By Peter Maushagen and Foo Yun Chee
The devastation of Paris’s Notre Dame cathedral is blow to all Europe and all Europe will contribute to its rebuilding, leaders of the European Union declared on Tuesday at the European Parliament in Strasbourg.
“Europe has been wounded. France has been wounded. Paris has been wounded,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told MEPs, promising EU “solidarity”.
Several speakers in a debate on last week’s Brexit summit used the fire at the mediaeval landmark to underscore arguments that the Union represents a deep-rooted common European society.
“We are all a little bereaved,” said Mr Juncker. “Yesterday was a terrible day for all those who love France and who love Paris.”
“In all of our lives, Paris is not a neutral place. It is a place that we love falling in love with again. Seeing this city in the grip of a tragedy, which is not only architectural but touches the life of the French people, being destroyed by flames is heartbreaking.”
Donald Tusk, the former Polish premier who chairs summits of EU national leaders, noted that his Baltic home city of Gdansk, was razed to the ground in World War Two but had been rebuilt.
“I would like to say words of comfort and solidarity with the whole French nation in the face of the Paris tragedy,” Mr Tusk said.
‘YOU WILL REBUILD’
“You will also rebuild your cathedral. From Strasbourg, the French capital of the European Union, I call on all the 28 member states to take part in this task.”
“I know that France could do it alone, but at stake here is something more than just material help. The burning of the Notre Dame cathedral has again made us aware that we are bound by something more important and more profound than treaties.”
The Brexit-supporting British Conservative leader in the parliament, Syed Kamall, said it was time to put aside politics: “I hope we can all come together, whether British, European or outside the Europe, come together and do our bit in that rebuilding.”
Parliament President Antonio Tajani called on the 751 members to donate their day’s salary. Speaking in French, he said: “As a former resident of Paris, as an Italian, as a European, my heart is wounded, as are all of our hearts, by what happened yesterday in Paris.” (Reuters)
Save the world like Notre-Dame, says Swedish activist Thunberg
Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, who has inspired a movement of children against global warming, urged leaders yesterday to act to save the planet in the same way they are pledging to rebuild Notre-Dame after a fire gutted the cathedral.
“Yesterday, the whole world witnessed with sadness and despair the fire at Notre-Dame de Paris, but Notre-Dame will be rebuilt,” she said in a speech to the European Parliament in Strasbourg. “I hope it has strong foundations and I hope we have strong foundations, but I’m not so sure.”
The 16-year-old shot to prominence after riding her bicycle to parliament last August, taking up a place on the cobblestones in front of Stockholm’s Parliament House with her “school strike for climate” hand-painted sign.
Thousands of students around the world, including in Gibraltar, have since copied her and youth organisations have launched strikes involving students in more than 40 countries.
“I want to make you panic, I want you to act as if your house was on fire,” she said.
“A lot of politicians have told me that panicking does not do any good. I agree, but when your house is on fire and you want to prevent it from collapsing, it is better to panic a little.”
More than 400 firemen were needed to tame the inferno that consumed the roof and collapsed the spire of the eight-centuries-old cathedral. Donors have since pledged more than 700 million euros for restoration.
“If your house were falling apart, you would no longer fly around the world in business class,” said the high school student, who came to Strasbourg by train from Stockholm. “You would not organise three emergency summits on Brexit and none on climate change.”
“Well, our house is falling apart and yet nothing is happening. We’ll have to switch to cathedral mode. I ask you to wake up and do what is necessary,” she said. (Reuters)
Pic by Victoria Jones/PA Wire