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tv   Focus on Europe  PBS  May 23, 2017 12:30am-1:01am PDT

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♪ elizabeth: hello, and welcome to "fokus on europe." thanks for joining us today. i'm elizabeth shoo. and the big story gripping europe this week is the presidential election in france. in the first round, the mainstream political parties were voted out, which means that in may in the final run-off, voters will choose between two very different candidates. the young, independent emmanuel macron is pro-eu and wants an open, tolerant society. his opponent, marine le pen, is a right-wing populist, who is anti-european. everything is at stake, she says. this is about the survival of france. few french presidential
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elections have been as unpredictable as this one. the country is polarized like never before, and that's because people are being given the choice between two opposing visions of the future of france. liberal, outward-looking with more european integration, versus nationalist, more border-controls, and potentially out of the eu. the only thing the two sides can agree on is that the vote is crucial. reporter: for most of her life, laurence david-moalic had little interest in politics. she lives in the city of amiens, the birthplace of emmanuel macron. she works for the tax authorities, but over the last few months has been investing all her spare time in macron's "en marche" movement. ms. david-moalic: emmanuel macron has an open-minded and positive outlook. he wants to take action and bring us all together.
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reporter: laurence can no longer bear to see her country drifting towards the extreme right. industrial decline and rising unemployment have been two major factors behind the front national's popularity in this part of northern france. but laurence is convinced that macron will triumph in the run-off vote against right-wing populist marine le pen. ms. david-moalic: we have a duty to succeed, because otherwise it could be the front national in power in five years time. emmanuel macron is aware of the responsibility. reporter: these men likewise feel a duty to ensure that le pen wins as many votes as possible in the second round. nicolas versaen voted for the front national candidate in the first round. he was also an observer during the count at his polling station. he doesn't trust the other parties. mr. versaen: we keep an eye on things because of cases of fraud
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in the past. we're not yet in power in many city halls, which is why our rivals have a stronger presence and have more control. reporter: nicolas and also his parents had been expecting marine le pen to be the clear front-runner after the first round of voting. and although she made the run-off, they're a little disappointed. mr. versaen: she's gone pretty far with her proposals -- leaving europe and ditching the euro as our currency. that's made a lot of voters anxious, even if they have no need to be. reporter: at the same time, many voters here are also reluctant to side with macron. the former banker is seen by many as a representative of the world of finance and big business. laurence david moalic and her fellow activists want to change that image.
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ms. david-moalic: we'll go from door to door, talk to people. we want to be open. but it's hard to win someone over if they don't want to listen. my approach at the local level is always, come and at least listen to what we have to say. reporter: the front national have a different strategy -- looking to directly poach votes from the opposite side of the spectrum. they want to recruit supporters of the hard-left candidate jean-luc melenchon to challenge pro-eu centrist forces. mr. versaen: we look at the spread of votes in each polling station. the saint-leu neighborhood is home to a lot of low-earners. jean-luc melenchon is the most popular candidate here, and his voters don't want a man from big finance either. reporter: laurence david-moalic dismisses such arguments as pure propaganda.
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she will be running for office herself as an "en marche" candidate in the parliamentary elections in june. ms. david-moalic: i want to keep on working for macron's movement, because his policies make sense, they are pragmatic and coherent. but we have a mountain to climb, and perhaps you need a touch of madness to make it. reporter: she sees france at a crossroads, and her priority is for the country to stay on its cosmopolitan and pro-eu course. elizabeth: fatima is one of many mothers who have lost their sons in the conflict in ukraine. three years ago, her teenage son vadim was killed in one of the deadliest episodes, when dozens of people died in rioting and a fire in the ukrainian port city of odessa. it was the result of violent
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clashes between pro-russian activists and ukrainian nationalists. fatima knows that nothing can bring her son back, but not knowing what exactly happened makes her loss even more painful. reporter: the trade union building in the center of odessa is deserted. almost three years ago, 48 people died here -- burned, suffocated, killed falling, or shot to death. an improvised memorial at the construction fence lists their names. vadim papura was only 17 years old when he died -- the youngest victim. his mother fatima visits her son's grave almost every sunday. "we are proud of you," is emblazoned on his tombstone. fatima hasn't been downtown since her only child died by violence.
