World leaders to arrive in Paris for Bastille Day celebrations

Emmanuel Macron at the 2018 Bastille Day parade

French President Emmanuel Macron will on Sunday seek to showcase Europe's defence capabilities by putting European military cooperation at the heart of a Bastille Day parade at a time of growing tensions with the US, news wires reported.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and British PMr Theresa May, are expected to join Macron to watch the annual parade down the Champs Elysees that marks the July 14, 1789 storming of the Bastille fortress in Paris in the French Revolution. Closer European defence cooperation has been one of Macron's key foreign policy aims. In a sign of the continued importance of NATO to Macron, its Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg will be attending.

At the 2017 parade, Macron's guest of honour was the freshly-inaugurated US President Donald Trump as the young French leader sought to take the initiative by forming a bond with his counterpart. Trump was so taken by the event that he ordered a similar military parade to take place in Washington for the July 4 celebrations. But since then ties between Trump and Macron have soured, with tensions over the US pullout from the Paris climate accord and Iran nuclear deal, as well as France's new law for a tax on digital giants.

Macron, who pushed the idea of the European Intervention Initiative (E2I) to undertake missions outside of existing structures like NATO, said that European defence cooperation was crucial. "Never, since the end of World War II, has Europe been so important," Macron said in a statement ahead of the Bastille Day parade. "The construction of a Europe of defence, in connection with the Atlantic alliance whose 70th anniversary we are celebrating, is a priority for France," he added.

Forces from all nine countries taking part alongside France in the E2I - including Britain and Germany - will be represented at the parade. A German A400M transport plane and a Spanish C130 will take part in fly-bys at the parade, as well as two British Chinook helicopters.Also present will be members of the 5,000-strong Franco-German Brigade (BFA), which was created in 1989 as a symbol of postwar unity between France and Germany, and celebrates its 30th anniversary this year.

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