Bahrain business pioneer Veil mourned
Manama, April 15, 2013
Antoine Veil, the man who was instrumental in forging Bahrain's tourism and trade links with France, died of a massive heart attack at 85.
Jamil Wafa, chairman of the Unitag Group, whose airline and travel experience spans more than 55 years, paid homage to the man he describes as "one of Bahrain's best friends".
"As the then chairman and chief executive of Union de Transports Ariens (UTA), a French airline, Veil played a significant role in the decision of the airline to operate through Bahrain," Wafa was quoted as saying in the Gulf Daily News, our sister publication.
UTA operated three weekly flights in each direction from Paris to Noumea via Bahrain and Singapore.
It was the largest wholly privately owned, independent airline in France. UTA was absorbed into Air France between 1990 and 1992.
Veil was highly connected to every senior member of France's Gaullist government largely through his wife Simone Veil, a former health minister and later President of the European Parliament.
From 1974 to 1979, she was health minister in the governments of prime ministers Jacques Chirac and Raymond Barre.
Simone was elected as a member of the European Parliament in the 1979 European election. In its first session, the new parliament elected her as its President, a position she held until 1982.
As well as being the first president of the elected parliament, she was the first female president since the parliament was created in 1952.
In 1981, Simone won the prestigious Charlemagne Prize.
Both Veil and his wife visited Bahrain at the invitation of His Royal Highness Prime Minister Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa, said the GDN report.
Veil opened the door to many opportunities for France-Bahrain co-operation, and even ran a month-long campaign promoting Bahrain at UTA's office in Paris, at a time when not many people knew about the island nation.
He was also instrumental in convincing the Paris Airport Authorities to switch Gulf Air's airport to Charles De Gaulle from Le Bourget, the report stated.
Veil's close friendship with the late Jean Darras opened doors to vital trade, tourism, banking and construction bonds between the two countries which have endured and strengthened to this day, it added.-TradeArabia News Service