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tv   Focus on Europe  PBS  March 10, 2018 6:00pm-6:31pm PST

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>> welcome to "focus on europe." i'm michelle henery. germany's government has been in paralysis for months since an indecisive election last september. finally, however, the end could be in sight. in our special broadcast this week, we take a look at what this political limbo has meant for germany and for europe. after weeks of political wrangling, the fate of the potential coalition between angela merkel's conservatives and the social democratic party now lies in the hands of the almost half a million spd party members who have a postal baot on theerms of the agreement. but the vote could go either way because the spd is divided. while the der party establishmt iseen to ren
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the coalition with chancellor merkel, the youth wing wants the party to go into opposition. this split is even apparent in families. we met with ralf stegner, the deputy party chairman who was instrumental not only in the negotiations for the coalition agreement, but also in convincing members to support it, members like his son fabian. he's concerned about the party's sinking approval rating, and wants them to take a new direction. >> carnival season in marne, northern germany, and a chance for the social democrats to get into the party spirit and forget about their troubles and miserable ratings -- for one night, at least. deputy spd chairman ralf stegner is here to drum up grassroots support for a grand coalition in berlin. his son fabian takes a more skeptical view. as a member of the spd's youth
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wing, he's against any renewed alliance with angela merkel's conservatives. as part of the festivities, his father plays a waiter trying to whet his fellow party members' appetite for the coalition. >> we've got it right here, 177 pages long. take your time. a drink, perhaps? it's on the house. how âbout a cocktail? martin's martini surprise -- >> not everyone can laugh atn jokes about the recently departed party leader, martin schulz. they're too worried about the future. 465,000 rank-and-file members now have to decide whether to approve or reject the coalition. the rift between young a old in the partyuns deep. >> i'm voting against the grand coalition because i'm in the young socialists, and i don't think it'd be good for the spd. >> i've been a member of this party for over 40 years.
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if the majority decides it doesn't value all the things we've achieved, plus the good ministerial posts, i'll cancel my membership. >> fabian stegner wants to talk his father out of the grand coalition. that's despite ralf being one of the negotiators who spent weeks working out the deal with the christian democrats. fabian himself happens to work as a volunteer helping refugees. he says the agreement doesn't take them into account adequately. >> how feasible is it to make compromises and say we're at least trying to prevent the status quo on migration and refugee policy from getting worse? >> on refugees, an area i helped to negotiate, we have some improvements. without the spd, there would be no immigration bill. we secured improvements for
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those on extended temporary stays. we argued for a long time. >> many of fabian stegner's generation see another four years of coalition with angela merkel as political stagnation , which they don't want the social democrats to get caught up in. but his father thinks the alternative could be worse. >> you have to compare. i've always been skeptical of the grand coalition and still am. so i understand and accept the objections. but you have to ask, is there any real alternative? if everything goes wrong, we could face a debacle in the next elections. and the probability is extremely high, because the entire electorate would hold us responsible. >> to fabian, that sounds like committing suicide for fear of dying. he says his father's afraid to give the social democrats a new orientation. >> whatever social democracy is, that's where i want to see this society go. that's our concept of humanity,
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that's our idea of co-existence, that's our vision of solidarity and social justice. >> but in the weeks to come, the social democrats will first have to focus on keeping the party together -- on everyone closing ranks and staying in line. one member sums up the spd's situation. >> regrettable, but we have ourselves to blame. >> but could a grand coalition itself perhaps help the party get back on its feet? spd deputy chairman ralf stegner believes that in the end, the rank and file will play along. >> i think a majority of the members will say yes, if we can convince them. we'll have to make good use of the next few weeks. i'll try to do my part. >> his son and many other young social democrats are not convinced. and they'd like a bigger say in running the party in the future. >> i want to see a stronger push moving forward -- not just the string quartet, but some heavy
