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tv   Focus on Europe  PBS  January 9, 2016 6:00pm-6:31pm PST

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damien: hello and welcome to a special new year's edition of "focus on europe," after what's certainly been an eventful year for the whole continent. so today, we're going to look back at the big issues that shaped 2015 with a reminder of some of our favourite stories. in greece, the refugee who's racing towards a new life in europe. the dutch relatives looking for answers after the downing of mh17. and why slovenian farmers are the salt of the earth. one of this year's big stories in europe of course has been the eurozone debt crisis. and it's greece that's been right in the middle of it. athens wants more financial support. but most other eurozone countries want to see economic
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reforms in greece. it's certainly a controversial issue that's been the topic of plenty of arguments between europeans i know. but in a tragic twist of irony, greece is also at the centre of the other big problem rocking europe right now -- the refugee crisis. some of the greek islands have become stepping stones to safety in europe for refugees fleeing war in the middle east. the problem is once they arrive it can take years to be granted asylum, and find a job and a home. but one young refugee is taking all these problems, quite literally, in his stride. reporter: 42 kilometers, in two hours and 15 minutes. that's what houssein hmaidouch needs to run to get a chance to join the greek national marathon team. right now, he's five minutes off that time, so he's training hard. for hmaidouch, it's more than just a lifelong dream. houssine hmaidouch: i'm going to fight for this to the very end.
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reporter: the island of lesbos has been hmaidouch's home now for the past six years. he fled his homeland morocco after being involved in a political movement opposing independence for the western sahara. he started receiving death threats and decided to leave. he wanted to apply for political asylum in greece, but thought he'd stand a better chance through running. he wants to be the first refugee to reach the top. hmaidouch is very popular in lesbos and many are hoping he can gain greek citizenship. one of his friends is a physiotherapist and treats him for free. 25-year-old hmaidouch was already a talented runner back in morocco. in greece, though, he faces many obstacles. the main one is his lack of greek citizenship. houssine hmaidouch: it's quite a burden psychologically. obviously this status of just being tolerated by the greek
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state is difficult for all asylum seekers. in my case, it means i can't compete anywhere abroad, where i would be able to test myself against the best. reporter: every day, the greek coastguard rescues refugees from the sea and brings them to the island's capital mytilini. 73,000 refugees arrived here this past september alone. most of them are transferred to the mainland within a few days, on specially chartered ferries. we visit one of two refugee camps in lesbos. it's not government authorities but rather ngos that are providing the refugees with the basics. hmaidouch helps where he can. with his good knowledge of greek, he's able to help the new arrivals land on their feet in this new environment. that's another reason why he's popular in lesbos.
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>> my brother was sick and hussein helped me to get him into hospital. and then he provideda tent for us at a former campsite and got blankets and clothes for us. houssine hmaidouch: one of the reasons i decided to stay in greece is because people here need me. i could have moved on long ago and tried my luck with another athletic association. but i can't let these other refugees down. reporter: hmaidouch really needs a sponsor. but since the onset of the financial crisis, professional footballers are the only athletes anyone in greece is prepared to pay for. still, hmaidouch says he's grateful. he has a small apartment that he shares with a refugee from afghanistan. houssine hmaidouch: my future in morocco has been destroyed, i can't go back there.
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i was one of the best runners in morocco but still suffered persecution. my parents keep telling me to come back. but i've made my decision. reporter: hmaidouch continues to train hard for the right to open a bank account or drive a moped. for all those things, he'd need greek or e.u. citizenship. but the odds are against him. just five minutes separate hmaidouch from a better chance to get the greek passport he's hoping for. until then, he'll keep running toward his goal. damien: you can't help but be moved when you see how refugees like that are determined to succeed in their new life. but some of the migrants are not fleeing war or oppression. but rather, grinding poverty. the problem for them is that countries like germany, where most are heading, don't see that as a valid reason for asylum. and so migrants are put into two categories -- the "good," for example, syrians, who are generally allowed to stay.
