France nods to Ukraine in Bastille Day military parade

The war in Ukraine made its mark on Paris's traditional Bastille Day military parade on Thursday as France honoured its eastern European NATO allies.

French elite acrobatic flying team
French elite acrobatic flying team "Patrouille de France" (PAF) release smoke in the colours of the French flag as they perform a fly-over during the Bastille Day military parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14th. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

French troops deployed close to Ukraine since the Russian assault in February have a special place at the event, which was attended by President Emmanuel Macron, his government and foreign leaders.

“The parade is marked by, and takes account of, the strategic context,” an official in Macron’s office said.

“The idea is to highlight the strategic solidarity with our allies.”

READ ALSO: Bastille day – what’s happening on July 14th in France this year?

Almost five months after Russia invaded Ukraine, the parade on the Champs-Elysees opened with the presentation of the national flags of nine allied guest countries, most of them neighbours of Ukraine or Russia: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria.

Troops representing France’s contingent on NATO’s eastern flank were next. Paris expedited the deployment of 500 troops to Romania days after the Russian attack on Ukraine, and has signalled its readiness to boost numbers if needed.

France also participates in ground and air operations in Estonia, and has sent Rafale fighter jets to bolster Poland’s air defences.

French military near the Arc de Triomphe ahead of the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2022.

French military near the Arc de Triomphe ahead of the Bastille Day parade on the Champs-Elysees avenue in Paris on July 14, 2022. Photo: Ludovic MARIN / AFP

Macron’s increased military commitment to eastern Europe is happening at the same time as a France reduces troops in Africa’s Sahel region. Paris will keep no more than 2,300 troops there by the end of the summer, down from more than 5,000 a year ago.

Match means to threats

In the light of the Ukraine conflict and inflationary pressures, Macron has announced an increased defence budget for the coming years “to match the means to the threats”.

On Wednesday, Macron asked the defence ministry to come up with a revision of the next procurement plan running to 2030.

“At a time when conflicts are intensifying, we must raise our targets,” he said at a defence ministry event.

“Our operational target for 2030 must be revised to improve our capacity to meet the challenge of any return of a high-intensity conflict,” he said.

The ongoing war in Ukraine has revealed gaps in the military capabilities of France which, like several other western countries, has been sending aid and hardware to Ukraine which, however, says it needs far more.

The current shift to artillery warfare in Ukraine especially has highlighted France’s lacking capacity to produce large amounts of ammunition

The July 14th parade marks the anniversary of the 1789 assault by rebels on the Bastille, then a prison, an event that is credited with kicking off the French Revolution.

It is an annual opportunity to showcase France’s latest military hardware, in a spectacular setting attended by many thousands of spectators lining the Champs-Elysees, and viewed by millions more on TV.

On Thursday, 6,300 people are scheduled to take part in the parade, 5,000 of whom will be on foot.

The show will also involve 64 planes, 25 helicopters, 200 horses and 181 motorised vehicles.

The air force demonstration, the parade’s culminating point, will include aircraft from European allies and the Patrouille de France fighter jet
squadron – already seen flying over the Cannes Film Festival this year for the world premiere of “Top Gun: Maverick” starring Tom Cruise – which will draw the French flag’s blue-white-red colours in the sky.

The Reaper drone, used in the Sahel in the hunt for jihadists, will make its first Bastille Day appearance.

Like in countless other cities across France, there will be gigantic fireworks after nightfall, although some, like Nimes in southwestern France, have cancelled the event because of a high fire risk brought on by a massive heatwave.

By Daphne BENOIT and Jurgen HECKER

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New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

A new accessibility scheme recently announced by the French government gives grants for home improvements such as installing a stair lift or widening a doorframe to allow wheelchair access - here is how you could benefit.

New French State aid to help older people make home improvements

According to a recent survey in France, the vast majority of retired people expressed a desire to stay in their homes long-term, rather than entering a care facility.

While there are several schemes by the French government to provide assistance for renovating homes in order to make them more accessible for elderly people, the newly announced “MaPrimeAdapt” seeks to streamline the process.

When was it announced?

MaPrimeAdapt was part of President Emmanuel Macron’s re-election campaign, with plans for it first announced by the president last November.

Most recently, the government aid was earmarked to receive funding in the upcoming 2023 budget, which also hopes to increase the number of nursing home employees, as well as boost public funding for care centres.

The budget is set to allocate €35 million to the National Housing Agency (ANAH) in 2023. In response, the ministry of housing said to Capital France that one of their top priorities is “a single aid for the adaptation of housing to ageing” that would replace several existing government subsidies.

What is the goal of Ma Prime Adapt?

Similar to Ma Prime Renov, this programme hopes to provide additional funding for home refurbishment.

But while Ma Prime Renov focuses on environmentally friendly home adaptations, Ma Prime Adapt aims to make it simpler for older people or those with disabilities to refurbish their homes in order to maintain their autonomy and avoid falls.  

The French government also aims to reduce the number of fatal or disabling falls of people aged 65 by at least 20 percent by 2024, and by 2032, the goal is for at least 680,000 homes to be adapted, particularly those of low-income older people.

Who can benefit?

According to reporting by Le Monde, this aid is not solely reserved for people who already have decreased mobility. 

Instead, it is intended for older people generally. When applying, the applicant must be able to demonstrate that they are an independent retiree and need (this could be based on income, age, health, etc) to adapt their housing in order to make it more accessible.

The amount of assistance offered will be means-tested based on financial status.

What types of work would qualify?

Some examples of work that might qualify for assistance might be:

  • adapting the bathroom (for example, adding grab bars or enlarging the door)
  • replacing the bathtub with a shower
  • installing a bathtub with a door
  • installing a stair lift
  • adding access ramps to the home

The benefit is not limited to those options – any project that aims to increase home accessibility for a senior could qualify, as long as it is not simply aesthetic-focused.

Can it be combined with Ma Prime Renov?

They have different criteria, but Ma Prime Renov and Ma Prime Adapt can be combined in order to provide maximum support to elderly people wishing to adapt and stay in their homes.

How can I apply?

In order to apply, you will be required to meet the conditions stated above, in addition to being able to demonstrate that the housing in question is at least 15 years old and that the amount of work being done would cost at least €1,500.

Keep in mind that the renovation will need to be carried out by a recognised building company or contractor – specifically one with the label “RGE.”

You will be able  toapply for the Ma Prime Adapt aid via France’s National Housing Agency (ANAH). A dedicated website will be created to facilitate the process, with a launch date TBC. 

On the site, you will submit an application form that includes the estimates of the work planned. According to Le Monde, €5,600 will be the maximum amount of aid to be offered, and the cost of work will be capped at €8,000. However, this information has not yet been published by the National Housing Agency. 

What have the other available schemes been?

Currently, retirees in France can apply for the “Habiter facile” scheme from the ANAH (Agence Nationale de l’Habitat), which also helps to finance work that promotes the ability of elderly people to remain in their homes.

“Bien vieillir chez soi” is a similar aid scheme which is offered by the CNAV (social security).

The elderly and disabled can also benefit from tax credits on accessibility or home adaptation work. 

These will likely be replaced by Ma Prime Adapt, which will combine all benefits into one package.