Politicians attack critic of Bastille Day parade

French politicians on the right have turned on the green candidate for next year's presidential vote after she suggested scrapping the traditional July 14th military parade.

Former investigating magistrate Eva Joly, who holds joint French-Norwegian nationality, provoked outrage after suggesting that the Bastille Day event should be replaced by a civic parade.

But as one politician from the ruling right-wing UMP party suggested she go back to Norway, politicians from the opposition Socialists, while rejecting Joly’s proposal, defended her against the ruling party’s attacks on Friday.

French Prime Minister Francois Fillon led the assault on Joly, in comments to reporters in Ivory Coast, where he was visiting for talks with President Alassane Ouattara.

“I think this lady lacks a very longstanding sense of French traditions, French values, French history,” Fillon said.

“If every year we pay homage to our armed forces on the national holiday, it’s because we are paying homage to an institution which assures the defence of the values … of liberty, of fraternity, of equality,” he added.

It was normal to pay homage to the armed forces, which were vital to French democracy, he argued.

“I think there are very few French people who share Madame Joly’s view.”

A special advisor to French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Henri Guaino, was even sharper.

He described Joly’s remarks as “pathetic” and “an insult to all those who, for centuries, have died for this country, for its values, for freedom.”

Agriculture Minister Bruno Le Maire described the remarks as “shocking”, and one UMP deputy, Lionel Tardy, said on RTL radio that Joly should “go back to Norway”.

Joly made her comments on Thursday, as France celebrated its Bastille Day holiday with the traditional military parade down the Champs Elysees.

Sarkozy, who with other dignitaries watched the march-past, had earlier dedicated this year’s holiday to five French soldiers killed in a suicide attack in Afghanistan the previous day.

Joly insisted she could not be dismissed as anti-military, having supported the military intervention in Libya.

“I have dreamed that we could replace the (military) parade with a civic parade” where schoolchildren, students and pensioners would march together, “to celebrate the values that unite us,” she said.

Several leading figures among the opposition Socialists also rejected her idea, but in less vituperative terms. And some defended her against the attacks from the right.

“Clearly, it’s not acceptable,” Martine Aubry, one of the contenders for the socialist nomination for the presidency, said of Joly’s idea. “It doesn’t even make sense,” she added.

While she would welcome an event along the lines described by Joly, Bastille Day was the right time to pay homage to the French army, she added.

Segolene Royal, another contender for the socialist presidential nomination, also dismissed the proposal as “a very bad idea”.

Green party leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit, who has not always seen eye-to-eye with Joly, gave her his unqualified backing.

And Francois Hollande, another Socialist contender for the presidential nomination, while he did not agree with Joly’s position, criticised the tone of the prime minister’s attack.

“It’s Francois Fillon who lacks culture…,” he said.

Leading Socialist deputy Pierre Moscovici pressed the attack, calling on Fillon to apologise for his remarks.

Joly, who as a magistrate once led a probe into one of France’s biggest corruption scandals, hit back at the criticism late Friday.

“I’ve lived in France for 50 years and so I’m French,” said the 67-year-old politician.

At her age, that probably meant she had lived longer in France than Fillon, she quipped.

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Bastille Day: What will France’s July 14th ‘fête nationale’ look like this year?

While things are getting back to normal in France, many summer festivals and celebrations have been cancelled due to ongoing coronavirus crisis. So what will the traditional Bastille Day celebration look like this year?

Bastille Day: What will France’s July 14th 'fête nationale' look like this year?
The traditional Bastille day fireworks over the Eiffel Tower. Photo: AFP

France’s fête nationale on July 14th will be bit different this year as traditional parades and celebrations including the highly popular bals de pompiers, where French firefighters host parties in their station houses, have been called off.

But this doesn’t mean it will be all gloom, as some celebrations will be maintained – albeit with some new health measures.

Paris Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower

The famous Bastille Day fireworks at the Eiffel Tower will be held as usual, but without the regular crowds watching the show from below.

The Prefect of Paris has banned any gatherings starting from 11am on on the Champs-de-Mars stretch of grass below the Tower.

Access around the metro stations Trocadéro and on the Pont d’Iéna will also be restricted starting from 4pm to restrain gatherings around the iconic monument.

The fireworks show is scheduled for 11pm. on July 14th will be visible on TV, but you can also enjoy the show from the Montparnasse Tower, who is selling tickets online to see the fireworks from its panoramic rooftop.  

You can also see the show from cruise boats, such as UNIK which organizes a special menu for July 14th.

Champs de Mars symphony concert

The usual symphony concert hosted by Radio France on the lawn of Champs de Mars will be maintained, but with a virtual audience only.

The live show will air at 9.15pm on the radio France Inter and on France 2 TV.

Paris' traditional airshow

This year the July 14th military parade down the Champs-Elysées will be replaced by a tribute to the medical workers on Place de la Concorde.

The French president's office announced that rather than the traditional march of soldiers and display of military hardware down the Champs-Elysées, this year will see a much smaller ceremony at the Place de la Concorde, where the parade normally ends.

The planned ceremony will be “reduced to 2,000 participants and about 2,500 guests”, in compliance with the rules of social distancing, the Elysée said.

However Bastille Day’s traditional airshow has been confirmed

For a great view of the show, you can head to the rooftop of the Grande Arche of La Défense, the business district in the west of Paris, to see fighter jets and other fighter planes flying over the building before heading to the Champs-Elysées. Doors open at 9am, but you can reserve tickets here.

What about other cities in France?

Many mayors don’t want to risk gatherings of more than 5,000 people, which are banned at least until the end of August.

Some cities will mark the celebration in alternative ways, like in Pau, southwest France, where the town hall will releas lantern lights into the sky.

The best is to check the website of your local City Hall to get the exact details on the celebrations in your area.

In Bordeaux the usual firework display over the Garonne river has been cancelled due to the ban on gatherings over 5,000 people and the authorities not wanting to take any risks.

A military parade will take place “behind closed doors” at Bordeaux's Hotel de Ville.

Macron to speak to the nation

Just in case you were interested in hearing what President Emmanuel Macron had to say, he will address the nation at 1pm on July 14th.