Swiss minister attends France’s Bastille Day ceremony

Swiss troops at France's Bastille Day military ceremony on the Place de la Concorde in Paris on July 14, 2020 AP

Swiss Health Minister Alain Berset is among several European dignitaries invited to France’s July 14 celebrations in Paris. This year’s commemoration honours those who participated in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

This content was published on July 14, 2020 - 10:58
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Berset was invited to the national day ceremony by French President Emmanuel Macron alongside dignitaries from Germany, Austria and Luxembourg as a sign of France’s recognition of their cooperation during the health crisis.

The invitation follows Switzerland’s decision to welcome 52 French patients suffering from Covid-19 to Swiss hospitals from the end of March to the beginning of April, as many French facilities were deluged with patients.

For Frédéric Journès, France’s ambassador to Switzerland, this offer of collaboration during the pandemic will have an impact on future relations between the two neighbours.

“We are completely interdependent; we need each other. We’d come to take that for granted. During this crisis, we’ve been forced to talk to each other all the time. Alain Berset and [French Health Minister] Olivier Véran spoke to each other regularly and sent each other text messages. [Swiss Interior Minister] Karin Keller-Sutter also spoke with our interior minister on a much more regular basis than usual. We had a lot of exchanges and we got to know each other better than usual,” he explained.

Focus on Covid

The fight against the new coronavirus, which has claimed more than 30,000 lives in France, is the main focus of the official event in central Paris. Instead of the traditional grandiose military parade, this year’s Bastille Day ceremony – France’s biggest national holiday – is celebrating heroes of the coronavirus pandemic instead.

Guests include nurses, doctors, supermarket and nursing home workers, mask makers, lab technicians and others who kept France going during its nationwide lockdown. Families of medical workers who died with the virus also have a place in the stands.

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“This ceremony will be the symbol of the commitment of an entire nation,” Macron said in a speech to military officials on Monday. “It will also be the symbol of our resilience.”

Meanwhile, at the Place de la Concorde in central Paris, protesters plan to highlight France’s failures during the pandemic. Medical workers and others who complained of mask shortages and cost cuts are expected to demonstrate. The protesters are due to head the Place de la Bastille, the former home of a royal prison that rebels stormed on July 14, 1789, symbolically marking the beginning of the French Revolution.

At Tuesday’s main ceremony, fighter jets are set to paint the sky with blue, white and red smoke and will be joined by helicopters that transported Covid-19 patients in distress. A military band will sing the Marseillaise national anthem to 2,000 special guests.

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