'Rusting' Eiffel Tower at centre of Paris funding dispute

AFP - [email protected]
'Rusting' Eiffel Tower at centre of Paris funding dispute
Tourists walk next to the Eiffel Tower at sunrise Photo by Kiran RIDLEY / AFP

The Eiffel Tower, attacked by rust and well behind on its maintenance schedule, has taken centre stage in a power struggle between the Paris mayor and the government over who pays for its urgent renovation work.


A five-day strike at the Eiffel Tower this month drew attention to the monument's bad state of repair. Unions said the iconic monument was doomed unless its owner, the city of Paris, made massive funds available to get it back into good nick.

The tower's creator, Gustave Eiffel, recommended at the time of its inauguration in 1889 that it should be painted every seven years to keep inevitable rust at bay.

But the 300-metre (985-feet) iron structure -- 330 metres tall when the high-frequency antenna at the top is included -- has not been given a full paint job since 2010.

READ ALSO 13 things you didn't know about the Eiffel Tower

Unions said during the strike there were "several corrosion points... visible", which were "signs of a worrying deteriorating of the monument".


Local associations have warned of "safety problems" if the rust is left unchecked.

The protests prompted France's recently-appointed right-wing culture minister, Rachida Dati, to weigh in.

She said left-wing Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo should ask for the Eiffel Tower to be given "historical monument" status.

Unusually for such a high-profile site, it does not already have that protection.

The mayor responded by saying she saw no reason to change the Eiffel Tower's status.

Instead she said Dati should come up with "the €1.4 million that the government owes for work on the Eiffel Tower".

A major facelift for the monument, launched in 2019, was cut short by the Covid pandemic, and the discovery of significant levels of lead, a poisonous heavy metal, in existing layers of paint.

Following the week-long strike, the Eiffel Tower reopened at the weekend when its operator, SETE, reached agreement with the unions.

The deal stipulates that "the parties will regularly monitor the company's business model, investment in works and revenue through a body that will meet every six months".

Both sides also agreed on an investment of some €380 million up to 2031 toward works and maintenance of the tower.

The Eiffel Tower booked a shortfall of around €120 million during the Covid pandemic in 2020 and 2021, when visitor numbers dropped sharply due to closures and travel restrictions.

SETE has since benefited from a recapitalisation of €60 million, which unions say is insufficient.

Visitor numbers recovered to 5.9 million in 2022 and 6.3 million last year.


But it looks as though the issue of the Tower's maintenance could degenerate into a slanging match between the French culture minister and the Paris mayor, who are bitter personal and political rivals.

Dati wants to give the French government the power to override the city of Paris and "undertake construction work, by force if necessary".

"The Eiffel Tower is not sufficiently protected", she said.

Dati recently confirmed she wants to run for Paris mayor in 2026, having failed to dislodge Hidalgo in the 2020 election for the powerful post.

In addition to her job as culture minister, Dati is already mayor of the capital's wealthy 7th district, where the Eiffel Tower is located.

On the Paris city council, the conservative politician is leader of the opposition to Hidalgo, a Socialist.

Commenting on Dati's recent surprise appointment as culture minister in Emmanuel Macron's government, Hidalgo sent her "best wishes to the world of culture".

Commenting on the Eiffel Tower spat Gala magazine commented "(Dati) doesn't intend to give up her war against her eternal rival," while broadcaster TF1 said the minister was launching "a fresh tug-of-war" with Hidalgo.


Join the conversation in our comments section below. Share your own views and experience and if you have a question or suggestion for our journalists then email us at [email protected].
Please keep comments civil, constructive and on topic – and make sure to read our terms of use before getting involved.

Please log in to leave a comment.

See Also