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No easy Bastille Day for President Nicolas Sarkozy

July 14, 2009 - FRANCE

As every year, Paris and all France celebrate the country's commitment to Liberté Egalité Fraternité. French jets sweep over Paris, and the country's president reviews a military parade down the Champs Elysees. President Nicolas Sarkozy can't count on a stellar Bastille Day in 2009. Strikes could spoil the party, which follows the first anniversary of his struggling Union for the Mediterranean. The founding of the union was celebrated at the 2008 Bastille Day parade.

As every year, Paris and all France will celebrate the country's commitment to Liberté Egalité Fraternité. French jets sweep over Paris, and the president reviews a military parade down the Champs Elysees. President Nicolas Sarkozy can't count on a stellar Bastille Day in 2009. Strikes could spoil the party. And it follows the first anniversary of his struggling Union for the Mediterranean, the founding of which was celebrated at the 2008 Bastille Day parade. Sarkozy has invited Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to be chief guest at the celebrations. ; France's historical penchant for insurgency in response to adversity has made a comeback with the global economic crisis, affecting rail and plane travel, schools, hospitals and postal delivery. A strike in late January put between 1 million and 2.5 million people into French streets. With no sign of the economic crisis abating, the labor unrest and protests can only get worse as the year progresses. Sarkozy invited all the countries around the Mediterranean rim, including Libya, Syria and Israel, to a special summit in Paris on 13 Jul 2008, and Israeli and Arab troops were expected to take part in the 'Euro-Mediterranean Bastille Day'; military parade with European troops the next day. But on Middle East peace, there were gestures and words at the summit, but no concessions from members. There was no agreement on financing, or even on where the club should be based. The next blow to Sarkozy's project was Israel's invasion of Gaza in early 2009. Israel launched attacks on Gaza on 27 Dec 2008 to halt Hamas rocket attacks, and followed it with a ground invasion of tanks and troops on 3 Jan 2009. Of 1,434 Palestinians killed between 27 Dec and 18 Jan, when the Israelis withdraw from Gaza, 960 were civilians, including 121 women and 288 children, according to a United Nations special rapporteur, Richard Falk. The Arab countries refused to sit down with Israel following the invasion. Bastille Day celebrates the start of the 1789 French Revolution, and 14 Jul 2009 is the 320th anniversary of the day. Apr/09

Super Sarkozy falls to earth (Economist 16 Jan 2009)

France's Club Med plan partly frozen (EurActiv 20 Apr 2009)

Israeli ground forces cross borders into Gaza (Guardian 3 Jan 2009)

Date written/update: 2009-07-14