Skip to main content

tv   Quadriga - The International Talk Show  LINKTV  May 1, 2015 9:00am-10:01am PDT

9:00 am
annenberg media ♪
9:01 am
r of the late 20th century seems far removed, today 21st-century europe strains to accommodate the outcome. the fall of the berlin wall marked the end of the soviet empire's iron curtain and reshaped germany's borders. a new unified berlin is emerging: the capital of a reunited germany near the center of a european region whose borders expanded with the demise of the iron curtain. narrator: during the cold war that followed world war ii germany existed as two antagonistic countries, east germany and west germany.
9:02 am
berlin, the historic capital of the nation, located deep inside communist east germany was also divided into east and west sectors. for nearly 30 years, this division was marked by a wall built right through the city. the wall went up in 1961. then in 1989 germany was reunified and the wall was torn down. man: the wall comes down, there is great euphoria. finally the two cities can be connected again and made one. it is a new symbol of the unification of germany, the syol of unification of germany. people are euphoric-- they go to the wall when the wall opens up and they visit and they hug and everybody seems to be very happy but once the euphoria settles a little bit it becomes very clear that between the two sides there is fundamental differences. narrator: an entire generation had grown up on opposite sides of the wall under radically different political
9:03 am
systems with different social values. now everyone would live in a capitalistic market economy-- in effect, the west had won-- but it hasn't been easy to bridge the 40-year gap. isabelle aflalo studied the urban geography of berlin just after the wall was demolished. she starts herourney in what was west berlin, near what the locals call the "ku'damm," or the kurfuerstendamm. this avenue, often compared to the champs-elysées in paris was a showcase of western consumer goods and the capitalistic lifestyle when the city was still divided. ( aflalo speaking french ) translator: we have just seen the ku'damm district a very rich area with a lot of commercial and cultural activities. when the city was divided, this area was very heavily financed by west germany. herb: in the west, this was the symbol of the success of the capitalist system. we have the construction of ku'damm
9:04 am
building up with beautiful shops with department stores that showed, really, that this was the promised land, this is... all the goods could be had on the western side. narrator: the train takes isabelle toward the center of berlin, through a neighborhood called kreuzberg right beside the former wall. this area became during the time of the wall, the refuge of less-fortunate sectors of society and therefore the center of a more popular and cosmopolitan lifestyle. a whole culture of cheap if not free, accommodation took over the area. it was also the me of 50,000 rkish immigrants. after reunification, many expected kreuzberg to become more desirable and expensive, but that hasn't happened. it's still the poorest neighborhood in berlin.
9:05 am
as isabelle continues eastward she enters the station for the elevated train just at the place where the wall once cut the city in two. when the wall was built in 1961 by the soviet army the official reason was to create a barrier to protect the east from its capitalistic enemy, the west. in fact, the wall was built to stop the uncontrollable flood of emigration from east to west berlin. for 28 years, the blunt and brutal wall divided not only streets and families, but also symbolized the cold war dividing the entire world. ( aflalo speaking french ) translator: at the time when the town was split this place was an intermediate zone which was no longer in the west but not quite in the east either since the border was in fact, defined by the river. the wall was quite rough; it was not painted since it was situated in a zone reserved for transit formalities. in fact, there were three types of passage, very regimented:
9:06 am
those for foreigners those for west germans and, like here only for west berliners. ( continues in french ) translator: and now i'm entering east berlin. narrator: here, the tramway replaces the subway along avenues with many deserted buildings. the urban layout here, contrary to that of the west is radial rather than linear. it is a more classical and ntrolled urban model with avenues converging on alexanderplatz, both the historic center of the town and what was the symbolic center of communist power. it is here that alternative culture now gravitates. ( man speaking german ) translator: of course, for us, living in this building is a kind of philosophy. i've lived in the friedrichshain area
9:07 am
for four years now. before that, i lived in west berlin, in kreuzberg. i really needed a new apartment, and there were houses empty here. that's why i moved to friedrichshain. there are 70laims of ownership on this building. until 1933, it belonged to polish jews who were thrown out by the nazis. then it became the property of the german democratic republic and now the courts are trying to decide to whom they will give it. narrator: friedrichshain, and especially kreuzberg, were expected to become more desirable even expensive places to live after reunification. but the process of putting a city back together again is complex and can be very hard to predict. herb: now with the wall gone
9:08 am
there'll be investment into the city center area. this will bring the two sides together. there'll be speculation, and actually, the less- affluent sections of society will move out, because they will not be able to afford the new rents, which will go up with renovations left and right. and this hasn't happened to the degree that people thought it would. narrator: and as the realities of reunification diverge from expectations, some berliners resent the changes. ( taxi driver speaking german ) translator: before, no one was interested in berlin-- nobody came to berlin. why? because there was nothing to gain. now we're going to have the government and everything that goes with it-- all the big international companies, the lobbyists and all the rest. for me, it's not positive. once, just after reunification one
9:09 am
of my clients said to me "we should rebuild the wall, but four meters higher and this time, all the way around berlin." narrator: whether its inhabitants like it or not, berlin is now an open city and the site of major development efforts. one of the first big developments was created almost literally out of the rubble of the wall. potsdamerplatz is an ambitious attempt to build an entirely new corporate and commercial magnet right in the heart of what was prewar berlin. international corporations like sony, at&t and daimler-benz have invested in major construction, which also includes a vast shopping mall hotels, and movie theaters. perhaps because it is so totally new and shows off a commercial, global culture instead of the city's own past potsdamerplatz has become hugely popular with berliners.
