France to replace traditional Bastille Day parade with tribute to health workers

France has announced that its traditional July 14th military parade in Paris will be cancelled - and replaced with a tribute to the medical workers at the forefront of the battle with coronavirus.

France to replace traditional Bastille Day parade with tribute to health workers
There will be no military parade this year. Pictured: soldiers on parade in 2019 by AFP

The French president's office announced on Thursday 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 added.

July 14th, known as the fête nationale, is a public holiday in France and is usually a day of parades, celebrations and parties including the highly popular bals de pompiers, where French firefighters host parties in their station houses.

The French Foreign Legion's distinctive pioneer corps are usually a popular sight in the parade. Photo: AFP

The Paris military parade is the biggest but many other towns and cities have their own parades, followed by parties and lavish firework displays.

This year looks likely to be a little more subdued, however.

Although many lockdown restrictions have been lifted the ban on mass gatherings has not, and political leaders say gatherings of more than 5,000 people are unlikely to be allowed before September.

The president often hosts foreign leaders at the July 14th parade, which also looks unlikely this year, although it seems likely that travel within Europe will be possible again by July.

READ ALSO When will I be able to travel to France again

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Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed

Striking airport workers have blocked part Paris’s Charles de Gaulle airport, with some flights already delayed by at least one hour.

Striking workers block Paris airport terminal, flights delayed
Striking airport workers outside Charles-de-Gaulle airport in Paris. Photo: Geoffroy van der Hasselt | AFP

Last month, trade unions representing workers at the Aéroports de Paris (ADP) – the city’s Charles-de-Gaulle-Roissy and Orly airports – called for a strike between July 1st and July 5th in an ongoing dispute between French airport workers and bosses over contract renegotiations.

A second wave of protests are expected next week, after a strike notice was filed for July 9th.

Tensions mounted on Friday morning as some 400 protesters staged a raucous demonstration at CDG’s terminal 2E, which mostly deals with flights outside the Schengen zone, as police officers looked on.

At Orly airport, meanwhile, some 250 people demonstrated “outside”, while a small group was inside.

The dispute is over a long-term plan by ADP to bring in new work contracts for employees at the airports, which unions say will lower pay, job losses and a reduction in rights and bonuses for employees.

The strike is being jointly called by the CGT, CFE-CGE, Unsa, CFDT and FO unions, who said in a joint press release that the proposals will “definitively remove more than a month’s salary from all employees and force them to accept geographical mobility that will generate additional commuting time”.

Unions say that staff face dismissal if they do not sign the new contracts.

ADP said on Wednesday that it expected ‘slight delays for some flights but no cancellations’ to services – but it urged travellers to follow its social media operations for real-time updates.

On Thursday, the first day of action, 30 percent of flights were delayed between 15 minutes and half-an-hour.

ADP’s CEO Augustin de Romanet had said on Tuesday that ‘everything would be done to ensure no flight is cancelled’. 

ADP reported a loss of €1.17 billion in 2020. 

Stressing that discussions are continuing over the proposed new contracts, the CEO called for “an effort of solidarity, with a red line: no forced layoffs.”