President Niinistö at the French National Day celebration – European security was discussed in Paris

President of the Republic of Finland participates in the celebration of the French National Day or Bastille Day in Paris on 14 July 2019. His visit is hosted by President of France Emmanuel Macron. Photo: Riikka Hietajärvi/Office of the President of the Republic of Finland

President of the Republic of Finland participated in the celebration of the French National Day or Bastille Day in Paris on 14 July 2019.

This year the parade celebrated European defence cooperation with participants from all the countries, including Finland, that have joined the European Intervention Initiative (EI2) set out by France. After the parade, there was a bilateral meeting between President Niinistö and President Macron.

The heads of states or governments of the EI2 countries were invited by President Macron to follow the impressive parade at Avenue des Champs-Élysées in the morning. Besides President Niinistö, the guests included German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel, President of Estonia Kersti Kaljulaid, Prime Minister of the Netherlands Mark Rutte, President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker and Secretary-General of Nato Jens Stoltenberg.

There were nearly 4,300 people, 200 vehicles and over 100 airplanes and helicopters participating in the two-hour parade. The EI2 countries had the honour of marching first. The Finnish Defence Forces sent three guards of honour with a swallowtail state flag to the parade.

Discussion about European security and defence co-operation

In the afternoon, President Macron hosted a luncheon for the heads of states and governments participating in the parade. President Niinistö told Finnish media later that the theme of the parade continued at the luncheon where security issues were discussed thoroughly along with those security projects that are under way in the European Union or set out by France: “The spirit of the discussions was very clear and positive, as European security issues have been a matter of much interest in Finland for quite a while, and for me for over a decade now. Security clearly is a key issue today.”

President Niinistö said that the EI2 had been discussed at length, as well as the potential increase in its membership.

“There will be new applicants for the EI2. This matter will soon be decided,” Niinistö said. In addition to France and Finland, the other eight members are Belgium, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the United Kingdom.

The aim of the EI2 is to strengthen the defence cooperation network of European countries and enhance Europe’s ability to act by developing the strategic culture of the participating states and improving their ability to foresee potential crises and prepare for them.

After the luncheon, President Niinistö and President Macron had a brief bilateral discussion where the topic of Russia was also touched. President Niinistö said that President Macron has interesting thoughts on the topic. “He has proposed European security architecture, one of the aims of which would be to clarify our relationship with Russia. But this would not mean any kind of recall or relief in the basic setting that still exists because of Ukraine and other situations.”

During the visit, President Macron hosted a luncheon for the heads of states and governments, after which Presidents Niinistö and Macron had a bilateral discussion. Photo: Riikka Hietajärvi / Office of the President of the Republic