9:10 am
this is one place where residents of the former east and west can mingle freely and comfortably. as much as potsdamerplatz has changed the face of berlin the most significant development in the city's new identity is not commercial but political: the decision to put the capital of a reunified germany in its orinal historic location-- berlin. ( speaking german ) translator: we are now entering the bend of the spree river. this is the site that was chosen for the future chancellery and the new parliament building. narrator: the new federal strip literally straddles the site of the old wall and includes a new chancellery and parliament building. like so much else in today's berlin, both its location and the design of the buildings are meant to express the spirit of a reunified city and country. the fact is, of course that after reunification east germany in economic and social terms is considerably behind west germany, and the decision to move or to designate berlin as the capital
9:11 am
is in part a reflection of a commitment to trying to show east germany that it is indeed part of the new germany. narrator: also symbolic was the decision to refurbish the traditional seat of the national legislature, the reichstag. in part, this was intended to make a statement about germany's democratic government. herb: here we have this old german symbol that's transformed by this glass dome over this and transforms the building, and you can now go upstairs in the dome and not only see all of berlin right around you-- you can see potsdamerplatz you can see over to oranienburgerstrasse, where the old synagogue used to be which has been beautifully restored you can see the alex the old eastern tv tower and you can also see into the chamber. the light from the dome feeds actually into the chamber where the debates are. so this is what... for the germans, it is a representation of the transparency of their new democracy that they're
9:12 am
having now. berlin is a very exciting city because of the construction, because it's in flux and it's not just a small town somewhere along the former iron curtain. berlin is where the east and west meets in a real, substantial sense. and i think that's why berlin can go out of the slump it has right now because it has that kind of unique situation of being at the cutting edge right there at the meeting place between the two sides of east and west. narrator: since the fall of the wall in 1989 and the end of the cold war rivalry between e west and the soet union berlin is being transformed into one city as the capital of a unified germany. the collapse of the soviet iron curtain reshaped europe itself. berlin has once again assumed a physically central location in a new expanded european region. berliners are hopeful that their city will soon attain
9:13 am
a more central functional location within europe as well. in the decades to come their success will be measured in an eastward shift of europe's economic core and the emergence of berlin as a city whose relative location is at the center of a new europe. technically, poland became democratic in 1989 almost immediately after the collapse of soviet rule here. but the diffusion of democratic practice-- that is, the transformation of people's behavior, values and social institutions-- takes much longer. this is the story of a polish-american geographer who has been leading an effort in poland to spread the skills and attitudes and create the social institutions that make a successful free-market economy and democratic society possible. ( woman speaking polish ) translator: the elections brought hope.
9:14 am
we thought the new system would bring change. but now we see that politicians are politicians. and while they quarrel, the people get poorer and poorer. ( speaking polish ) translator: society is still living as if we were in communism. people thi that every new thing is a bad thing. the people can't switch. ( students debating in polish ) narrator: years after the collapse of communist rule, these polish teenagers voice the frustrations of a nation. ( speaking polish ) translator: my father is 42. he doesn't have good health. what is he supposed to do, compete for a job? narrator: poland's transition to democracy has not brought the prosperity many poles expected. a recent survey claimed that 70% felt life was harder now than it was under communism. man 1 ( translated ): jarek is talking about natural selection. if you are a pusher, you get a good job and the others don't. but what about good, moral people? man 2 ( translated ): the person who is stronger wins-- this is capitalism!
