Bastille Day is always a special occasion. But the French national celebration has taken on an extra high-profile this year with big name guests like Ban Ki-moon joining President Sarkozy.
The UN Secretary-General looked on as troops paraded through Paris. Also watching was Syria’s leader Bashar al-Assad whose presence has been criticised by human rights campaigners and French veterans. Damascus has been accused of involvement in a bomb attack in Lebanon in 1983 in which 58 French peacekeepers were killed.
Fresh from their Mediterranean Summit meetings, world leaders lined up to enjoy the pomp and ceremony. There has been tension in the armed forces however with thousands of defence jobs set to be slashed and dozens of military bases earmarked for closure.
France has just taken over the rotating presidency of the European Union and the impressive line-up assembled by President Sarkozy to witness today’s spectacle seems to indicate an increasingly prominent role for Paris on the international stage.