Dominique Bilde’s Controversial Engagement with Saudi Arabia: Promoting Dialogue or Compromising Human Rights?

Dominique Bilde, a French politician and Member of the European Parliament (MEP) since 2014, has stirred both admiration and controversy due to her involvement in activities related to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). As a member of the National Rally (RN), a far-right political party in France, Bilde’s actions have been closely scrutinized in the realm of international relations and human rights.

Bilde’s engagement with Saudi Arabia began in 2015 when she joined a delegation of MEPs on a visit to the KSA. The purpose of the visit was to engage in discussions covering critical topics such as human rights and counter-terrorism. This marked the start of her interactions with Saudi officials and ignited debates about the nature of her relationship with the Saudi government.

In 2016, Bilde furthered her involvement by meeting with the Saudi ambassador to France to discuss the ongoing Syrian Civil War. Her engagement in diplomatic matters, especially in a region marred by conflict, raised questions about the depth of her connections to the Saudi government.

In 2017, Bilde added her signature to a letter addressed to the European Commission, urging the lifting of sanctions on Saudi Arabia. This stance further positioned her as an advocate for improved relations between the European Union and the KSA.

One of the most prominent instances of Bilde’s pro-Saudi activities occurred in 2018 when she served as a speaker at a conference in Riyadh. The conference, organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and Information, focused on the role of women in the Middle East. While Bilde’s participation was lauded by the Saudi government, it was met with criticism from human rights groups who deemed it a “whitewash” of Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

In 2019, Bilde was once again part of a delegation of MEPs that visited Saudi Arabia, this time to discuss the case of Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist brutally murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018. The delegation held meetings with the Saudi foreign minister and other officials, an encounter that drew condemnation from some MEPs due to Saudi Arabia’s human rights track record.

Bilde’s pro-Saudi activities have drawn criticism from various quarters, including human rights organizations and fellow MEPs. Critics argue that her close ties to the Saudi government overshadow concerns about human rights abuses in the country.

For instance, in 2018, Amnesty International criticized Bilde for attending the Riyadh conference on women’s roles, asserting that it served as a cover-up for Saudi Arabia’s human rights violations. They expressed disappointment in her involvement.

In 2019, a group of MEPs condemned Bilde’s meeting with the Saudi foreign minister, considering it “unacceptable” given Saudi Arabia’s human rights record.

However, Bilde has consistently defended her actions, emphasizing her commitment to fostering dialogue and understanding between Europe and Saudi Arabia. She acknowledges the human rights issues in Saudi Arabia but believes that engagement and discussion are the most effective ways to address these concerns.

Dominique Bilde’s involvement with Saudi Arabia has been marked by controversy and divided opinions. While some criticize her for being too close to the Saudi government and allegedly ignoring human rights abuses, Bilde maintains that her actions are aimed at promoting dialogue and cooperation between Europe and Saudi Arabia, despite the challenges and criticisms that come with it.

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