tv Focus on Europe PBS December 15, 2014 6:30pm-7:01pm PST
>> hello and welcome to "focus on europe." thanks very much for joining us. i'm damien mcguinness, and we've got a great show lined up for you today. getting their kicks underground. moldovan children getting left behind, and chinese investors getting a golden visa in portugal. but first, to belgium, where there are concerns about the growing numbers of people opting for assisted suicide. 12 years ago, belgium became one of the first countries in the
world to legalize euthanasia. supporters of the law say it allows terminally sick people to die with dignity and without pain, but many are now getting worried about how euthanasia is being broadened out to be used in other areas. earlier this year, a law was passed allowing assisted dying for children, and now, a man convicted of rape and murder has just granted the right to die instead of serving a life printed -- a life sentence in prison. >> for more than 30 years, this sex offender has been held at the psychiatric wing of a belgian prison. he raped several women, killing one. he says he cannot control his sexual urges and is a menace to society. >> this compulsion is simply inside me. when i am stressed out or tens,
i no longer know what i'm doing. i simply cannot control myself anymore, so i have to stay here inside. >> a life outside prison is out of the question for him. he is in preventive detention at his own request and will probably spend the rest of his life there, but he says he cannot take it anymore. . >> it would be better if i were just allowed to die. that's better than living here. if my mental state does not improve, i see no alternative. what point is there to a life like this? >> he has gone to court to demand he be euthanized. his lawyer consulted two psychiatrists, who gave the expert opinion that he is unfit -- undergoing unbearable psychological suffering. that was reason enough with a
lawyer to take on the case. >> that was very difficult for me because i usually represent prisoners who demand their right to be imprisoned under conditions fit for human beings. this is the first time i have represented someone who wants to assert his right to a humane death. >> he grew up in a working-class suburb of an twerp where his perverted fantasies began. he lay in wait for women, then attacked them. those who survived and the families of all his victims are traumatized. here, hardly anyone is pleading for him to be kept alive. >> i am a christian and basically opposed to euthanasia, but this is different -- he should be allowed to die. it's better for everyone, and he would not have to suffer anymore. >> i find it good. if the man wants to die, it's
his choice. and for me, we must not pay for the man because it costs us a lot. >> the belgian government has a hard time dealing effectively with sex offenders. it offers little in the way of treatment. the court found that he was mentally ill and thus not criminally responsible, so he was placed in a special psychiatric prison unit, but he received no therapy. the european court of human rights has ruled repeatedly against belgium for not offering proper treatment to mentally ill prisoners. >> the belgian government simply locked people up, and that's terrible. the government bears the responsibility for people simply losing hope and just wanting to die. it's a kind of covert capital punishment without a death sentence being handed down.
>> while the case was before the court, several other prisoners contacted the lawyer because they also wanted permission to be euthanized, but it's not easy to get that through. they have to prove that they suffer unbearably and that their mental illness cannot be treated. he was determined to be incurably ill. he says the last hope for him would have been a special institution in the netherlands where sex offenders are granted certain freedoms within the prison walls, but the belgian justice ministry refused to allow him to be transferred there. the lawyer says that hit him hard. >> i was worried back then that he would try to kill himself. i did not want that. killing yourself in prison is terrible. the prisoners are utterly lonely, and it's unbearable for their families.
>> he promised his lawyer he would not attempt suicide but would wait in the cell until the court awarded him the right to die. >> i'm locked up here, and i have to sit in myself for 23 hours a day. what good is that? whatever i've done, i'm still a human being. >> he will die soon. the prison chaplain is helping him prepare for a death with the committee. doctors who perform assisted suicide are uneasy. this was not how they wanted the right to euthanasia to be interpreted, but in the end, one of them will have to carry out the court toss controversial -- the courts controversial ruling. >> a very difficult issue, and particularly controversial because eu countries do not have the death penalty. now in belgium at least, the
state is allowed to put certain prisoners to death if they request it. let me know what you think about that or any of our other stories. now to prompt -- prague where he knew tunnel is opening. the aim is to get traffic out of the historic city center, but the building work has been controversial and taken so long that the site has been used for something very different. >> grabs, flips, grinds -- those are tricks skateboarders like to do, usually outside, often in parks, but in prague, these days, the place to skate is the tunnel. when darkness falls, skaters climb over the spence, try not to get caught by the security guards, and then they can really shred. >> a tunnel like this is great for us skaters. it's dry and warm. what more could you want? we need more things like this.