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metal, too, on the political stage. >> on this stage, at least, ralf stegner sings the praises of party unity, however the vote may go. it may not be riveting or rocking, but he'll be glad if his generation can stay in tune with the crucial younger section of the party base. >> we will know sooner than later whether germany's spd survives this election. but they are not the only center-left party in europe facing an uncertain future. france's socialists were practically wiped out in last year's parliamentary elections. despite being in power during the previous government, the party eked out less than 6 % of the vote. our reporter met with a young socialist in lille who believes he knows where the party's problems lie and is determined to help resolve them. >> lille in northern france has traditionally been a stronghold
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for france's socialist party. mehdi chalah grew up here. he shows us around the suburb of wattrelos, where his parents still live. like many older residents here, they came from algeria. his mother is a cleaning lady, his father a factory worker. chalah became interested in politics when he was just 15. >> one of my first political acts was to tear down a poster featuring former president nicolas sarkozy. i detested sarkozy. he'd called people here trash that needed to be swept away. so i tore it down. >> he's always opposed making concessions to the conservatives. that goes for his fellow left-wingers in germany, too. >> in germany, the social democrats say they need to govern with the conservatives for the good of the country. but that's a mistake. because europe needs a common discourse. we need to say we'll no longer
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accept the status quo -- a europe that pleases the rich and crushes the poor. >> mehdi chalah himself grew up in a poor family. but he worked hard in school and came here every evening to get help with his homework, so he was able to study law. at 17, he joined france's socialist party. it's been in power in lille for decades, and is renovating the area mehdi chalah grew up in. though even that, he says, won't level the playing field for its residents. >> as a teenager, it became clear how important this association was to me, because no one could help me at home. for kids whose parents are teachers, doctors, or lawyers it's a different story. and that's simply not fair. >> he went into politics and moved to paris to work as parliamentary assistant for a socialist mp. but his political aspirations were quashed during the french legislative election of 2017.
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the socialists were decimated, receiving less than 6% of the vote. chalah wants to convince other young people in the party that the socialists themselves were to blame for the election debacle. he believes former president francois hollande should have reacted differently after the 2015 terror attacks in paris. >> many in the banlieues wouldn't observe a minute of silence for the victims, or show respect and solidarity after the attacks. still, the socialists should've listened rather than pointing the finger and calling them racist. 'cause there's something behind their actions. they don't feel part of france. >> but at the party's headquarters in paris, the socialists fail to acknowledge that mistakes were made. people here are more focused on their impending move to new premises. their prestigious central office building was sold, due to a significant drop in membership. france's youth were once fervent supporters of socialist president francois mitterand. today, the editor in chief of
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magazine "la revue socialiste" has a pessimistic view of the future. >> if you're a socialist who cares about the party, there's not much reason to be happy. but it looks bad for socialists all over europe. of course we'll continue to exist. but perhaps as a small party that's dependent on others. it's a far cry from what we'd hoped for. >> many young socialists have joined president emmanuel macron's party la république en marche or drifted to the extreme left. but a small group is trying to save the socialist party. teacher maxime barilleau is among then. he's a village councillor who's continuing the party's work at the grassroots level. he's strictly against forming an alliance with macron's party.
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>> today, macron is a complete right-winger. he makes right-wing policies that benefit the super rich. at least in germany the young socialists positioned themselves against the grand coalition. the young people were the only ones. they knew they'd have to sell their souls to govern with merkel. >> in lille, mehdi chalah is convinced that the socialists have a future in france -- provided that the party undergoes a radical restructuring. >> before we debate our political agenda, we must sort out how we'll reorganize the party internally. >> and he feels that germany's social democrats should do the same, to rejuvenate socialist parties and politics across europe.
