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Outrage after call to scrap ‘Bastille Day’ military parade

The vast majority of France’s politicians are not amused – former judge and Green presidential candidate Eva Joly (pictured) wants the annual military parade on July 14 to stop, and for “children and pensioners” to march instead.


A charismatic Green politician has done a rare thing and united the entire political spectrum against her – for daring to suggest the annual “Bastille Day” military parade should be scrapped.

Every year the French celebrate their national day - or “Fête Nationale” - on July 14 by watching soldiers, sailors and airmen trooping down the Champs Elysées in Paris.

A day after this year’s festivities, Eva Joly, a Green politician and contender in the 2012 presidential election, said she wanted the annual show of military strength scrapped in favour of a “citizen’s parade”.

Joly, a diminutive Norwegian-born anti-corruption campaigner and former investigating magistrate, told BFM TV: “This parade is something from the past. I want to see children, students and seniors parading together.”

But to make that statement in the week that six French soldiers were killed in Afghanistan – the single-biggest loss of life for the French army since 2008 –  was ill-timed and controversial. The condemnation was immediate.

On the extreme right, National Front (FN) leader Marine le Pen told RTL radio that Joly, who came to France in the 1960’s as an au pair and later obtained citizenship, “failed completely to understand the strong link that exists between the French people and their armed forces.”

Even politicians of less extreme political orientations made reference to the fact that she had not been born in France.

“It’s time for her to go back to Norway!”

Lionel Tardy, Haute-Savoie Member of Parliament for the ruling (centre-right) UMP party tweeted on Thursday night: “Eva Joly wants to scrap the July 14 parade – it’s time for her to go back to Norway!”

Henri Guiano, a top aide to President Nicolas Sarkozy, of remarked on Europe 1: “I find it pathetic... it is a deep insult to those who have died for our country over the centuries.”

On Friday Prime Minister Francois Fillon added to the chorus of disapproval by stating that she, “does not have a very long personal background of French culture.”

On the left, Socialist Party presidential hopeful Segolene Royal, herself the daughter of an army officer, said it was “a very bad idea to challenge our traditions”.

Former French Prime Minster Laurent Fabius also a Socialist, told Europe 1 the annual parade “is useful to show that we need a national defence force and that our military act for us.”

Eva Joly made a name for herself as an investigating judge and tireless anti-corruption campaigner in France.

She left the country in 2002 to work as an international envoy for Norway.

She came back to France in 2008, convinced that only by entering politics could she continue the fight against corruption.

“I was a magistrate for 20 years, a diplomat for Norway for seven more and I have learned a lot,” Joly told FRANCE 24 in February 2010 on the eve of local elections in France.

“I want to change power structures within society. I am desperate to see a more just and more united society.”


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