tv Focus on Europe PBS November 12, 2016 6:00pm-6:31pm PST
damien: hello, and welcome to "focus on europe." i'm damien mcguinness. great you could join us today, in a week when europe is nervous about so many issues including growing tensions between the west and russia. in kaliningrad, russia is showing off its power. more war ships are being moored here. but russians themselves are thrilled. this woman says it's important that other countries see our strength. building up arms is important, so that people are afraid of us. but more of that later. at the moment in europe we hear a lot in the news about anti-migrant protestors who don't want their countries to take in asylum seekers.
but we hear a lot less about the people who are helping. people like jorgos maniatis. he decided he couldn't stand by any longer and watch as refugees arrived in his home country of greece, only to find themselves on the streets, with nowhere to live. the problem for greece of course is that it's still trying to recover from the financial crisis. so the authorities there are finding it hard enough to help greek people, let alone support migrants too. but jorgos has come up with a very radical way of providing desperate people with shelter. reporter: wecome to the city plaza hotel in athens -- centrally located, four stars, 300 rooms, friendly staff at the reception, a restaurant, a bar, and spacious double rooms for guests like this family of three. but they're not here on vacation -- they're refugees from the war in syria.
and giorgos maniatis and the other staff members aren't employees. they squatted this hotel in downtown athens because they couldn't stand to see thousands of refugees living on the street when housing remained empty. giorgos maniatis: this is a hotel which is not used, for many reasons, economic reasons, and we give it to the social reasons that is meant to be covered right now in an emergency situation. reporter: maniatis interrupted his university career to operate the refugee hotel. rana from syria, who doesn't want to be recognized, is grateful. after fleeing through turkey to greece, she didn't know where to go with her family. maniatis gave them one of the last rooms in the city plaza hotel. rana f: it's much better than the camps. here at least there is something we can do. and the children have the chance to play. and the food is good. we are very happy here. reporter: the hotel kitchen.
when maniatis and the others squatted the hotel, the kitchen equipment was still functional. they merely had to hook up the electricity. now they prepare 800 meals a day here. giorgos maniatis: actually in all the hotels there are different working groups which are coordinating in a meeting. so self-organization is the main principle, and of course many refugees are actively a part of it. reporter: the food comes from donations, like the medicines and hygienic articles in the infirmary. in the meantime, the squatters receive active support from all over the world. for them, the city plaza is "the best hotel in europe," even without room service. nezam anghaie: they don't sit around and wait for months for permission -- they see what positive things they can do, and they just do it. reporter: but the city plaza hotel is dividing greek public
opinion, because it has inspired a squatting movement for refugees all over the country. an arson attack was directed against another building squatted for refugees. giorgos maniatis: the question was different when greece was a transit country and now the case about the housing, the creation of camps. there is always reactions for smaller groups and larger groups, from mayors and lots of communities who cannot understand that the refugees are here to stay. reporter: the conservative opposition is appalled that people simply occupy buildings to accommodate refugees illegally. they decry the legal vacuum and demand that the police shut down the hotels. thanos plevris: most of the refugees who come into the city should be accommodated in camps outside the city or sent on to other european countries. athens can't deal with this
problem otherwise. reporter: rana seldom leaves the hotel with her children -- she's afraid of racist attacks. people in the neighborhood want the old city plaza hotel back again. >> most of these foreigners in the hotel are here illegally. no one knows whether they have committed crimes. that has to be investigated by the police. reporter: giorgos maniatis doesn't allow himself to be intimidated by the agitation. just to be sure, he has a few strong men posted at the hotel entrance to protect against attacks. maybe some day tourists will enjoy expensive cocktails again on the roof terrace, when greece's economy picks up again and the refugee crisis is solved. but until then, maniatis and his friends will hold out here.