>> the skaters raced through the tunn at dsf up to 40 kilometersn hour. no cars, no pedestrians, and because a lack of proper safety installations has repeatedly delayed the tunnels opening, their fun is guaranteed to continue, but they have to be fast to avoid security guards. >> i just love the feeling. it's your adrenaline --ure adrenaline. >> this is the best skate ramp. not just in problem, but in the world, i think. >> but the instruction of the tunnel was anything but fun for the residents. entire blocks of houses were in danger of collapsing, so the cotrucon cpanyook measures like this -- steel beams run through this living room. he often hits his head on them. >> it looks like a factory here. i sleep in this room, and i'm always whacking my head on that thing. my wife as wel
she puts pillows on the beam, but it does not help. >> the tunnel has people throughout the city worried. the earth beneath prague shook every now and then, and suddenly, a whole. it had not been there the day before -- suddenly, a hole appeared that had not been there the day before. this woman wants everyone to see the damage the title is doing to her building. there's also a building expert for the city who says this is as bad as it will get, and anyway, the construction company will pay for all the damage, but she is not satisfied. >> you have to experience it for yourself. everything here shakes and vibrates when they set off the destinations. it's terrifying. my glasses and plates keep falling off the shelves. you cannot imagine how awful it is.
>> the costs for the tunnel project kept rising, and at some point, the city skaters claimed it for themselves, as did corrupt tours, which leads groups through prague, highlighting places where bribery is at work. this tunnel is regularly a teacher on their tour. >> when the tunnel was planned, it was supposed to cost around 1.2 billion euros. but it already overshot that by 400 million euros, and it will eat up a lot more than that by the time it opens. >> the corrupt towards group can only shake their heads. the skateboarders think it is money well invested -- at least as long as the project is their private playground. they have had another good evening, and no one got caught. >> there were not any police. they just showed up now, so i'm
taking off. >> how was it for you? >> the ride was great. you see how lousy the weather was out here, and inside, it's just perfect. >> while motorist are still dealing with congested roads, the skaters hope the tunnel will be just for them for some time to come. >> as tensions grew between russia and the west over the ukraine conflict, countries across eastern europe are having to decide which camp they want to join, including in moldova. parliamentary elections earlier this week were a close race between pro-european voters who wanted close ties with the eu and pro-russian voters, who side with moscow. it looks like the pro-european coalition has won, but moldova has high levels of corruption and poverty, so there's little chance the country will be able to join the eu any time, meaning that large numbers of moldovans had to rush her to find work and were forced to leave the
children behind -- large numbers of moldovans who headed to russia to find work were forced to leave their children behind. >> is a quiet girl. her father died when she was four years old. she knows her mother mainly as a voice on the telephone, calling from moscow. she is growing up with her grandparents, who take good care of her. that's better than the situation of many of the children in the republic of moldova, whose parents have left them behind. >> some grandparents are triggers. they don't take care of the children. no one gets the children up, washes them, dresses them, prepares meals for them. no one gives them warms, and they miss the warmth of their parents who are simply not fair. >> her way to school is difficult, especially in the winter. it's raining hard, and the village street is muddy. moldova is the poorest country in europe, especially in
villages like here. the bitter poverty drives people to emigrate in search of jobs. school is the one bright aspect of her day. here she has friends and some fun, and she can think about nicer things. her favorite subject is math. >> i like the instruction, the brakes, a lot of things. also the other children. >> no moral one/5 of the schoolchildren here grow up with only one parent. 25 children here grow up entirely without parents because their parents live abroad. the school has to deal with the resulting problems. >> we don't get enough support from the state. the state should require the parents to clearly give custody of the children to someone specific.
