The closure of Business France in Moscow

On Monday 16 July 2018 the French embassy announced that “Business France” – France’s trade and investment promotion entity – would close its office in Moscow and terminate its activities in the country the following day.

The decision followed repeated problems with the Russian authorities over the past months, including the expulsion of the head of office in the aftermath of the Skripal case and the seizing of the entity’s bank accounts.

In spite of the entity pursuing public interests activities and being headed by a holder of a diplomatic passport (who was expelled in April as a diplomatic reprisal against France’s expulsions of Russian diplomats), the Russian authorities do not consider it as covered by diplomatic status and argued that it was not incorporated in Russia as a Russian legal entity. Against the background of increased hostility, France decided to close down the office and dismiss personnel. The Russian authorities initial public reaction was one of surprise and denial, as the closure of the office sends a negative message just one day after President Macron witnessed the French national team’s victory in the FIFA World Cup Final. There is a broader question on the potential implications for the trade promotion offices of some other EU Member States, which share formal similarities with “Business France”.

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