April 16, 2019 / 9:28 AM / 5 days ago

Europe 'wounded' by Notre-Dame fire, EU pledges help

STRASBOURG (Reuters) - 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.

A view shows Notre-Dame Cathedral after a massive fire devastated large parts of the gothic gem in Paris, France April 16, 2019. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes

“Europe has been wounded. France has been wounded. Paris has been wounded,” European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker told lawmakers, 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 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,” 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.”

Reporting by Alastair Macdonald, Alissa de Carbonnel and Clare Roth in Brussels; Writing by Alastair Macdonald; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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