A summit of the French-speaking world opened at the Parliament Palace in Bucharest on Thursday morning after days of preparations and side events that turned the Romanian capital upside down.

Romanian President Traian Basescu and PM Calin Popescu Tariceanu opened the two-day Sommet de la Francophonie, the first such event to be held in a Eastern European country, with speeches of welcome for dozens of heads of state and government.

Their speech was followed shortly by French President Jacques Chirac’s, who thanked Romanian authorities for hosting this summit. France and Romania were at loggerheads last year after President Basescu announced he favored a special partnership with Britain and the US and made several less diplomatic statements towards France and Germany, prompting snubs from Paris and Berlin.

In his opening address, Basescu said it was “an honour for Romania to be the first country in Europe, except France, to host the prestigious conference” of leaders from French-speaking countries from around the world.

And PM Tariceanu said Romania “wants to be a voice for the Francophones in the EU while also voicing Europe in the Francophone world”.

63 official delegations attend the summit, focused this year on the role of computers in education, and its side events that included talks at capital mayor- and Foreign minister-levels earlier this week.

The summit was somewhat perturbed by Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin’s refusal of an invitation to attend the summit and by Lebanon’s boycott of the event as its President was not invited to attend.

Top participants include French President Jacques Chirac, the President of the Swiss Confederation Moritz Leuenberger, Canadian PM Stephen Harper and Prince Albert de Monaco.