giorgos maniatis: we want that such places would not be needed. but at this time, with 50,000 and more refugees stranded in different camps, in facilities with thousands of persons in tents, city plaza is unfortunately offers the best conditions. reporter: the owner of the bankrupt hotel has filed suit against maniatis and the other squatters. but the refugees and their helpers want to resist eviction. after all, for them, this is "the best hotel in europe." damien: whenever i chat to friends in the baltic states, one of the things they always talk about is their fear of russian aggression. particularly since russia's annexation of crimea. that's why nato troops are now being stationed in the baltics. but when you read the newspapers in russia you can see that there the fear is western aggression -- that's because moscow views nato troops on its borders as a
threat. to find out how ordinary russians feel, our reporters have been to meet one russian family, that has just moved to kaliningrad, a tiny russian territory sandwiched between poland and the baltic states. reporter: smile, please. little german is feeling a bit anxious. it's his first day at school. he and his parents moved to kaliningrad not that long ago. a few more instructions. and then it's time for the national anthem. the city's number 12 school considers itself to be particularly patriotic. the aim is to raise good little russian patriots. but is russian patriotism important to the shustovoi family? german's mother says yes. pjotr schustovoi: it's not bad. it's good for children to know about their country's history
and to be patriots. reporter: this is an opinion shared by many parents at the school. ludmilla: it's important for countries that don't have a good relationship with us to feel our strength. it's important for us to rearm so that people are scared of us. reporter: ludmilla and many other parents think that patriotism should be learned from an early age -- if possible, right from kindergarten. after german's first day, the shustovoi family takes a trip around the city to celebrate. after the collapse of the soviet unions, there were plans to boost kaliningrad's role as russia's gateway to europe. the port city was supposed to be transformed into a business hub, a little like hong kong. its status as a military outpost was neglected from the mid-1990's and the baltic fleet was left to rust.
this is now being reversed. alina and pyotr are surprised, they didn't expect this. they say that their relatives in vladivostok in the far east of russia are worried about them. pjotr schustovoi: my mom keeps calling me. keeps saying that she saw on tv that we're surrounded by nato troops. reporter: there is a lot going on in russia's baltic sea outpost -- the skipper gennadii has been observing the developments with interest. bootsfuhrer gennadij: there are many new ships. the fleet has to be renewed. it's beginning to be like during the time of the peter the great. things are very similar at the moment. reporter: he says it feels good to see the brand new warships. the top commanders of the fleet have also changed. there are over 30 new officers. most are from the secret
service. short-range ballistic missiles have also been deployed here. many locals are not displeased by this display of military prowess. alina: it's absolutely right. pjotr: i also think it's right. maybe somethings are overdone but on the other hand i think russia could have reacted even more strongly to the sanctions. reporter: it's important, they say, to show russia's strength. this was not always the case. before there were goods from abroad -- but not since the sanctions. russia's relationship to its neighbors has soured. nina, who works on the market, has little sympathy for the baltic states. nina: they only have themselves to blame. they're small and envious, they're not independent. others rule them. i'm proud of my country because it's independent and run by people who make it independent.
reporter: these youths think differently. they feel their homeland is a part of europe and they would like to improve russia's relationship with its european neighbors. they are campaigning for kaliningrad to be renamed konigsberg -- to remind people of the city's german past. they believe that this would have a positive impact. alexander: we think that it could lead to us russians thinking about the situation and becoming less aggressive towards the west and towards europe. that we will consider ourselves part of europe and learn to respect the heritage here. reporter: he says that he knows that some people see their campaign as provocative. there is a siege mentality emerging in a city which once was very open to europe and the outside world and that was why the shustovoi family moved away
from vladivostok. but this seems less important to them now. pjotr schustovoi: we believe that our president is making the right decisions. there is a lot of provocation, i think. we can't believe everything. but more or less, i would say that our president is doing everything right. reporter: nonetheless, they hope that the relationship between russia and the west will not deteriorate further and that the situation in kaliningrad will normalize. damien: maria petrovics was sure that her life was about to improve. that's because the european union had decided to give money to hungary, where she lives, to help unemployed roma people like her find work. the problem is the money never arrived. allegedly because of government corruption. what makes this especially controversial is that hungary is not only one of the biggest net beneficiaries of eu funds.