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and the "bad," who are fleeing poverty, such as the tens of thousands of peoplekarte coming -- tens of thousands of people coming from the impoverished balkan state of kosovo, which is in europe, but not in the e.u. in other words, germany is only putting the welcome mat out for some people. for others the door is firmly shut. but why are people still coming from the balkans then? well, we went to kosovo to find out. reporter: smoke billows through sallkovit - and with it a powerful stench. this is ramadan sulejmani's hometown. like everyone here, he makes a living out of producing charcoal -- illegally. he's been doing this since he left school 12 years ago. but he longs for a better life. ramadan sulejmani: if i could afford the journey, i'd go today. there's no reason to stay. there's nothing here. reporter: many people here would like to go to germany to find regular work. that's something ramadan has never had like most here in the village.
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he and his wife shpresa get 80 euros a month in state income support for themselves and their three children. that's not even enough to cover food. that's why he also resorts to felling trees illegally for the charcoal. ramadan sulejmani: we have to pay big fines if we're caught by the police. sometimes they also confiscate our car. reporter: those who can't pay up often land in jail. it takes ramadan 10 days to get enough wood for a charcoal kiln. the wood then needs to be smoked for another 10 days to produce charcoal, which ramadan sells to restaurants in kosovo's capital, pristina. ramadan sulejmani: the kids don't ask if you'll damage your health. they need food, something to drink. reporter: ramadan's wife shpresa know what a comfortable life feels like. when she was 11-years-old, she
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and her family fled to canada to escape the war in kosovo. shpresa sulejmani: yes, i lived in canada with my parents. and it's so nice over there, i'd like to go again. reporter: ramadan's younger brother has already left. not quite a year ago, he and his pregnant wife went to germany with their 2-year-old daughter. ramadan's father is heartbroken that his familyis being torn apart. sulejmani: i can't bear it. i miss them so much. reporter: on the other side of the hill is llabjan. it's home to 18-year-old ukshin beqiri. he tried to leave, and made it as far as southern germany. ukshin beqiri: we made it into serbia legally with our id cards. but we had to cross the border into hungary illegally. with help of the "black market," as we call it.
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reporter: ukshin's asylum application was rejected and he was deported. german authorities said his home country was safe. that may be, he says, but he still wants to escape poverty. fortunes have changed drastically over the years. in the 15th century, this was the site of europe's largest silver mine. in the former yugoslavia, the mines employed much of the local population. but since the war, the number of workers has declined sharply. serbia and kosovo are engaged in a dispute about who owns the mine. ramadan would like a job there, but knows it's unlikely. ramadan sulejmani: if i had one, of course i'd stay here with my family. there'd be no reason to go. reporter: international organisations like u.s. aid have been working hard for years to improve conditions in kosovo. it's hoped micro loans will help create new jobs. the aid agency earmarks funds
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for local infrastructure projects. but as the mission director knows, that money isn't always spent as planned. the aid agency had hoped to bring running water to the village of sallkovit, whose population is largely of albanian descent. but local authorities instead spent it on streetlamps in a serbian-dominated village. such inequities are one more reason ramadan wants to try his luck in germany -- even though germany is doing its best to deter people like him. ramadan sulejmani: we'll try it anyway. reporter: so, as night falls, he makes his way back to the forest to fell more trees. he's saving some of the money to pay traffickers to get him out. damien: the other big theme in europe during 2015 has been islamist terror. and tragically, paris has been hit twice.
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at the beginning of the year 17 people were killed in attacks by jihadi gunmen. and then in november the french capital was hit by an even worse attack, when 130 people were killed in a series of bombings and shootings. many parisians say they refuse to change their lifestyle because that would be a victory for the terrorists. there are others though, who witnessed the carnage, and who are finding it more difficult to cope with the trauma. reporter: just walking to work is tough for sebastien now. he was working at la bonne biere when the terrorists launched their attack on the restaurant. he's not sure he can ever work here again without being afraid. sebastien: i didn't think i'd ever be able to come back here at all. it took some time. but i've lit candles -- five for the people who died here and one for a friend who was at the bataclan theatre.
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reporter: today's the first day he's set foot in the restaurant since the november 13 attack. the police had cordoned off the premises for a week. sebastien can't get the horrifying images out of his mind. sebastien: i moved a bit closer and saw someone who was probably dead. his girlfriend was sitting there opposite him and i called for her to come. i tried to convince her, but she was completely paralyzed with fear. seeing all the dead people, i felt completely powerless. i couldn't do anything for them. at least you could try to help the injured. reporter: hundreds of parisians have been traumatized by the attacks. many have lost friends or family members, or -- like sebastien -- were witnesses to the bloodbath.
