Macron meeting Unesco officials over Notre Dame reconstruction

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Macron meeting Unesco officials over Notre Dame reconstruction

The French president’s push for a speedy rebuild suggests he wants the fire-ravaged Paris monument’s reconstruction to be part of his legacy.


Emmanuel Macron (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)
Emmanuel Macron (Philippe Wojazer/Pool via AP)

French President Emmanuel Macron is hosting officials from the United Nations cultural agency and is expected to set out ideas for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral.

He is meeting state delegates from Unesco, which oversees global heritage issues, at the Elysee Palace.

The meeting is taking place as architects and experts assess how to stabilise the World Heritage Site’s structure and protect it from the rain.

Charlotte Hubert, president of France’s group of architects specialising in historic monuments, told BFM news that experts are planning to install a wide tarpaulin on the roof.

The installation will form a “pointed roof” higher than Notre Dame’s original roof, to allow renovation workers to rebuild the frame under its protection, she said.

Mr Macron has not indicated his view on how the roof should be rebuilt and whether the frame should be in wood, metal or concrete, his cultural heritage envoy Stephane Bern said this week.

He has named a general, Jean-Louis Georgelin, former chief of staff of the armed forces, to lead the reconstruction project.

More than £850 million has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore Notre Dame.

Mr Macron’s push for a speedy rebuild indicates he wants the fire-ravaged Paris monument’s reconstruction to be part of his legacy, and is seizing the moment to try to move on from the divisive yellow vest protests.

His initial wish for it to be rebuilt in just five years was met with incredulity.

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(PA Graphics)

The rector of Notre Dame said on Friday that a “computer glitch” might have caused the fire.

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Patrick Chauvet did not elaborate, adding only that “we maybe find out what happened in two or three months”.

Le Parisien newspaper has reported that investigators are looking at whether the fire could have been linked to a computer glitch, or temporary elevators used in the renovation work, among other things.

Mr Macron had been due to deliver an uneasy speech on Monday setting out long-awaited plans to quell anti-government protests that have marred his presidency, but it was postponed after the fire broke out.

Instead, the French leader immediately went to the scene of the fire and announced: “We will rebuild Notre Dame.”

According to an opinion poll by BVA institute – the first one since the fire — Mr Macron has gained three points in popularity since last month, from 29% to 32%. It places him at a level equivalent to last September, before the yellow vest crisis, BVA said.

All French polls show his popularity has hovered at low levels for more than a year, since he applied a tax rise on retirees.

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Yellow vests demonstrations in Paris (Christophe Ena/AP)

But the same pollsters predict that Mr Macron’s party may be ahead in May 26 European Parliament elections, in close competition with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen.

The French leader is expected to detail his measures to respond to the yellow vest protests next week.

According to the text of his pre-recorded speech, Mr Macron was planning to respond to demonstrators’ concerns over their loss of purchasing power with tax cuts for lower-income households and measures to boost pensions and help single parents.

A new round of yellow vest protests is planned across the country, including in Paris.

Even the reconstruction of the cathedral will not provide the French leader with a topic for consensus, as experts and politicians debate whether to build it exactly as it was, or whether to introduce new technologies and designs.

Press Association

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