its government, ironically, is also one of the continent's most eurosceptic. reporter: the village of felcsut, where hungary's prime minister viktor orban's grew up, is known for poverty. but the mayor, a friend of orban, is now one of hungary's richest men. he refused to speak with us. right across from one of orban's homes, he built this soccer stadium -- rather bombastic for a village. it cost hungarian taxpayers 13 million euros. but orban wanted it. orban also had this narrow-gauge railway built for felcsut. it was funded with millions in european union subsidies. that raises questions -- but on the day of its dedication, orban had other worries. viktor orban: i can't wait to ride on it. the railway is beautiful, but it is too short. that's what bothers me.
reporter: criticism of the railway leaves orban cold. for example, from opposition politician akos hadhazy. he and some colleagues turned to the eu's anti-fraud office to protest the waste of eu subsidies. akos hadhazy: because the train departs near orban's house and goes more or less nowhere. and they lied on the application for eu support. they claimed two to three thousand people would use it daily. but in reality, there are very few passengers, as you can see for yourself. reporter: but those passengers see nothing wrong with how the railway was funded. imre orosz: the fact is, we needed the money from the e.u. but i don't know exactly how much. reporter: the european union provided two million euros. but the nostalgic train has not brought the regional tourism boom that the application for support promised. this is not the only case before the eu fraud investigators.
in the last four years alone, at least 24 cases have become known in which eu monies were dubiously requested and often simply disappeared. for example here in northern hungary, where many unemployed roma live. in the cold season, maria petrovics and her family have to skimp on food, or they won't have enough money to heat. the eu should and indeed wanted to help with a program to provide job training for the roma. 19 million euros was appropriated -- but no help arrived. maria petrovics: we were all so disappointed. we had high hopes that the eu would help us. but here we are still getting only 75 euros in social welfare. no one can live from that. reporter: maria's neighbor, formerly the official representative of the roma here, helped write the application for eu support.
ferenc petrovics: we in this town did nothing wrong. the government in budapest is to blame. they allowed the head of the project to do whatever he wanted. reporter: the man responsible for the project was florian farkas, seen here beside orban. they've been buddies for years. farkas is a governing party delegate and the government official for roma affairs. when the scandal about the eu project to aid the roma broke in early 2015, farkas was suspected. but nothing happened. geza fazekas: so far, we have not been able to investigate any person where we see sufficient grounds for suspicion. the public prosecutors have conducted no interrogations. but there have been searches that secured documents. reporter: for example in this office building in budapest, from which the eu project was managed. about 1 million euros were spent to buy two storeys of the building.
a large fleet of cars was acquired, but not a single job for a roma was created. but no one has been held to account. viktor orban: you ask me when i will fire florian farkas? i can tell you, i don't plan to at all. i know you all are against him. but as i see it, that just makes him better. reporter: olaf, the european union's anti-fraud office, could question florian farkas. he has been sent a written summons. but if he doesn't come, the investigators are helpless. alina burea: we don't have the power to sanction directly any possible abuses or frauds of any varieties, but we pass our results to the authorities competent for follow-up. reporter: no end is in sight. and unlike in the case of the roma project, olaf hasn't even tried to do anything about the eu millions spent on the railway
in orban's home village. akos hadhazy waits in vain to hear from brussels. damien: my german colleague , hanni huesch, has been reporting on britain with great affection for years. but since the u.k. voted to leave the european union in a referendum in june, for the first time she's now wondering if the country is as welcoming as she thought. there are countless reports of xenophobic comments. one hungarian friend told me that the day after the vote, she was shouted out by someone in the london underground because she was talking hungarian to her 5-year-old son. and the other day, a german friend of mine wasn't let in to a manchester nightclub because, as the bouncer put it, "no krauts tonight." hanni is puzzled and worried by all this. and so she's decided to talk to people on both sides of the debate, to find out if the uk is still the country she loves.
