Monday

20th May 2019

Sarkozy brings in EU troops to celebrate Bastille day

French president Nicolas Sarkozy has reiterated calls for a common European defence policy, with troops from all EU member states present for a march in Paris to celebrate the 14 July Bastille Day.

For his first Bastille Day appearance as French President, Mr Sarkozy sat in the back of a military vehicle, leading a parade of European military forces down the Champs Elysees.

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It was the first time that troops from other EU states – including 30 soldiers from Germany's Bundeswehr - were invited for the traditional parade, along with flag-bearers from all the bloc's countries.

This showed that "Europe had to look at France through different eyes," explained Mr Sarkozy.

"It's Europe's party," he said, adding "It was a parade of armies but it is peace that we want to celebrate," according to press reports.

The French politicians and public were joined by European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana, as well as Portuguese prime minister Jose Socrates, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency.

Mr Sarkozy introduced other changes to the various traditions connected with the celebration. The new leader ditched the usual July 14 televised interview and also refused to issue the mass pardons usually granted for the holiday.

However, speaking to European defence ministers and French military officers on the eve of the celebrations, the French president reiterated his call for a common European defence policy.

"The basis for a European defence exists. We must make it grow," he said, adding "I want Europe to be capable of ensuring its security autonomously."

The national holiday marks the storming of Bastille prison in Paris on 14 July 1789 by frustrated crowds which precipitated in the French revolution.

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