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France to ensure transparency in Notre Dame reconstruction efforts

media Notre Dame after the fire, with scaffolding that wrapped around the spire when it was still standing Sarah Elzas/RFI

The French government will take measures to secure the financing and accelerate the reconstruction work on Paris’ Notre Dame Cathedral, as doubts are raised over President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement that the reconstruction would be completed within five years. A fundraising appeal after Monday’s fire has raised nearly 900 million euros so far.

Speaking after a special Cabinet meeting dedicated to Notre Dame, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government will present a bill next week to ensure "transparency and good management" during the reconstruction.

One measure will ensure all donations actually end up going to Notre Dame. The bill will also allow for a special individual tax cuts for individuals making donations.

As of Wednesday, the reconstruction efforts raised 880 million euros in donations from all over the world, from individuals and companies, drawing some criticism that the money could be better spent elsewhere.

Macron said Tuesday evening that the renovations to restore the cathedral’s 19th century spire and the roof would be completed in five years, in time for the Paris 2024 Olympics.

But experts have weighed in, warning that the ambitious timeline is insufficient.

Notre Dame's rector said he would close the cathedral for up "five to six years.”


The spire: To rebuild or not?

Philippe said that an international competition will be held to answer the question of whether or not to rebuild the spire.

"Should we rebuild the spire envisaged and built by Viollet-le-Duc under the same conditions ... [or] give Notre Dame a new spire adapted to the technologies and the challenges of our times?" he asked.

The Notre Dame, with and without its famed spire REUTERS/Benoit Tessier

Firefighters on Wednesday were still examining the damage and shoring up the structure. Investigators believe the fire was started by accident, possibly linked to renovation work that had been underway when the fire broke out. Though the Paris prosecutor's office has still been unable to send investigators inside the cathedral.

Investigators have already questioned some 30 people, including workers at the five construction companies involved in the renovation work.

Bells will toll at cathedrals around France on Wednesday evening in honour of the monument.

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