Hollande fetes France's first national holiday as president
François Hollande celebrated France’s national holiday on Saturday – his first since becoming President. Hollande is expected to discuss the eurozone debt crisis and changes to France's political system in an afternoon interview, before the traditional fireworks display kicks off on the lawns surrounding Paris's Eiffel Tower.
Sitting atop a military vehicle, Hollande rode past troops gathered at Paris’s Place de l’Etoile in the morning, before arriving at the famed Champs Elysée street.
As Hollande stepped out at Place de la Concorde, France’s national anthem Le Marseillaise played, before an air show comprising of 66 planes and 32 helicopters took to the skies.
The military parade followed, as French troops just back from Afghanistan and UN troops home from Lebanon joined the some 5,000 soliders present.
Some ten tricolored parachutists then jumped from helicopters, circling around the Eiffel Tower before landing at the Place de la Concorde. One, injuring himself slightly on the descent, got a personal visit from the president.
Hollande will give the traditional presidential interview with the press in the afternoon, which his predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy chose not to engage in. Hollande is expected to discuss his plans to create a commission that will work to improve the standards of French politics.
The commission would focus primarily on reducing conflicts of interest, such as accumulating several political positions at once, campaign financing and a re-jigging of the current voting system.
He will also address the eurozone debt crisis and France’s own unemployment woes, with many hoping he will discuss the recent announcement of some 8,000 layoffs at French car company PSA Peugeot Citroen.
Hollande’s partner, Valérie Trierweiler, was present for the festivities, and may be the subject of discussion during Hollande’s interview. He is expected to address Trierweiler’s controversial tweet supporting Ségolène Royal’s opponent, Olivier Falorni, during the parliamentary elections.
As night falls, much of Paris will head towards the Eiffel Tower lawn for the traditional fireworks display. A disco ball weighing 4.5 tonnes will be placed at the centre of the iconic tower, as music from the 1970s and 80s blares out onto the lawn.
As the fireworks die down, the lawn will transform into a giant dance floor for festivities into the night.
France’s national holiday, known as “Bastille Day” in English, commemorates the storming of the Bastille in 1789, which marked the beginning of the French Revolution.