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Bastille Day: Macron hails common European defence in July 14 message

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By Alastair Jamieson
Macron said European defence was the theme of the 2019 Bastille Day parade
Macron said European defence was the theme of the 2019 Bastille Day parade   -   Copyright  REUTERS

President Emmanuel Macron spoke of the importance of common European defence and security on Sunday as he marked Bastille Day celebrations in France.

In his July 14 message, he said: “Not since the end of the Second World War has Europe been so necessary.”

His message was posted online as he prepared to host other world leaders at the traditional military parade in Paris.

“Building European defense, in connection with the Atlantic Alliance … is a priority for France,” he said.

“It is the theme of this parade. Acting together and strengthening our ability to act collectively is one of the challenges that the European Intervention Initiative, along with other key European projects, wants to address.”

On Saturday, Macron announced the launch of a new space military command that would eventually be part of his country's air force.

European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined Macron at the event.

Attractions included hi-tech military gear such as drones, miniature autonomous vehicles, soldiers armed with anti-drone guns, and what looked like a "flying soldier" — a man swishing in the air on a flyboard, drawing cheers from the leaders and spectators.

There were no visible #GiletsJaunes protests as the parade began, but there were reports of isolated clashes between protesters and police, and booing, as Macron passed by.

Eric Drouet, one of the original leaders of the movement, was pictured on social media being removed from a viewing barrier by police. Prefecture officials later said 152 arrests were made in total.

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789 by a mob of Parisians during the opening stages of the French Revolution. The anniversary became a national day in 1880 and is marked by parades, speeches, parties and fireworks.