9:15 am
the law of the jungle? the stronger will win. but that's the law of the jungle. narrator: but in the debate over these difficult economic questions joanna strzelecka-- the teens' attentive teacher in the middle there-- sees new skills emerging a new capacity for discourse compromise and civic engagement. the future of poland's democracy depends on how quickly these skills spread through its population. strzelecka is an agent of this diffusion. she is part of a plan crafted by a geographer to speed the pace of change in a race against the collapse of open society. in 1989, democracy reached poland and the other eastern bloc nations of the former soviet empire. now these nations face the turmoil of political and economic transition, and their fledgling democracies are put to a severe test. man ( translated ): each time you vote by majority
9:16 am
you should define what "majority" means. narrator: before she could teach it, strzelecka had to learn for herself that democracy is about more than voting for politicians; it's a decision-making process that pervades not just government but civic, social and even business organizations in an opociety. translator: in fact, a majority is always 50% of the votes plus one. narrator: today, in the very classrooms where communist workers once learned auto mechanics, community leaders like strzelecka are learning the mechanics of democratic decision making. ( man speaking polish ) translator: why is it 50% plus one vote? why can't it be 54%? ( translated ): we can't have people divided into point-somethings. and if we say 50% plus one then it's 12 in this case. ( continuing to discuss in polish ) narrator: this workshop on how to set up an association is one of many
9:17 am
given by the local democracy in poland program, a nationwide effort to introduce democratic practice to the population. ( group discussing in polish ) narrator: these trainees are here because local group decision making-- a crucial activity in a democracy-- was almost nonexistent under communist rule. so the trainees are taught some unfamiliar skills and insights... ( speaking polish ) narrator: like team building and public relations conflict resolution and negotiating and the importance of point of view. ( light laughter ) each of the trainees was selected according to a finely honed strategy, a strategy based on the geographic phenomenon of diffusion. diffusion is the spreading of an idea innovation, disease, anything, from its source outward across the landscape.
9:18 am
politically, a country can become democratic literally overnight. but true democratic practice spreads slowly and unevenly, a rate of change that poles are looking to increase. chief architect of poland's plan to spread democratic practice is polish-born geographer dr. joanna regulska, who teaches at rutgers university. regulska emigrated to the u.s. in 1977. since 1989, however, she's worked closely with poland's parliament developing the framework for political and economic reform. when you want to sometimes to achieve something and bring everybody together and you want it with all the democratic notion of getting the ownership, well you need to spread this around. you need to kind of bring the communities together the little places together. so these are the most important people-- for me, the people in the small village are the most important people. yes, the politicians in warsaw make the decisions.
9:19 am
but, actually, these people in the small village are going to need to eventually stand up and say those decisions are wrong and we need to change them. narrator: regulska's concern for the little places is not nostalgic but geographic. the bulk of poland's population lives in the small towns and villages, not in the more-democratized cities. rejection of democracy in these regions, then could jeopardize the people's freedom. as a geographer, regulska knows that diffusion of democracy will depend on the barriers and the carriers. in poland, democratic society seems to have taken root in the largest cities thanks to carriers such as the media... tourism... and universities,
9:20 am
all of which help to spread w ideas and opportunities. but in the small towns and villages, change comes hard. ( rooster crowing ) here, regulska found thatemocratic pracce as measured by voter turnout the presence of nongovernmental organizations and citizens' initiatives-- is lagging badly. the barriers-- such as isolation and massive unemployment-- are hi and the carriers-- humanor technological-- are few. ( discussing in polish ) narrator: working with the foundation in support of local democracy here in their warsaw headquarters, regulska lays out her strategy for diffusion. her team used the foundation's regional training centers as bases and targeted 25 towns in which to plant the seeds of democracy.
