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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

France Throws All-Europe Bastille Bash

PARIS -- Troops from all 27 European Union nations marched behind French President Nicolas Sarkozy down the Champs-Elysees on Saturday, part of a revamped Bastille Day party celebrating the revolution that rid France of its monarchy.

Sarkozy, interested in a united European military, shook up traditions for his nation's biggest holiday, and invited EU contingents to join for the first time.

"It's a party. It's Europe's party," he said of this year's Bastille Day, his first as president. "It was a parade of armies but it is peace that we want to celebrate," he added, referring to this year's 50th anniversary of the Treaty of Rome, which laid the groundwork for the European Union.

Sarkozy, standing in the back of a military vehicle, led the procession, circling the Arc de Triomphe before continuing down Paris' most famous avenue escorted by mounted regiments of the Republic Guards.

He descended from the vehicle to talk with spectators -- an unplanned move that took guards by surprise.

A formation of jets flew past, leaving a trail of red-white-and-blue smoke.

Among those who joined Sarkozy to watch the parade were Jose Manuel Barroso, president of the European Commission; EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana; and Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates, whose country holds the rotating EU presidency.

On the eve of the Bastille celebrations, Sarkozy reiterated his push for a Europe-wide defense.

"The basis for a European defense exists. We must make it grow," he said in a speech to European defense ministers and French military officers. "I want Europe to be capable of ensuring its security autonomously."