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European leaders join Macron for Bastille Day parade as France trumpets shared defense

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By Reuters and Associated Press  with NBC News World News
Image: FRANCE-BASTILLE-DAY-PARADE
French President Emmanuel Macron reviews troops before the start of the Bastille Day military parade down the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2019.   -   Copyright  KAMIL ZIHNIOGLU

PARIS — European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel joined French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday for the traditional Bastille Day military parade in Paris which this year honoured European military cooperation.

Flags of the 10 countries of the European Intervention Initiative, a joint military pact created last year, led Sunday's military parade down the iconic Champs Elysees avenue in Paris.

The 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.

Bastille Day commemorates the storming of the Bastille prison in 1789, one of the key events of the French Revolution. The day has become a national holiday in France.

In 2017 President Donald Trump, as guest of honor, was so impressed he ordered a military parade in Washingtonfor America's July 4 celebrations.

This year some 4,300 soldiers, around 200 vehicles and over 100 aircraft, some from other European countries, took part in the parade that was opened by Spanish troops.

In a Bastille Day message to the French people, Macron said he wanted to highlight France's irrevocable commitment to consolidate French and European security.

"Never since the end of the Second World War has Europe been so necessary. The construction of a Europe of defence, in connection with the Atlantic Alliance...is a priority for France. It is the theme of this parade," Macron said.

"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," he added.