9:21 am
if all goes well, acts of public engagement in community life will spread outward from these hubs to the adjoining regions. strzelecka and her colleagues were recruited from among these communities. once they are schooled in democracy skills, each of these 90 trainees will be a carrier. back home they will model democratic behavior by initiating town projects, networking and organizing the citizens of their villages and regions. take the two trainees on the right, for example, two of the youngest participants. they are tomek podolski and jacek kretkowski a heavy-metal guitarist and budding writer, respectively. they live in korsze, a village of 3,200 people in one of poland's most remote regions. here, the mainstay of life has almost always been agriculture. under mmism, large ate-ownefarmlike t
9:22 am
were the number one employers. but the political and economic reforms of 1989 have changed that dramatically. since then, most of these cooperatives have either privatized and sharply reduced their labor forces or they've padlocked their gates for good. the result in korsze the trainees say ecord 32% unemoyment and suspicion and resentment for the reform ( gate rattles ) to show this town the democratic way the duo performed a simple act of citizen-initiated social organization. they put together a ping-pong tournament. so, what does ping-pong have to do with community needs? ( young man speaking polish ) translator: we are not starting with a very big or complicated problem but it would be very difficult for
9:23 am
us if we started with a major problem and we couldn't solve it. people would desert us. they would say, "they were trying but they are incompetent, and so we don't want to talk to them." but if we can make something simple, a tournament and we're successful then we can try to cope with more difficult problems in the future. narrator: in fact, grassroots organizing like this is the bedrock of a successful democracy. and in korsze, ping-pong proved the perfect ice breaker. ( rock music playi ) but even this isn't so simple. without a local paper, it's up to them to spread the news of the event. and for the winners, in a region where things are tight, s in gifts and cash totaling close to six million zlotys.
9:24 am
that's almost $300 or the equivalent in korsze of two months' wages. their campaign worked. four days before the tournament, these kids are here to practice, and the roster shows more than 75 entrants from three towns. and recent budget decisions show that starting small and gaining trust has paid off. korsze's legislators this year okayed the funds for tomek and jacek's second project building a town playground. as word of such success spreads, the potential for civic engagement grows. this diffusion will speed or slow according to local social and economic factors. regulska: it's important to really also think about the context you know, what's happening in these places, to what extent they will be like a sponge accepting and to what extent there will be certain resistance
9:25 am
and the barriers and kind of, you know, we need to work this differently. narrator: the barriers are not always obvious. an important one revealed itself only after the project had been running for years. we tended to lose women over time from these programs. and we did not understand what is really happening-- why, when initially we were very much gender-balanced when we have chosen, by the end of the year first year or second year, we notice that we have less and less women. we went back to women and we've asked them "what is it that caused you to stop coming to the meetings to the workshops to the seminars?" and women have pointed out a number of the things which point out that they're a very patriarchal, conservative society. they felt that they needed to know three, four times more and better than men in order to be allowed to speak, in order to be heard by the people and in order to create within the
9:26 am
meeting a space for themselves. they very often, uh, were, um, dismissed-- their efforts-- by the officials. they would go with men together, and the mayors would speak to men but women would be left out. they were overburdened because of the very still traditional gender division of labor at home: they work, they take care of the family of the husband, of the children. they have no time, they are exhausted, they are tired. they want to, but there was just not enough hours during the day. so, for us it was very important, because what it did, in that history of the gender relation in that particular country told us that we cannot do what we wanted to do-- bring at the same time from the beginning both men and women and work with them. and we've created a series of special programs, um, developed in particular addressing women-- um, focus on advocacy and lobbying skills--
9:27 am
to address these issues and to develop the styles and allow them to develop the styles of leadership, of management that they feel most comfortable with, because then that's when they're going to be the most effective. and so the difference by the 2002 is that certain things spread around. there's a clearly enormous civic potential. there are thousands of nongovernmental organizations across the country. there are enormous citizen participation in the local initiatives. narrator: though high unemploynt remains a problem here poland's post-soviet economy has grown by almost 25%. in 2002, as eastern europe's most stable society and best economic performer, it was poised for admission into the european union. credit for poland's achievements goes in part
9:28 am
to sound economic policy in part old-fashioned good governance and in no small part to the rapid diffusion of democratic practices throughout polish society. captioned by media access group at wgbh
9:29 am
9:30 am
annenberg media ♪
9:31 am