often someone takes care of the child to a certain extent but without taking complete responsibility for him or her, and then, it is as if the children end up on the streets. >> nona is shy and usually sits at the back of the classroom, but she is eager to learn and keeps up with her material. other kids who grow up without parents often have problems in school. >> when we come into the classrooms, we often see children who are completely isolated. they sit alone and draw, or they are hyperactive, the opposite extreme. we wonder what is going on in their minds. the behavior is often a result of their parents being outside the country. >> about 1/3 of all moldova and have left the country. most have moved to russia. immigration is driven by the high unemployment rate and the division between russian speakers who feel drawn by russia and romanian speakers, drawn to the west.
moldova wants closer ties to the european union. this russian school in the capital used to have 1000 pupils . today, that's down to just 400. >> it's a problem at the moment that many russian speakers are leaving moldova, unfortunately. the number of pupils at russian schools continues to shrink. >> after school, known upon best friend comes to visit. together, they watch homemade videos, and for a few moments, the quiet girl becomes a lighthearted teenager. until, that is, she's asked when was the last time that her mother was home to celebrate her birthday. >> i cannot remember the last time she was home.
maybe two or three years ago -- i don't know. >> she talks with her mother on the phone as often as she can. aside from that, all she has is photographs. she dreams of studying law and then moving to ireland, earning lots of money, and someday building a house in moldova, like her parents have always wanted to. some moldova ends do manage to build a house, but they continue to live and work far away. old people and children remain behind. >> europe was hit hard by the 2008 financial crisis. since then, one of the ways that many cache-strapped countries have tried to attract foreign investment has been to grant eu residency rights to non-europeans willing to invest in property or business. the most successful scheme has been in portugal, which has
issued thousands of so-called golden visas, mainly to rich chinese investors. but calls are now growing in portugal for the scheme to be scrapped. >> no, this is not beijing, but some confused passengers arriving at lisbon airport might think they have landed at the wrong destination, considering the use of chinese everywhere. these commercials are a sure sign of the fact that the golden visas scheme is lucrative for some. for these men, for example. one is a real estate agent, and the other works for an agency that helps people applying for a golden visa. they are showing a chinese client around a luxury complex not far from the portuguese capital. anyone who invests a minimum of 500,000 euros in real estate or $1 million in a company or creates 10 jobs is entitled to a long-term residence permit in portugal.
the idea of the scheme was to attract investment to the crisis-battered country. a majority of the candidates are from china. this apartment cost around 4 million euros. there's room for two limousines and a very nice view of the sea, very popular with chinese buyers. rex not only works for an agency that grants golden visas, but he received one himself a year ago. >> before the chinese residents, it's not easy to come to this area. they need to go to the embassy and apply for a visa, but if they go to different economies, it's totally different. they just get the passport, buy a ticket, and they come here and come out for you. it's very important if you are just doing some business.
>> privileges for money -- a convincing argument. many seem willing to pay an enormous price so they can access europe freely. it has been good for portugal, too. almost 1800 visas have been granted in the two years since the scheme started. over one billion euros have been invested in the country so far. however, the plan also has critics. they say recipients of golden visas do not do much for portugal apart from buying an apartment, and they spend not more than two weeks in the country a year. that has not improved the gdp. >> these investments have not created one single job. there's no growth, no normal portuguese person is earning more than before because of this. >> chinese direct investment in portugal has grown considerably in recent years. in 2011, chinese investors rock despot a 20% stake in the
country's dominant power utility. the right place to ask whether the scheme has boosted investment in the portuguese economy should be here at the portuguese-chinese chamber of commerce and industry. >> no, there have not been any really great successes like people buying a house and then investing in a hotel or vineyard, for example. the golden visas have not had a systemic impacts, a part from a few exceptions. >> noble fortune has not had a huge impact on the portuguese economy, either. portugal's biggest agency for gold in these as was set up two years ago. it is completely and chinese ownership, and most of the jobs are for chinese people. >> the golden visa is so attractive to chinese customers because they can apply for portuguese citizenship after five years.
>> this means for them, no more european borders. the scheme's critics say portugal and the european union are creating problems for themselves in the future. >> canada also had such a program. they did not simply abolish it for no reason. the program makes money laundering easier. it also encourages corruption, and that's the case also here in portugal, among our public servants. >> in november, the head of portugal's immigration and border service was arrested as part of an investigation into corruption linked to the granting of golden pieces, but as long as there are customers willing to pay absurdly high prices for apartments, as the real estate agent admits off camera, the golden visa business is likely to continue flourishing.