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>> the german public aren't the only ones waiting for the new government to finally be in place. brussels, home to the european union's headquarters, where eu laws are drafted, also waits, impatiently. until a coalition is formed in berlin, decisions on how to proceed on brexit, a common refugee policy, or economic reforms are effectively on hold. so much for german efficiency. >> maxburg, a german restaurant right next to the european commission. customers come here to tuck into a slap-up sausage supper and the latest subject of political debate. one thing they agree on -- the lack of a working german government is taking its toll in brussels. >> you have to admit, without germany, there's little progress. >> for belgians, of course, having no government is not
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unusual. there's no dressing down to be had in tintin's homeland for struggling to form a coalition. at the start of the decade the country went 19 months without a government. >> four months isn't that long. here in belgium, things always take forever. you have to be patient. >> germans are so well organized. even without an official government, i'm sure the country is ticking over just fine. >> at the eu's headquarters in the city, however, it's no laughing matter. waiting for germany has led to frustration and frayed nerves. the german coalition agreement comprises some 177 pages, and opens with a chapter on the eu. it promises to improve competition and boost innovation in europe. but it remains to be seen when berlin will actually be able to get started. meanwhile, the president of the european commission, jean-claude juncker, is still reluctant to berate the germans. after all, the coalition agreement mentions the word
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"europe" 312 times by his count, including the title. >> where else can you find a government that commits to european issues from the start? >> but words are not enough. european parliament members in the social democrat camp warn political impasse in germany means the same in brussels. >> with the daily work in the eu parliament, it's this lack of initiatives which we were used to in the past, when germany had a leading role. now it's maybe more passive player. >> centrists agree that the inaction in berlin has to finally end. the eu has urgent matters to address, such as its future budget -- a pressing issue, especially with brexit on the horizon. >> you are already working, formulating our wishes, proposals, taking a position on the seven-year budget. we should finalize the process before the end of term of the eu parliament. >> germany's absence is felt all too acutely in paris.
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president macron wants to rev up eu reforms, but still has to wait for berlin. in brussels, it's no secret that unless france's most important partner gets involved, nothing moves forward here. >> when germany stops talking and stops leading, a big gap emerges in issues such as eurozone reforms, economic policies, and migration and security issues. france wants to negotiate with germany but can't. that really is a big problem. >> over at the german restaurant, everyone agrees that unless berlin picks up the pace, things in europe could get distinctly unappetizing. >> some experts pinpoint the beginning of germany's political crisis all the way back to 2015, when chancellor merkel offered sanctuary to upwards of a million asylum seekers. merkel paid a political price in last year's elections when the far right surged on anti-migrant sentiment. to reach germany, many refugees took the so-called balkan route, crossing through turkey, serbia,
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and hungary. there are thousands of refugees stuck in serbia after hungary decided to limit the entry of migrants to just one per day. it could now take years for many of them to get through. >> this makeshift refugee camp on the serbian-hungarian border used to be full of people. now it is deserted. the drastic steps taken by the hungarian government to deter the refugees -- the soldiers and the high fence -- have had the desired effect, at least here in horgos. two young men are holding out -- payman from afghanistan and fahrid from iran. they've been living here in appalling conditions for over a year. the other refugees chose them to be their contact persons for the authorities. they're supposed to update the list of those refugees allowed to cross into hungary and the european union every day. >> until recently, families would have to wait in various
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holding camps here in serbia for a year or more. now things are much worse. for the last three weeks, hungary has only been allowing one person per day or one family a week to pass through. that increases the waiting period to three or four years. people here are depressed. they're gradually going crazy from having to wait so long. nobody knows when they can go. >> two years ago, this camp in serbia on the hungarian border was badly overcrowded. it had no electricity or water. only 15 refugees were allowed into hungary through the horgos checkpoint per day. hoping to provide some relief, aid organizations and the serbian authorities moved the refugees to camps with better living conditions and further back from the border, where it was easier to monitor them. at the same time, hungary built a fence and made it harder to cross the border.