rrator: europe is perhaps the region most associated with supranationalism-- the voluntary association of three or more countries. one example of supranationalism is the european union-- an economic alliance designed to improve european competitiveness in the world economy. but this alliance is more than just economic. it is also europe's attempt to forge a community with common values even as individual state identity is maintained. strasbourg is located on the border of france and germany and has endured centuries of conflict between those two nations. today, it is one seat of the european union--
9:32 am
a symbol of modern unity. as political boundaries become more permeable, perceptions of place change as well as deeper, more personal meanings of national identity. when state boundaries become porous, what does it mean to be french or german or european? strasbourg serves as one of three centers for the european union. this medium-sized city of 250,000 is not a major player in europe's financial or industrial arenas. so why is it playing such an important role in europe's political future? the answer can be found in strasbourg's cultural history-- a product of its unique borderland location. strasbourg literally means "city of the roads that cross." these roads lead west to atlantic europe east to central europe north to great britain and south to the mediterranean world. most crucial of all, strasbourg sits on the rhine river
9:33 am
between two of europe's strongest historical rivals-- france and germany. strasbourg really occupies a very special kind of position. of course, it's bounced back and forth a bit between german and french influence and, in fact 500 or 600 years ago it was really falling within the influence of the german empire. and then as the french empire was expanding and in conflict with the german empire along the rhine it came under french influence. the franco-prussian war in the 1870s, however, was partly driven by german efforts to expand to the west bank of the rhine-- that's where strasbourg sits. so it became formally a part of germany at that time. and then in the 20th century it's fallen back under french control. those original cultural and linguistic ties with germany are still there, so you have a dialect that is a germanic dialect but it's now, of course, formally a part of france. and this particular and special situation gives it a bifurcated identity which is really sort of special for a city of its sort. narrator: as the capital of france's
9:34 am
alsace region, strasbourg's combination of cultures is one of its strengths. ( speaking french ) translator: we are fortunate some would say to be the fruit of a mixed marriage-- a marriage between a so-called "germanic" culture and a latin culture. this is alsace. narrator: you can see this dual history in the architecture here. strasbourg is german in its 16th-century timber-framed houses. strasbourg is french in the ordered lines of the 18th-century rohan palace. strasbourg is german in the neoclassical architecture of emperor wilhelm ii's rhine palace. and strasbourg is french in its walls fortified by vauban in the time of louis xiv. in today's strasbourg, though, the walls that once existed between the city's two cultures
9:35 am
are breaking down. when you cross from germany into strasbourg, you notice something unusual at the border between two countries-- no one is stopping at customs. ( speaking french ) translator: the 1st of january 1993 marked the setting up of the european internal market, freeing circulation between the 12 countries of the european community. border crossings are no longer subject to customs controls at the point of entry to a country. all such controls take place within the borders and are supervised by mobile units. narrator: thirty kilometers south of strasbourg on the rhine river is a district called rhinau. most of rhinau is in france, but part is in germany. this is a very unusual situation left over from medieval times, but it shows how the meaning of borders is changing today. ( speaking french ) translator: i go to germany to reap the corn on my land--
9:36 am
a thousand hectares-- which is in the district of rhinau. when the borders were closed i had to stop here and the custom officers would ask what i was doing. so i would explain that i owned some land here. ( speaking french ) translator: all along the rhine, there are dozens of people who work in germany who are very happy that these openings still exist. and germans also come here to do their shopping. the formal transboundary cooperation agreements that have developed across the upper rhine have facilitated the ability of germans to come into the strasbourg area and to buy up property. and what this means, of course is that they are living now in a different context from the one they used to live in and that makes them think about themselves and their place in different ways, and it certainly helps to break down a sense of "this is french and this is german," which, of course, lay behind some of the animosities that characterized this region
9:37 am
throughout much of the 20th century. ( man speaking french ) translator: now we have come to the point that every house for sale is bought by german buyers. they even buy building sites. one of them has built his house out here. you know, the price is so much lower here that they can buy a house and its site with the price they would pay for a site alone over there. on the down side, however, of course, is they come in in growing numbers, buy up property; this raises real estate prices. and, of course, it makes it more difficult then for locals particularly locals of less... who are less well off, to get into the real estate market. and so there are potential resentments that can be fostered by this sort of activity as well. narrator: strasbourg's stature as an important center of european cooperation grew from a decision in 1949 to locate the council of europe here.