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ms. papura: you have to understand, for me, the union building is a place charged with so much suffering, so much death, so much pain. reporter: on the evening of may 2, 2014, molotov cocktails flew into the trade union building. pro-russian demonstrators had sought refuge inside. adherents of the pro-western maidan movement had chased them here. before that, the two groups had fought in the streets for hours. vadim papura was on the pro-russian side. his mother still has a helmet, deformed by the incredible heat of the fire in the union building. ms. papura: here, the hammer and sickle and "red legion." i know it's his helmet, he had written that on it. there were lots of helmets like this there. reporter: vadim's parents
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haven't changed anything in their son's room. vadim had joined the "communist youth" and opposed the government in kiev and its pro-western course. the first to die on may 2, 2014 were members of the pro-western movement -- shot by street fighters who wanted to secede from ukraine. tetjana sojkina was on the pro-western side. even today, she has little pity for the pro-russian people who died in the union building. ms. sojkina: a lot of aggression had built up. i didn't feel sorry about anything. i understand that they were human beings, and maybe they weren't personally to blame. but they wanted to destabilize the situation in odessa. they wanted russia here. they wanted war. they were our enemies. reporter: ukraine was on the verge of civil war.
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the violence in odessa acted as a signal to the separatists in the donbass region. an independent citizens' committee has documented the may 2 events to help the official investigation, which still hasn't had any result. ms. herassymowa: i don't want to defend our investigators at all, but i would like to point out that the case is really very complicated. and added to that is our characteristic ukrainian lack of professionalism. reporter: the european council and the united nations complain that the ukrainian authorities have delayed the investigation. the ukrainian police deny the accusation. mr. forostjak: how should the justice system function in a country at war and where there is no rule of law? first we have to establish the rule of law, before we can conduct investigations. when the events in odessa happened, there was simply no rule of law here.
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reporter: victory park was one of vadim papura's favorite spots. fatima comes here often now. other relatives of the may 2 victims have filed charges against ukraine at the european court of human rights. not fatima, but she does want the case cleared up. ms. papura: my interest is in the quality of the investigation. if something like this is done in a rush, then innocent people will be blamed. they'll find scapegoats. the point isn't speed, although three years is a very long time. reporter: every year around the anniversary of the violence, odessa gets tense again. this year, the police have the situation in hand. whether pro-western or pro-russian, everyone has the same questions. were there orders from above? were there intentional provocations?
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or did the violence escalate spontaneously. was it unstoppable? some of the answers might be found one day in the traces of the tragedy in the union building. elizabeth: awful that those answers are still not clear. we'd like to know what you think about that, or about any of the stories on today's show. it's always great to hear what you think about the program, so you can reach us on facebook, twitter, or email. now, just imagine that your only hope of making a living is by scrambling on top of huge rubbish heaps and trying to find the scraps of metal that you can sell. well, that's the daily reality for many people in romania, like rozalia and her husband. in theory, romania has banned such illegal rubbish dumps. the eu has even given money to help set up environmentally-friendly waste disposal centers. but that's clearly not working, as we found out when we went to meet rozalia.
