, stressing the importance of parliamentary diplomacy.

“The issues in which I have been very involved are related to the stability of the regions, gender equality and the economic emancipation of women, as well as the commercial contribution of our French companies, whether they be based in France or Saudi Arabia,” she added.

She pointed out that Saudi women are highly motivated and embarking on the path of entrepreneurship. “They now have access to professions that they did not have access to before,” she said.

Lakrafi traveled to the Kingdom in 2016 to represent French women entrepreneurs at the Misk Global Forum. It was there that she first heard about Saudi Vision 2030, as well as the Misk Fund and plans to open up the Kingdom, she said, adding that Saudi efforts to move away from the “oil and gas stereotype” have brought about a change that is “real, undeniable and very impressive.

She added: “70% of their population is under 30, so they had to respond to the desire for freedom of these young people” describing the changes she saw from one visit to the next.

Lakrafi revealed that his favorite region is AlUla, calling it the “Saudi Petra”. She also praised the Red Sea Festival in Jeddah, which she was lucky enough to attend.

What surprised her the most were the street concerts, the men and women socializing together and the women without veils, all sitting together, dancing and singing.

“Five years ago, musical instruments were broken and music was banned, so that’s awesome – that’s nice,” she said.

Regarding the French presidential elections, Lakrafi welcomed the new page that President Emmanuel Macron turned on Sunday, adding that he had successfully moved away from the traditional party system in previous elections, but had managed to consolidate his position. electoral base this year.

However, the abstention rate still demonstrates lingering apathy among some voters, Lakrafi added.

“In his speech (Sunday), I believe he showed great humility in recognizing that we now had to rebuild and unify a divided country and that he was the president of all French people,” he said. she declared.

To govern effectively, Macron needs a parliamentary majority, Lakrafi noted. She said that while a majority can help avoid a political deadlock, Macron, unlike his predecessors, was able to implement 70% of his program in his previous term, earning the trust of voters.

Lakrafi said she was ready to stand for election if her party, LREM, renewed her confidence. It aspires to pursue reforms relating to the economy, the labor market, social citizenship, education and health, the youth unemployment rate and direct investment abroad. She added that France “has become, for the second consecutive year, the first beneficiary of what we call FDI (foreign direct investment), after Germany”.

Lebanon, which Lakrafi had the good fortune to visit in March, holds a “special place in Macron’s heart and in the hearts of many French people”, she said.

She added that she is in the process of creating a medical-social center in Lebanon, in partnership with NGOs and civil society, to meet the needs of those affected by the explosion of August 4, 2020.

Furthermore, regarding the banking crisis in Lebanon, Lakrafi said that she is working to set up “a support group for the victims of the financial crisis in Lebanon. We are still only at the beginning and we hope that it can evolve quickly.

The LREM deputy hopes that the legislative elections planned in Lebanon can lead to “real change” and “the emergence of new faces in politics”.

Lakrafi said she was very pleased with the continued improvement in relations between France and the Gulf countries.

The partnership between the countries is important economically, but also for peace, stability and the fight against radicalization, she said.

“It is up to us to move in this direction.

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