9:38 am
( speaking french ) translator: the council of europe finally became, at least to some extent, the route to a democratic europe, because all the democracies, one by one, became members. narrator: the council of europe was established in 1949 with ten countries. new members have continued to join, and since the fall of the iron curtain, the entry of russia and most of the eastern european countries has brought the total to 41. subsequently, the so-called european communities were born. firstly the coal and steel community, then in brussels the european community. these were the predecessors of the european union. adinolfi: all of the countries that joined the european community were, first of all members of the council. so it can be considered as a sort of antechamber for the european union. narrator: today strasbourg is also home to the european union's legislative branch-- the european parliament. but the capital of the european union is, in a sense, split
9:39 am
with major administrative centers in brussels and luxembourg city, as well as strasbourg. murphy: there's a little bit of a struggle about where the future of this will go. there's an enormous expense right now associated with running back and forth between brussels and strasbourg. indeed, many of the parliamentary committees meet in brussels. then they have to get on a train with their tons of documents and get on over to strasbourg for their formal parliamentary meetings. so it's an issue before europe of how much this is worth. but, of course there are political and cultural interests vested in this. ( speaking french ) translator: strasbourg is on the border between germany and france and for centuries, the city has been caught in the middle of conflicts between the two nations, and reconciliation between them has passed by strasbourg. since we have so few symbols in europe,
9:40 am
strasbourg is surely an appropriate symbol of unification and peace. and the parliament would be crazy not to take advantage of the possibilities of this town as its seat. even if the european union remains simply an economic union, it has already achieved a lot. but if it remains only economic, if it does not enter into the hearts of the people if there is no common belief it will run aground. narrator: these cultural foundations will be crucial to the success of the european union. translator: i am from naples and i am completely, thoroughly neapolitan. yet i have decided to spend my life in strasbourg. i will spend all my life here. it feels good here. i have a lot of friends here and this environment the european atmosphere, which is so much a part of strasbourg, suits me perfectly.
9:41 am
narrator: further economic unification continued in 2002 with the adoption of a common currency, the euro. but, as economic, political and cultural unification proceeds, will the europeans be able to maintain their national and cultural identities? many still feel themselves to be french and many still feel themselves to be german on either side of the international boundary. strasbourg, as we were talking about earlier, has always had a little bit of an in-between position with respect to that. but what this does is... the recent developments help to reinforce that in-between position. and i think, probably, although it's difficult to get survey evidence to show this it tends to make people think more in terms of not even so much necessarily local alsatian terms but in terms of multiple levels of identity in which europe is one of them. narrator: and how do these multiple levels of identity
9:42 am
translate to a self-image for the people who live in border regions such as alsace? translator: we are alsatian, and we are proud to be. but we are also proud to be french and i hope we will soon be proud to be european. narrator: as one of the capitals of a new, united europe, strasbourg symbolizes an increasingly important concept: that of supranationalism, as embodied by the european union. it is an idea that transcends cultural and national definitions of state territory. as boundaries allow more fluid movement, perceptions of state identity may become more fluid as well. in the final analysis, europe's supranationalism seeks to enhance how european places interact with each other and how europe, as a region, can most effectively interact with the world. europe has seen increasing supranationalism through organizations like the european union.
