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France

Macron scales Notre-Dame's rooftop two years after cathedral fire

Reuters

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French President Emmanuel Macron (pictured) on Thursday (15 April) observed the work to salvage and restore Notre-Dame de Paris, two years to the day after flames ripped through the cathedral’s centuries-old attic and sent its spire crashing through the vaults below, writes Richard Lough.

In the hours after the blaze, Macron promised a distraught French nation that the cathedral, which dates back to the 12th century, would be rebuilt and later said it would be reopened in some form to worshippers by 2024.

More than 700 days after workers scrambled to shore-up Notre-Dame’s flying buttresses, stabilise the bell towers and install hundreds of movement sensors, the effort to make the site secure ahead of restoration is almost complete.

From the rooftop, now largely covered by a complex scaffolding structure, work platforms and in places a tarpaulin “umbrella”, Macron peered down into the cathedral’s damaged transept and thanked workers on the site.

“We’re all impressed with what we see, with the work that has been achieved in two years,” Macron told a group of workers with the Paris skyline behind him. “Bravo and thank you.”

“We’re arriving at a critical juncture,” General Jean-Louis Georgelin, the former army chief of staff named by Macron to head the renovation, told France Inter radio. Restoration work would begin before the end of 2021, he said.

The first phase of the project was complicated by the need to remove 200 tonnes of twisted metal after the fire consumed 40,000 pieces of scaffolding that had been erected around the spire at the time of the blaze.

Work was also halted during the first summer after the fire because of worries over lead contamination and has since at times been slowed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Financing for the restoration was not a concern yet, Georgelin said. Some 834 million euros in donations flooded in from billionaire tycoons and catholic households in the aftermath of the fire.

“As things stand, we will need all these donations to complete the necessary work. We need people to keep giving money because it is a work without end,” Georgelin said.

The cathedral, which featured in Victor Hugo’s classic novel The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, is a UNESCO World Heritage site into which 13 million visitors used to pour every year.

France

COMETE Network acquires capacity to detect B1.617 “Indian variant” of Covid-19 in wastewater

Colin Stevens

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As part of the management of the current public health crisis, France’s COMETE Network, co-founded by the Bataillon de Marins Pompiers de Marseille (BMPM), commanded by Counter Admiral Patrick Augier, and the OpenHealth Company, chaired by Dr. Patrick Guerin, has announced that it is able – thanks to its scientific and industrial partnership with biotechnology laboratory Biosellal - to detect the new E484Q (then L452R) mutations, markers of the "Indian variant", as part of its environmental monitoring system currently being deployed on French territory.

The COMETE Network aims to support municipalities, departments, and regions in their monitoring of the COVID-19 pandemic and to share the operational and scientific techniques developed by the Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear and Explosives unit (CBRNE unit) and partner laboratories, in order to remain one step ahead in the battle against the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The scientific partnerships initiated several months ago within the COMETE Network make it possible to respond promptly to the virus’s evolution.

According to Dr. Patrick Guerin: "It is by organising the deployment of our operational, technological and industrial know-how that we will reinforce our crisis management capacities. The teams from Biosellal and the CBRN unit of the BMPM have been working for many weeks to adapt the variant screening methods already in use. The COMETE Network is now supported by partners with unique and efficient R&D capacities adapted to the monitoring of SARS-CoV-2 mutations”.

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EU

Le Pen 'is a disturbance to public order' - Goldschmidt

EU Reporter Correspondent

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Commenting on the interview with the party leader of the French right-wing populist Rassemblement National (RN) Marine Le Pen (pictured) published in the German weekly newspaper Die Zeit, Chief Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, president of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), has issued the following statement: “It is not the headscarf that is a disturbance to public order, but Ms Le Pen. This is clearly the wrong signal to the Jews, Muslims and other religious minorities living in France. It expresses Ms Le Pen’s fear of foreigners. She is dividing society instead of uniting it, and in doing so, she is deliberately using the Jewish community, which according to her should refrain from wearing the kippah, as collateral damage in her fight against cultures.

“The supporters of the ban are convinced that they are fighting radical Islam. But how do they define radical Islam? I define radical Islam as Islamism that does not tolerate secular Muslims, Christians and Jews and the European society as a whole. This radical Islam can also walk around in jeans and with uncovered hair. It is this that is the real danger, as France has often so bitterly experienced. Instead of attacking political Islam and its supporters, a religious symbol is being attacked.

“Le Pen’s demand is nothing other than an attack on the fundamental and human right of religious freedom, which people in many places in Europe are now repeatedly trying to restrict. This is an alarming trend for all religious minorities.”

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Brexit

UK sends two navy boats to Jersey after France threatens blockade

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The Mont Orgueil Castle is seen behind an island flag at Gorey Harbour in Jersey, in this February 26, 2008 file photo.  REUTERS/Toby Melville

Britain is sending two navy patrol boats to the British Channel Island of Jersey after France suggested it could cut power supplies to the island if its fishermen are not granted full access to UK fishing waters under post-Brexit trading terms, write Richard Lough and Andrew Macaskill.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledged his "unwavering support" for the island after he spoke with Jersey officials about the prospect of the French blockade.

Johnson "stressed the urgent need for a de-escalation in tensions," a spokesperson for Johnson said. "As a precautionary measure the UK will be sending two Offshore Patrol Vessels to monitor the situation."

Earlier, France's Seas Minister Annick Girardin said she was "disgusted" to learn that Jersey had issued 41 licences with unilaterally imposed conditions, including the time French fishing vessels could spend in its waters.

"In the (Brexit) deal there are retaliatory measures. Well, we're ready to use them," Girardin told France's National Assembly on Tuesday (4 May).

"Regarding Jersey, I remind you of the delivery of electricity along underwater cables ... Even if it would be regrettable if we had to do it, we'll do it if we have to."

With a population of 108,000, Jersey imports 95% of its electricity from France, with diesel generators and gas turbines providing backup, according to energy news agency S&P Global Platts.

Jersey's government said France and the European Union had expressed their unhappiness with the conditions placed on the issuance of fishing licences.

Jersey’s external relations minister, Ian Gorst, said the island had issued permits in accordance with the post-Brexit trade terms, and that they stipulated any new licence must reflect how much time a vessel had spent in Jersey's waters before Brexit.

"We are entering a new era and it takes time for all to adjust. Jersey has consistently shown its commitment to finding a smooth transition to the new regime," Horst said in a statement.

The rocky island sits 14 miles (23 km) off the northern French coast and 85 miles (140 km) south of Britain's shores.

The French threat is the latest flare-up over fishing rights between the two countries.

Last month, French trawlermen angered by delays to licences to fish in British waters blocked lorries carrying UK-landed fish with burning barricades as they arrived in Boulogne-sur-Mer, Europe’s largest seafood processing centre.

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