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reporter: every day, 65-year-old rozalia szabos goes through this illegal rubbish dump near the romanian city of targu mures for things she can sell. she's used to the stench and the corrosive fluids. it's the only way she can make a living. she's not embarrassed by her work, but her husband, who works here too, is. he won't speak to us. ms. szabos: there's no shame in working, but it's a shame to steal. we're looking for metals so we can buy bread. there's no shame in that. reporter: in romania, there are thousands just like szabos and her husband who scour rubbish dumps. there are over 60 such dumps in the country. even though they should no longer exist, as they don't meet european union standards. janos mate is the region's environmental commissioner. for years, he's been warning about the effects of uncontrolled landfills. mr. mate: some water seeps
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through this illegal dump into a stream. from there, it flows into the river muresch. we've filed criminal charges because of the pollution of the river. reporter: but that didn't bring any improvements. brussels has threatened to impose a hefty fine on the city if more rubbish is dumped there. but visiting the dump reveals fresh truck tracks and rubbish that's been illegally dumped just recently, although officially this practice was stopped months ago. the security staff deny everything. >> come on, those are old rubbish bags, they've been lying there for ages. trust me, i would never lie to you. reporter: three years ago, the
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city sealed its old rubbish dump for environmental reasons and opened a new dump according to eu standards, which wasn't used for three years, supposedly because waste disposal companies were competing over the lucrative municipal tender. so nothing changed, and thousands of truckloads of rubbish were dumped illegally beside the old rubbish dump. mr. moldovan: the ministries created the laws, bureaucracy, and contracts without knowing the situation on the ground, and without asking municipalities what problems they face and what possibilities they have to solve them. this caused the country's rubbish problem in the first place. reporter: the city's residents are fed up with excuses like these. they've started taking matters into heir own hands by cleaning the riverbanks.
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they insist they're driving this load of rubbish to the new dump. many simply can't believe their country is beset by this rubbish problem. that's despite receiving billions in eu funding. mr. szakacs: 30 years after the end of communism, things should be a lot better. it's great to see civil society take action like this. but those involved here are rarely the kind of people who are to blame for producing this rubbish or who are responsible for the illegal waste dumps. it's time the authorities finally did something. reporter: today, rozalia szabos might make two or three euros by selling the metal she's found on the illegal rubbish dump. it is supposed to be closed soon
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and replaced by the new dump. but szabos isn't worried. ms. szabos: there are other dumps elsewhere. not quite as large, but that's alright. reporter: szabos and her husband aren't worried that rubbish scavengers like themselves will no longer get by. they say romania is full of dumps just like the one here in targu mures. elizabeth: for many of us, social media has become a part of life. but in one spanish town, local people are using twitter for more than just sharing opinions, and it's sparked a digital revolution and is changing how local government works. send a tweet and get local services working better. well, that's the idea, anyway. we've been to the spanish town of jun to find out if it works. reporter: if you think jun is
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just another sleepy little town in andalusia, think again. because behind the facade, this community is a global pioneer in citizen-government interaction. since 2011, municipal employees and residents have been communicating via twitter. even the automotive street sweeper has its own account. its tweets have made it a local celebrity. it still does the same job, day in day out. but there have been some changes for the street cleaners . >> twitter has been a help with our work. we take before-and-after photos of the roads as proof that we've been doing our job. reporter: from dirty streets to public building works and malfunctioning lights -- in jun, locals can apply for specific municipal services online when something comes to their attention.