9:43 am
however, at the same time, certain countries in the region have split apart-- a process called "devolution." though former yugoslavia dissolved into bitter war, its neighbor, czechoslovakia separated peacefully into the czech and slovak republics. our focus is on the slovak republic. we'll see that this young country still struggles with border disputes ethnic tensions and economic development issues connected to its communist past and its independent future. thirty miles east of vienna lies a nation that is barely beyond its first decade of existence. the slovak republic-- or slovakia-- only came into being on january 1, 1993 with the breakup of the old czechoslovakian federation. french geographer ewa kulesza is exploring how boundary issues
9:44 am
have affected the people of this young east central european country. located only three miles from the austrian border slovakia's capital, bratislava already possesses a long frontier history which starts with the danube. it was the northern limit of the roman empire. then, having fallen under hungarian domination during the ninth century bratislava, then named pozsony lay at the limits of the territory. later, pozsony became pressburg and marked the border of the two halves of the austro-hungarian empire. finally, pressburg became bratislava when, in 1918, the first czechoslovakian state was forged. but one war and a few years later, the old castle still saw another frontier pass at its feet-- the iron curtain. then, in its turn, this last empire
9:45 am
fell in 1989. ( man speaking slovak ) translator: at a certain point the czech political class decided that it would suit them better if slovakia became independent thus to create a barrier to the ukraine and the balkans. they thought that this would allow their economy to conform more easily to western european norms. concurrently, a group of slovak leaders felt that the economic restructuring program proposed by the czechs was not very advantageous for slovakia. this was how following the 1992 elections the new prime ministers, vaclav klaus for the czech republic and vladimir meciar for slovakia decided that the two federal states must separate peacefully. ( speaking slovak )
9:46 am
( cheers and applause ) the slovaks always felt that they were treated as second-class citizens within czechoslovakia. they thought it was supposed to be an equal union and they felt that the czechs looked down upon them, and they didn't like that. that's part of the driving force for separating. it became... it helped slovak national self-esteem by having their own country and feeling like they had total governance over themselves. narrator: the so-called "velvet divorce" announced, the territory still had to be divided. for two years, a bilateral commission worked to determine the true line of the border. this line follows approximately the historic limitations of the ancient czech and slovak federal republics. ( speaking french ) translator: so, there's the border. kulesza ( translated ): this border corresponds more or less
9:47 am
to an ancient historic line. but, you can see that a border is a physical reality that is set out meter by meter with vy re consequences for people. borders are where we as human beings decide that we want to place them. and we change them and we change them every so often-- decades, sometimes it takes centuries-- but they're not what often people think as natural, you know, that somehow... that they're supposed to be there. borders are really human constructs. narrator: in the village of sidonia, the little stream which defines the border meanders so much that it was decided to use the road as the dividing line. ( speaking slovak ) translator: here, for example, the border tes the center line of the road. the family's house lies on the czech side of the road, while their outhouses are located on the slovak side. but you must understand that this situation arose as a result of a will to compromise
9:48 am
in order to facilitate the lives of the village people. ( woman speaking czech ) translator: i've lived on the czech side. i've always lived there, and when i saw barriers at the end of the road, i cried. why is it like this? who wanted it? why did those people up there decide to separate the people? it's really awful! narrator: along with such local concerns larger economic and political challenges are to be found along slovakia's borders. the gabcikovo dam rises over the danube river on the boundary between slovakia and its southern neighbor, hungary. begun in 1977, this was one of the last gigantic construction projects undertaken by the communist regime. a joint venture between hungary and czechoslovakia this immense hydroelectric project has become an inherited source of conflict.
9:49 am
white: the idea was that they would divert water from the danube river through turbines to generate hydroelectric energy. but at the same time it was potentially environmentally destructive. it would move 97% of the water from the danube river through a concrete channel that could then be run through the turbines. hungarian scientists began to realize that there would be vast environmental consequences-- pollution of groundwater tables, even surface water would be polluted. it could potentially destroy habitat for animals. and there was another issue that downriver from the dam is budapest, a city of 2 1/2 million people. in time, hunrians, through street prosts, et cetera pressured their own government to slow down on their... their half of the project, so that by late 1980s, the hungarians only had completed roughly ten percent of their project where the slovaks had pushed ahead, actually
9:50 am
and were almost 90% done. so this started to create tensions between the two countries. with the hungarians not wanting it to go through and... and stopping, the slovaks came up with an option to just completely finish the dam and the whole project on their side of the boundary. kulesza ( translated ): it has produced a tangled web of unresolved ecological political and legal problems with the southern neighbor. the two countries have applied to the international court of justice at the hague to resolve this dispute by peaceful means. this is not the balkans, this is central europe. the hungarians accuse the slovaks of having displaced the border between the two countries by a few hundred meters. narrator: in 1997, the court ruled that both parties must work to negotiate a new solution to their conflict. the gabcikovo hydropower plant is operational but issues of water control along the border continue to be a hostile point between the two countries.