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right after the attacks, sebastien's boss hired a psychologist to help his staff members. she advised sebastien not to quit straight away, but instead to slowly readjust to his workplace. martine walpole: people are suddenly confronted with the reality of death, which is something we normally try to forget. this has a hugely powerful effect on those who witnessed the attacks. so it's understandable that it's going to take a bit longer for them to recover. these young people need to spend time together, more now than ever. in the mid- to long-term, some may need to see a psychologist as well. reporter: sebastien says he'll never understand why terrorists target ordinary people like him. sebastien: these terrorists never target the extremists, just ordinary people like you and me.
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it's always the biggest pacifists who are killed -- not those who want to take military action or go to war. they're not the ones who die. it's crazy. reporter: even though his boss never asked him to, sebastien is pitching in with the clean up. he and the other waiters are trying to put things back as they were. he likens it to a kind of group therapy. together, the staff hope to overcome their fear. sebastien: i tell myself that it's better to return here, where i have the support of my colleagues and the management, rather than go somewhere else and find myself with a new employer and colleagues who don't know what i've been through.
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reporter: la bonne biere will soon be ready to welcome guests again -- and they're sure to come. parisians refuse to let others dictate their way of life. like sebastien, their fighting spirit is helping them overcome their trauma. damien: and of course, 2015 has also been characterised by a crisis in relations between europe and russia. the low point was a year earlier when a plane carrying mostly dutch people was shot down over eastern ukraine. many in the west say pro-russian separatists were responsible. but the criminal investigation is still going on. which means relatives in the netherlands still don't know what really happened, and who's to blame, making an already painful situation almost unbearable. reporter: every morning, silene fredriksz goes into her son's room and wishes she could turn back the clock.
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bryce frederiksz lived here with his girlfriend daisy. both of them were on board the ill-fated mh17. that was last summer. silene hasn't changed a single thing since. silene fredriksz: sometimes i sit on the beds. sometimes i smell the clothes. i used to think people were crazy when they did it. now i do it myself. it's a way to survive. because reality is too hard. reporter: bryce and daisy left the house for the last time on the morning of july 17, 2014. the young couple had planned a trip to bali. the malaysia airlines flight took off from amsterdam just past noon. two and a half hours later, the
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plane's wreckage was strewn across the landscape in eastern ukraine, where ukrainian government troops were fighting pro-russian separatists. the relatives soon heard that the nearly 300 people who were on board had died. but it took weeks before they received proof. silene fredriksz: on the 10th of september, we got the first identification of bryce. it was his right foot. and it was severely burned. and that was horrible. reporter: other dutch families went through similar things. many learned almost nothing. after months of waiting, robby oehlers -- daisy's cousin and a friend of the family -- went to the site on his own. the little he found out appalled him. robby oehlers: imagine there's an open field -- it's farm field. you have animals, you have birds.
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and daisy was not identified. be taken by something. e would reporter: when robby arrived at the site of the disaster he found the plane's wreckage simply piled up seemingly at random. robby oehlers: this is a part of the cockpit. i'm going to see if i can find anything. reporter: there, his worst fears were realized. robby oehlers: i saw human remains, and that made me very angry. because the dutch politicians last year said "we have all the bodies. we found them." and they were just open in the field, and you could see the body parts. reporter: the wreckage was finally brought to the netherlands in december -- five months after the jet was shot down. more than a year after the disaster, dutch investigators issued their report.
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they concluded the aircraft was brought down by a buk surface to air missile -- like this one. robby oehlers saw for himself traces of a missile attack on the wreckage. robby oehlers: you will see on the pictures impact holes. those impact holes have different shapes. i am ex-military and you can see that the impact was an explosion. reporter: but who brought down the plane? russians, pro-russian seperatists or perhaps ukrainians? they accuse each other online. it's becoming a propaganda war. elmar giemulla: i assume the culprits won't be caught, beause no one wants these revelations to further agitate a political conflict which is already threatening europe.
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reporter: that would be another cruel blow for silene fredriksz and others who lost loved ones. silene fredriksz: it's surreal. you're in the middle of things you never knew existed, you never think about, because you live in a country at peace for years and then you are in the middle of a big war and your children are war victims. reporter: eventually, silene fredriksz received mail from ukraine. it contained bryce and daisy's boarding passes - found half a year after the crash. a bitter reminder. damien: now in many parts of europe, salt plays a role in some way, shape, or form in the new year's celebrations.