>> finally, to romania where a new president is about to enter office. what is interesting about him is firstly that his landslide win took everyone by surprise and secondly, that he is an ethnic german, and identity which is used -- which he has used to differentiate himself from romania's corrupt political class. >> time seems to stand still in the middle of romania's region of transylvania. german colonists settled in this region in the middle ages. lovingly restored streets and squares bear witness to their history. once there were 250,000 ethnic germans living here, but most emigrated during the church ask her dictatorship. ethnic germans are him i nor the, but now one of them has been elected romanian president.
>> when i was the mayor, people in romania got used to an ethnic german being able to get is done in romanian politics. >> the key to his success was his radical reduction of nepotism. some say he managed that with a simple trip -- key jobs like here at the public construction authority are mostly held by women. they are considered less prone to corruption. that's why none of the millions spent on restoring the city went into corrupt channels. the construction workers say that what gets you a job here is what you can do, not who you know.
>> all the people must have somebody who is high for being employed, and here, it's all right for me. >> people often ask me just because that's how things are there, why do i think it could be that way elsewhere. well, it is a romanian city in the middle of her mania, and i think people everywhere think like people there. >> but as president, he faces bigger challenges than he did in local politics. his greatest opponents are right next to his office in bucharest in the parliament. here, bribery is still degrees that gets things done. almost every week, there's a new scandal, and he corruption extends to the highest government offices. >> i'll wait and see. i just hope things do not get worse. >> but he is confident of
success. >> many romanians want a different kind of president, one who will put on less of a show and instead do a bit more for his country. >> the new president will take part in one show -- the christmas market. when he was mayor here, it grew to become romania's largest. that, too, is a symbol of his political ambitions to build a future with traditional values. >> well, that's it for today. feel free to get in touch with any comments -- negative or positive. always good to hear from you. last week, walter got in touch on twitter after our report about volunteers fighting for russia in eastern ukraine. he says that vladimir putin is being demonized in a lot of western media. do you agree? let me know what you think. for now, thanks very much for watching, and see you next time.
steves: since the romantic era in the 19th century, luzern has been a regular stop on the grand tour route of europe. [ whistle blows ] its inviting lakefront now includes a modern concert hall, which incorporates the lake into its design. the old town, with a pair of picture-perfect wooden bridges, straddles the reuss river, where it tumbles out of lake luzern. the bridge was built at an angle in the 14th century to connect the town's medieval fortifications. today, it serves strollers, rather than soldiers, as a peaceful way to connect two sides of town. many are oblivious to the fascinating art just overhead. under the rafters hang about 100 colorful 17th-century paintings showing scenes from luzern and its history. this legendary giant dates to the middle ages, when locals discovered mammoth bones,
which they mistakenly thought were the bones of a human giant. here's luzern in about 1400, the bridge already part of the city fortifications. and luzern looked like this in 1630. luzern is responsible for controlling the lake level. by regulating the flow of water out of its lake, the city prevents the flooding of lakeside villages when the snow melts. in the mid-19th century, the city devised and built this extendable dam. by adding and taking away these wooden slats, they could control the level of the lake. swans are a fixture on the river today. locals say they arrived in the 17th century as a gift from the french king, louis xiv, in appreciation for the protection his swiss guards gave him. switzerland has a long history of providing strong and loyal warriors to foreign powers. the city's famous lion monument recalls the heroism
of more swiss mercenaries. the mighty lion rests his paws on a french shield. tears stream down his cheeks. the broken-off end of a spear is slowly killing the noble beast. the sad lion is a memorial to over 700 swiss mercenaries who were killed, defending marie antoinette and louis xvi during the french revolution. the people of luzern take full advantage of their delightful river with a variety of cafes and restaurants along its banks. this evening, we're enjoying the setting as much as the food. i'm having the local pork. my producer, simon, is having eel, fresh from the river. with a picturesque setting like this, the dining experience makes for a wonderful memory.