Australian singer Tina Arena is to be awarded one of France's highest civil decorations, the Ordre national du Mérite (French Order of Merit), during a ceremony in Paris this coming February.

France's President Sarkosy will present Arena with the honor, in recognition of her artistic contributions to the country. Arena, who splits her time between France, England and Australia, has something achieved a rare feat; the award is typically presented only to French nationals.

"It is particularly gratifying to be recognized in this way," Arena says in a statement. "I have always felt attached to France; it has a rich culture and strong artistic community which I appreciate and am so glad to be a part of. Also, for my family [partner Vincent and son Gabriel, who are both French] I feel that I have achieved something for them as well."

The 41-year-old Arena, who was a child star on Australian TV in the 1970s developed her adult pop career in the late 1980s on the Columbia label. She became a bona-fide star in France with her first French language single "Aller Plus Haut" (1998), which sold in excess of 1 million copies in France, Belgium and Switzerland, according to EMI. A string of well-received French language albums followed.

Arena has also been a regular in Mmusicals, notably in a U.K. production of the French work "Notre Dame de Paris" in 2000.

Back home, Arena will support her latest, gold-certified (35,000 units shipped) set, the "Songs Of Love & Loss 2" compilation on EMI, with a string of dates in March 2009.

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