9:51 am
another legacy of slovakia's communist past is its flagging economy. as part of czechoslovakia, its orientation was east its economy tied to the soviet union. since separation slovakia has lagged behind the czech republic due in part to its eastern location and lack of infrastructure. the czech half of the country was more industrialized. and without that half, the slovak part of it has languished more economically especially since the czech part of the country if you look at a map of europe is much closer to the industrialized part of western europe. the czech republic is in a good position in terms of import and export. the distances are quite short. slovakia ends up being farther away. bratislava is very close to vienna and budapest and is probably prospering more than the eastern parts of the country which now seem very far away
9:52 am
for any kind of german investment or french investment. just... they... they won't invest in factories in the eastern part of slovakia just because of transportation problems communication problems lack of infrastructure. countries bordering, you know, countries of the european union-- very industrialized-- have prospered quite nicely, but the eastern halves of the country haven't received the kind of investment that the western portions of the country have. narrator: slovakia initially applied for european union membership in 1995, eager for the economic and political benefits this alliance provides. membership approval is expected early this century. the e delay in membership can be attributed in part to both slovakia's languishing economy and ongoing ethnic tensions. the area north of the danube is home to 560,000 hungarians, about ten percent of slovakia's population. generally speaking the two ethnic groups get along on a local level.
9:53 am
( speaking slovak ) translator: actually, the population of the village is 63% hungarian and 37% slovak. there are no problems of coexistence between these simple people. here, primary schools exist for each community. the parents are free to choose but two-thirds of the children go to the slovak school. ( speaking hungarian ) translator: i am hungarian with some german blood as well. we hungarians do not have any problems with the slovaks. it is the politicians who want to turn us against one another. ( speaking slovak ) translator: i've got nothing against the hungarians even if i am a slovak. narrator: however, differences both political and cultural, do exist. when the hungarian minority go to the polls, it unanimously votes for more or less independent leaders.
9:54 am
one of them provides this assessment of the problems of slovak hungarians. only 2.9% of hungarians in slovakia have higher education and with... with such a small intelligentsia you can... you cannot build your future in the long run. narrator: there are also mixed signals from the local slovak populace. ( speaking slovak ) translator: i have a cousin who emigrated to the united states. his children were born in america and so they are american. when one is born in a country, one takes the nationality of that country, no? so why are the hungarians who were born in slovakia not slovaks? they were born in slovakia they are slovaks and that's the end of it! independent slovakia made many hungarians nervous within slovakia. they felt better in a bigger czechoslovak state, where they felt that the government
9:55 am
in prague which was the government for czechoslovakia-- they would be treated more fairly in that kind of government. in a newly independent slovakia, they felt like they were a minority in a country where the dominant people, now the slovaks, had historical grievances against them and they didn't have the czechs anymore to appeal to. narrator: during the communist era the totalitarian system tried to deal with nationality problems by denying them. but they never went away. in a country in the process of adapting to a market economy, there is often the temptation to designate scapegoats in order to mask real problems. ( speaking slovak ) translator: it doesn't make any difference if you're hungarian or slovak. that's not the problem. the real problem-- i'll tell you what it is. it's the gypsies! ( speaking slovak ) translator: miss, i'm going to tell you the truth. we have nothing!
9:56 am
we are slovakian gypsies and here, everybody hates us! white: it's hard, once you have conflict. one issue leads into another issue-- old competitions between people, such as slovaks not having been happy living in hungary finally get their own country, and you think there's going to be peace-- although, of course, boundaries weren't drawn to people's satisfaction so there's a lingering antagonism there. majorities that become minorities and minorities that become majorities, the tables become turned and it's hard for people to let bygones be bygones, so discrimination might now... might continue but in reverse. and then you get modern issues coming along like building a dam, which you would think should be around the issues of energy and... and self-sufficiency in energy. but in europe, they get wrapped up in these old ethnic disputes, where one group feels that they never really received justice, and now a new issue is coming along, and they see this not only as a contemporary problem
9:57 am
of building a dam, but a... a way of the other side grinding an ax or getting back at them. narrator: resolving these ethnic difficulties will be of vital importance in slovakia's future. ( speaking french ) translator: the most remarkable impression this journey leaves is of the strength of the slovak national sentiment. it remains for this national sentiment to find its balance in the fast-changing europe left by the collapse of the communist regimes. narrator: since independence slovakia has struggled with a number of difficult questions stemming from its communist past. these include: born of the forces of devolution, slovakia is poised to reap the benefits of supranationalism as it makes its way through the 21st century.
9:58 am
captioned by media access group at wgbh
9:59 am
10:00 am
funding for this program [with captioning] was provided by: additional funding is provided by: and:


info Stream Only

Uploaded by TV Archive on