Paris gives green light for revamp of historic squares

City chiefs in Paris have approved a plan to give seven major squares in the French capital a massive revamp to make way for pedestrians, cyclists and more greenery.

Paris gives green light for revamp of historic squares
The famous Place du Pantheon will be made more pedestrian friendly. Photo: Twitter/Anne Hidalgo

Paris boasts numerous vast squares, with beautiful structures in their centre, such as the July Column on the Place de la Bastille — a symbol of the French Revolution — the Pantheon mausoleum or Madeleine church.

However, pedestrians often have to get through several lanes of snarled traffic, while a lack of cycling lanes makes crossing the squares a nightmare for those on bikes.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo's plan aims to make “cyclists and pedestrians the priority”, with 50 percent more space dedicated to those not behind a steering wheel.

Drinking fountains and more greenery are also in store for the revamped squares — an election promise made by the Socialist mayor.

Her tweets below show how each of the seven squares will change.







The environmentally-minded mayor has taken several initiatives to green up the French capital, where pollution has become a major problem.

Last March, French authorities briefly forced half the cars off the roads of Paris under an even-and-odd licence plate scheme used during dangerously high smog episodes.

Hidalgo also announced in January that the famed Champs-Elysees avenue would from April be closed to traffic one Sunday a month and that one in two Parisian parks would be open 24 hours a day.

The World Health Organization says fine-particle air pollution is responsible for about 42,000 premature deaths in France each year.

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France honours women’s rights icon Simone Veil with coveted Pantheon burial

Holocaust survivor and women's rights icon Simone Veil will be given the rare honour of burial at the Pantheon in Paris on Sunday, a year and a day after her death at age 89.

France honours women's rights icon Simone Veil with coveted Pantheon burial
A collage of images of the late politician Simone Veil and her husband Antoine Veil hang at The Pantheon in Paris on June 28, 2018, ahead of a ceremony on July 1, where they will be buried. Photo: AFP
Veil's death prompted an outpouring of emotion across the country, with thousands signing a petition asking President Emmanuel Macron to bury her alongside France's most illustrious dignitaries.
She will be only the fifth woman inhumed at the monument on the Left Bank of the River Seine, and will be accompanied by her husband Antoine, a high-ranking civil servant who died in 2013.
“Mum never thought she would be placed in the Pantheon. The only one in the couple who imagined she would enter the Pantheon was our father,” said Jean 
Veil, the oldest of their three sons.
“He would often say jokingly… that it was out of the question to separate them after 67 years of living together,” he told CNews television.
French women's rights champion Simone Veil given coveted burial place in Pantheon
Photo: AFP
Simone Veil was 16 when she was deported in 1944 to Auschwitz during the Holocaust, when her mother, father and brother were killed.
After her return she became a tireless crusader for women's rights as well as European reconciliation, securing her biggest political victory in 1974 by convincing parliament to legalise abortion despite fierce opposition.
She also became the first elected president of the European Parliament in 1979, a post she held for three years.
A model of composure, Veil was considered by many a secular saint for her unwavering stance on moral issues.
Polls consistently showed her to be one of France's most popular and trusted figures.
“The fact that we have built Europe has reconciled me with the 20th century,” despite living with the trauma of the Holocaust, Veil once said in a television interview.
'Light within' 
The transfer of Veil's remains to the Pantheon begins Friday, when her casket and that of her husband will be exhumed at the Montparnasse cemetery.
Their coffins will then be displayed for two days in the crypt of the Holocaust Memorial in central Paris, which Veil helped found.
On Sunday morning the funeral cortege will be escorted by Republican Guards over the Seine and through the Latin Quarter.
Pallbearers will carry the caskets up the Rue Soufflot, walking on a blue carpet, “the colour of peace, of the United Nations and of course of Europe,” the presidency said.
France pays homage to its 'most admired woman' Simone Veil
National ceremony honoring Veil at les Invalides in July 2017. Photo: AFP
They will pause three times to sing, including the “Song of the Deported”. 
President Emmanuel Macron, attending with his wife Brigitte and dozens of French officials, will give a speech followed by a minute of silence.
“You brought into our lives that light that burned within you and which nobody could ever take away,” Macron said at her funeral last year.
The “Marseillaise” national anthem will then by sung by the American soprano Barbara Hendricks.
The caskets will lie in state until Monday, and admission to the Pantheon will be free from July 1 to 8.
Veil was already given a state funeral, and commemorative two-euro coins will enter circulation in July along with postage stamps bearing her image.
Last month Paris renamed a Metro stop “Europe – Simone Veil” in her honour.