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in fact, traditionally, salt was always a precious commodity. and for some countries an important source of wealth. including for slovenia, where since the middle ages salt has been harvested by hand. but like so many traditional industries, it is now under threat. so slovenians have come up with some rather ingenious ways of keeping the saltworks alive. reporter: the sun is both their enemy and their friend. without the sun, there's no salt. so salt harvesters have to get up early. dario kriznan: if we start at 5:00 in the morning, then it's a bit cooler, at least until 10:00 a.m. and the water is cooler too. by evening, the water can be 70 to 80 degrees celsius. it's exhausting when the water turns to steam right under your feet. reporter: dario kriznan often starts work when it's still dark out. salt harvesters rely on the sun, but after 10:00 in the morning, it's too hot to work. and harvesting salt by hand is
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back-breaking work. here in piran, they've been using the same techniques to do it for 700 years. after just a few hours, the sun has risen over the top of the hill. suddenly it's scorching, with temperatures approaching 40 degrees celsius in the shade. but there's no shade here. dario kriznan: my grandfather worked the salt pans. when i was a boy, he always told me it was good, hard work. i internalized that, and that's% why i work here. reporter: dario used to work in an office but he can't imagine doing that anymore. this is his life's work. he presses on, filling one trolley after the next with salt. each weighs nearly a ton. the short incline at the end is especially brutal. but the hard work pays off. the salt is premium quality.
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the crowning glory is the top layer. dario kriznan: the scent is wonderful. you should try it. it's called fleur de sel. the fleur de sel is the first salt that collects in the pans it's like ice on the surface of the water. we harvest it with special nets. reporter: that's what dario sau is doing. he's been the production manager at the piran salt works for 25 years now, and is a real expert. fleur de sel is delicate, and has to be harvested with care. and you need to pick exactly the right moment to harvest it. any later, and the sun spoils the flavor. sau's family has been working the salt pans for four generations. dario sau: it's always been hard work, then and now.
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you have to really want it. but if that desire is in you, you can do great things. reporter: but even a true passion for the work can't overcome market forces. the global market is dominated by cheap, industrially produced salt. dario sau: if salt sales don't go up, then quite honestly, this won't be a secure job anymore. i'm sorry to have to say it, but soon we won't have enough work to give jobs to future generations. reporter: but dario and the rest haven't given up hope. salt harvesters are a hardy bunch, and determined. it's not just a job for them. dario kriznan: the salt, its like it's our creation. people consume it, which is a satisfying feeling. the more beautiful the salt, the more satisfaction is gives us.
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reporter: dario says there's always something new to learn. it's an age-old art, and he's doing his best to keep the tradition alive. [captioning performed by the national captioning institute, which is responsible for its caption content and accuracy. visit] damien: well, that's it for today's special edition of "focus on europe." let me know what you think about any of the stories on today'show. or over the entire past year for that matter. i can be reached on twitter, email, or facebook. but in the meantime, the only thing left for me to do, is to wish you a very happy 2016. thank you for watching. and look forward to seeing you again next time.
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steves: london is growing, and its underground is growing with it. historically, most london attractions have been contained within its downtown circle line, but there's a new tube network emerging, and it's clear -- london is shifting east. each morning, a thunderous high-tech workforce surges into a district called the docklands. once a gritty industrial harbor, then a neglected no-man's-land, today the docklands has been transformed. it fills a peninsula created by a bend in the thames
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with gleaming skyscrapers springing out of a futuristic people zone. canary wharf tower is one of the mightiest skyscrapers in all of europe. workers enjoy good public transit and plenty of green spaces for relaxing. the entire ensemble sits upon a vast underground shopping mall. in the 1700s, the thames riverfront was jammed up with shipping in downtown london while this end of town was an industrial zone with the stinky industries -- glue making, chemical works, and so on -- conveniently located just downwind from the rest of the city. in order to relieve all the congestion in downtown london, they decided to replace the industries out here with what became the world's ultimate port. the docklands organized shipping for the vast british empire. evoking the days when britannia ruled the waves, the old west india warehouses survive.
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but rather than trading sugar and rum, today they house the museum of london docklands and a row of happening restaurants. london's docklands illustrates how, in order to fully experience the energy of a great city, you often need to get out of the historic old town and explore its modern business district.
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