hanni: bernard feels most at home when he's surrounded by his antiques. now that his party, the populist and anti-european ukip, has achieved its goal, he can devote more of his time again to the business with the past - and to king and prince. his french bulldog may be unruly, but he can rely on his staffordshire. so why would a man who has achieved his own personal ambitions decide to throw his country into turmoil? bernard rayner: wunderbar - i'm afraid now it's over. it's not for us. good luck to you, but it's not for us. hanni: you want to be an island running things on your own? bernard rayner: well, we've done it for a thousand years now. i'm sure that we can get back in the grain of things. no, we just open up to the world.
see, don't forget we have a commonwealth. hanni: bernard wasn't keen on receiving his german visitor alone, so frances joins us. both want a clean break with europe -- and say nature is on their side. frances day: every day we say thank god for the english channel. it's our most precious possession. it really is. hanni: why? frances: because it protects us. bernard rayner: it's a natural border. it's a natural barrier. hanni: from who? frances: from invasion. it's always helped us. hanni: barrier? protection from invasion? britain has changed. it has become more alien. it feels smaller, even if it sound more grandiose. crackpot ideas are in the air - the recommissioning of the royal yacht britannia, for one. a future as a global sea trading power. the english channel is getting wider and the climate here is no longer so mild -- at least as far as migrants are concerned.
it is a long time since the british islands were invaded. in 1066, william the conqueror vanquished the anglo saxons at hastings -- a battle reenacted every year. this year, some patriotic souls are no doubt reading the brexit vote as the uk's liberation from hostile takeover. participants are only meant to talk about the past, but the specter of brexit is omnipresent. it has divided the country and even families. the sounds coming from this once so cosmopolitan and tolerant country are jarring -- not just to a german's ears. pop mann: my wife is french. and her company that she works for in london has been told to list all their foreign workers, which is about 98% of them.
so it's all starting to get a little bit silly over here since we -- since the country -- decided to go. hanni: the government's agressive stance on immigration is bringing xenophobic sentiment to the surface. there has been a significant rise in hate crime. pop mann: it's not xenophobic to be patriotic and want to preserve the culture you grew up in. we've always accepted migrants, but not in mass numbers. hanni: don't you think it's a pity that people say there's a lot of hate crime? >> there are no hate crimes. that's a political myth. that's all rubbish. that's rubbish. that's the left telling us there's a racial problem when there isn't. >> yes, there are. >> no, there aren't. >> yes, there are. >> no there aren't. it's a very small minority.
>> they're 67% up, in london. hanni: this is saturday in london, a celebration of african culture on trafalgar square. on days like this, you can't help but love the british capital. no other european city is so cool. london thrives on diversity, international talent, and foreign money. and the mayor knows that only too well. i'm surprised by sadiqh khan's untiring willingness to pose for selfies. he's keen to demonstrate approachability and openness in the face of the conservatives' "pull up the drawbridge" rhetoric. without migration, london would be a sadder place, a poorer place. it's touching to listen to the mayor of london's repeated appeals. sadiq khan: we know that post-brexit there was an increase in hate crime. some of our friends, some of our families, some of our neighbours may have been the victims of those crimes.
my message to londoners -- if you're a londoner who's from the eu, who's an eu citizen, let me tell you this -- you are welcome here. hanni: the hymn being sung at these harvest festival celebrations is set to the same music as the european anthem, ode to joy. chance, divine intervention? no matter. it fits. this catholic church in hastings is always full. thanks to migrants from italy, korea, but also poland. paul came to britain 16 years ago and built up a successful business here -- but now he is extremely disappointed, as well as anxious, like many of his fellow poles. recently, a polish man was murdered in an apparent hate crime. paul glinka: britain's always allowed me to feel at home. now i'm not comfortable any more making a statement like that.
hanni: why? paul glinka: because of hostility towards european migrants. we don't feel welcome any more. hanni: and who is going to stand up and appeal to reason and moderation? qualities that always seemed as if they were hardwired into britain's dna. hopefully, these sounds will be heard again once the noise of battle has died down -- and the channel will no longer be seen as a barrier, but once more as a gateway to the continent. damien: two sides of the tragically divided country. but for now, it's goodbye from me, and the whole team here. thanks very much for watching. remember feel free to get in touch with me anytime with your thoughts and comments. and do join us next week for more personal stories from all over europe. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit ncicap.org]