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payman and fahrid decided to stay on here in one of the tents left behind. they've taken responsibility for informing their fellow refugees in case the border opens. they describe how the procedure works. >> we pick up the family from the tent at 8:00 a.m., and they wait here another hour. then the hungarians call them, and they can enter the country legally. >> but a few weeks ago, the authorities stopped working together with these two refugees without explanation. once a week, payman visits his family in the camp in subotica 20 kilometers away. his little daughter naya is overjoyed to see her father again. about a hundred refugees are stranded here. payman tells the people in the camp about the lack of
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communication from the hungarians. akhmed has a wife and three children already in germany. he himself has been stuck here, with his nephew and sister, for over a year now. >> i was so happy when i reached the border, because i thought i'd be seeing my family soon. at the time, i didn't know what the procedure here was. they're really clamping down -- first 60 people a week, then 30 and now just one a day. >> the government in budapest denies that it's forgotten about the refugees and their plight. >> the hungarian government affords protection to everyone who needs it. there's no decree that we only let person in per day. but if there's only one guy standing around there, why should we put 10 officials on it? >> outside the border fence at horgos, fahrid and payman get
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ready for another cold winter night. they never know when something could happen, and they might be needed. >> i hope the ones who are honest will eventually find their way to a new life. >> neither of them would even think about giving up. payman and farid are adamant that their dream of europe does not end at this border. >> i am warning you that you are at the hungarian border. >> finally, we look at a tiny british territory just 2.6 square miles in size at the southern tip of spain. for hundreds of years, gibraltar has been a thorn in the side of uk-spanish relations. both claim sovereignty, and attempts by the two nations to iron out their differences have
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repeatedly failed. now with brexit approaching, british people here are worried that outside the eu single market, trade and travel will become harder and threaten not just their economy, but their >> for the first time in three stormy days, ernest danino and his customs agents can go back out on patrol. they're looking primarily for contraband cigarettes, which are cheaper in this british overseas territory, so they're often smuggled into spain. the spanish authorities are also on the lookout. >> we try to stay in each other's waters. sometimes that doesnt happen, especially from their side. but we have a good working relationship when it comes to anti-smuggling and rescue operations. on day-to-day patroling, we have very little contact with the spanish authorities. >> but there are contacts which are not so friendly as well? >> sometimes, yes.
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>> to danino and every gibraltarian, the border is a symbol of 300 years of friction between spain and britain. in the 18th century, the spanish laid siege to the rock twice, attempting to recapture it by force. in 1969, spanish dictator francisco franco closed the border completely and imposed an economic blockade. for 17 years, the peninsula had to be supplied by sea and air. ernest danino remembers that era and has no desire to see it repeated , one reason that he and 96% of gibraltar voted against brexit. the eu means advantages such as an open border for labor, trade, and tourism -- the very opposite of renewed isolation. danino's friend paul cartwright works for gibraltar's government. he also sees brexit as a mistake. but worse, he says, is that spain, of all countries, is to be given a say in gibraltar's future as part of the brexit negotiations.
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>> if we have to kick the eu out of gibraltar, we don't mind as long as we remain british and not spanish in any way whatsoever. we would never ever contamplate sharing any type of sovereignity with spain. maybe with any other nation in the world. but not with spain. >> our fear is that we spoil something that works. there is an old saying -- if it works, why mend it. and it's working. we are a thriving small nation, against all odds. and we don't need this threat to sovereignty. i think spain is gonna do its outmost to gain as much. i understand -- i don't sympatize with it, but i understand, they are going to use this unnecessary tool to try and get a foot into gibraltar and it is quite scary to all of us. >> spain is making efforts to dispel the fears of the local population. so far, madrid has only demanded
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joint use of the peninsula's airport and more cooperation on offshore tax evasion. but many gibraltarians see even that as interference in their sovereignty. the customs agents also have to monitor the land border. and if spain vetoes all the brexit agreements concerning gibraltar, conditions here could change drastically. >> the delays would be exaggerated, this border would be treated like completely outside of europe border. 100% checks, which would really stop the flow of people, which is the idea of europe union of having free-flow borders. that would be stopped. the commercial side as well could be affected, and many spaniards, our friends across
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the border who work here, would be affected seriously, yes. >> danino and his partner check out the construction site for a new airport building and tourist facilities right by the border fence. brexit could render major investments in the future redundant. >> we are thriving at the moment. and that is the problem. that if we are out of europe, if the border gets hard, if we haven't got an agreement, and they tighten the screw on us, we will lose what we worked hard to gain. >> whatever the future holds, the people of gibraltar are used to weathering turbulent times. >> berlin has also weathered its fair share of storms. we hope you enjoyed this special edition on german politics and its impact on the rest of europe. goodbye from me and the whole team. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit]
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