Macron meets officials, eyes Notre Dame for legacy-building

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

BySylvie Corbet Associated Press
April 19, 2019, 6:47 AM

PARIS -- French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to set out ideas for the reconstruction of Notre Dame Cathedral during meetings Friday with officials from the United Nations cultural agency.

He will meet with state delegates from UNESCO, which oversees global heritage issues, in the Elysee Palace Friday.

The meeting is taking place while architects and experts are assessing how to stabilize the World Heritage Sites structure and protect it from the rain.

Charlotte Hubert, president of Frances group of architects specialized in historic monuments, told BFM news broadcaster that experts are planning to install a wide tarpaulin on the roof of the cathedral.

The provisory installation will have the form of a pointed roof higher than Notre Dames original roof, to allow renovation workers to rebuild the frame under its protection, she explained.

Macrons push for a speedy rebuild indicates he wants the fire-ravaged monuments 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 by some.

The reconstruction is prompting widespread debate across France with differing views over whether it should involve new technologies and designs. Macrons office, has for example, said that the president wants a contemporary architectural gesture to be considered for the collapsed spire, which wasnt part of the original cathedral.

Macron hasnt 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 reported following a meeting at the Elysee palace this week.

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

Over 1 billion, has already poured in from ordinary worshippers and high-powered magnates around the world to restore Notre Dame.

Mondays fire at the Notre Dame delayed Macrons long-awaited plans to quell anti-government protests that have marred his presidency. The French leader immediately went on the scene of the fire and announced: We will rebuild Notre Dame.

According to an opinion poll by BVA institute published Friday — the first one carried out since the fire — Macron has gained three points in popularity in the past month with an approval rating of 32. That advance puts him back at the sort of support he was garnering last September, before the yellow vest crisis, BVA said.

Though all French polls show that Macrons popularity has remain depressed since a tax rise on retirees last year, they suggest his party may be ahead in May 26 European Parliament elections, with the far-right party of Marine Le Pen, the National Rally, not far behind.

Macron hasnt forgotten about the yellow vest movement and he is now expected to detail his new measures next week.

According to the text of his pre-recorded speech, 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 on Saturday across the country, including in Paris. Some figures of the movement have said Macrons planned measures are not sufficient and are backing further protests.

Thomas Adamson contributed to the story

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