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>> you no longer have to go to city hall when there's a problem, or you need a particular document. everything's taken care of on twitter. >> i'm not interested in twitter. i want the authorities to concentrate on other things, like the playgrounds. maybe i'll set up a twitter account and write to them. reporter: and the man behind the revolution in jun is the mayor himself -- jose antonio rodriguez salas. and his trailblazing efforts are not confined to twitter. jun has truly become a laboratory of digital innovation. local council meetings are streamed online, and election votes are cast via e-mail. the town declared internet access a universal right of citizens back in 1999. mayor salas: our set-up makes things convenient for people, and is extremely efficient, too. instead of our staff being kept
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busy with senseless bureaucratic tasks such as stamping documents all the time, they now have more time to talk to people, and to look into and deal with their problems. reporter: an inspiring vision of the future, or the potential nightmare scenario of the digital surveillance state? most people here have no such fears, preferring to focus on the concept's benefits. and to ensure nobody is left out, the authorities run twitter courses for both residents and council staff. ms. romera: first, people have to familiarize themselves with twitter. they don't know how it works or what advantages it brings. the more time they spend here, the more opportunities they discover. reporter: as local government moves into the virtual world, for real town life, there's no
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replacement for the street. not everyone might share the mayor's technophilia, but he sees twitter as just one tool among many in the mission to build an open, and above all, transparent democracy. elizabeth: europe's refugee crisis doesn't really hit the headlines at the moment, but people are still dying in the mediterranean as they try to cross to europe. which is why church groups in italy have come up with a safer way of getting people across. our reporter accompanied a syrian family on the way to their new home in calabria. reporter: riace in southern italy. this is where iman, atieh, and their four children are starting a new life. the first step is learning the language. the syrian family initially fled to lebanon, where they lived for five years. atieh remembers the 30-hour
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journey to get from there to riace, and the shock he felt arriving in what seemed like a different world. mr. al jedi: my first thought when we arrived was that i just want to get out of here. i was so tired on our first night. i kept asking them to take me back to lebanon. but bit by bit i calmed down. people treated us well, and i realized that the italians were good people who gave us a warm welcome. reporter: this is beirut, the capital of lebanon, which borders syria. around 2.5 million refugees live here. the family paid $200 a month for a crumbling room with no windows or bathroom in the city's palestinian quarter, where as syrians, they didn't feel safe. they described their plight in an interview at the time. mr. al jedi: rents are really high here. everyone knows the palestinians are making money off us, even though they're refugees here, too. reporter: atieh was able to work as a baker, but the children
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couldn't go to school. they dreamt of a future in europe, but didn't want to risk their lives on the mediterranean. a lebanese initiative put the muslim family in touch with the catholic "sant'egidio" movement and italy's protestant church. the church decided the family were especially in need of protection, and helped them to travel to europe legally. >> i want to go to italy and go to school and learn there. reporter: they had fled syria and couldn't face staying in lebanon. returning was not an option, although they wished it were. going to italy seemed the only way to offer their children a future, albeit an unknown one. ms. al aswad: i don't actually know anything about italy. all i know is that europeans live in dignity, and that's what's important for us. our children will be safe there, go to school and live a normal life.
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reporter: with little knowledge and even less luggage, their only choice was to trust the italians, wherever they were taking them. the al jedis made their way to a beirut hospital, where all refugees granted this legal passage to italy met before leaving. francesco piobbichi works for the lutheran church. after more than 400 refugees died in the lampedusa disaster, the church wanted to help people come to europe safely and legally to create a humanitarian corridor, something politicians hadn't managed. mr. piobbichi: stupidly, they don't do anything. all they are doing is to build up barriers, and that won't solve the problem. it's just a shame that they support governments that don't respect human rights. reporter: but still, the christian organizations obtained 1000 visas for refugees from the
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italian government. in the past year, they brought around 700 people to italy from lebanon -- safely and without paying smugglers exorbitant amounts for the deadly journey. ms. al aswad: it's wonderful. a dream come true. i hope the kids can forget all the terrible things they've been through and won't be sad anymore, god willing. reporter: the al jedis received a warm welcome in riace. more than 500 refugees live here now, and people hope they will save the village from dying out. mayor lucano: i'm just a little mayor of a community of 1500. it's a huge satisfaction for me that our village has accepted so many refugees. now we're known all over the world for our humanitarian message. reporter: with a flat so much better than the one in beirut, the al jedis are safe and free here. if the father could find work
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and earn some money, the family could really settle in. ms. al aswad: actually, we had more money in lebanon -- the u.n. supported us. but the italians are so much nicer than the lebanese. they treat us with respect here. in beirut, people were always shouting and they were always reproachful whenever they gave us something. reporter: and this humanitarian corridor is setting an example. after italy, france now wants to fly in refugees like the al jedis. polish bishops have also shown an interest in the project. maybe italy's christian message will even make its way to catholic poland. elizabeth: well, that's it for this week. thanks for watching, 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]
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