Produced by The Local’s Creative Studio in partnership with Arte 

The video series shining a light on personal European stories

The video series shining a light on personal European stories

Every day we are confronted with news and views on the many issues that concern us as people living in Europe. 

The lives of those living in modern Europe are subject to ever greater, and often conflicting, pressures. But monitoring the flow of events can easily seem bewildering, abstract and impersonal. Too often the very real, personal impact of a news story is hidden from sight.

Pan-European television channel, ARTE.tv addresses this gap with ARTE RE: European Stories, a series uncovering the main issues issues impacting Europeans today.

Migration and movement

Digitalization and increased transport infrastructure means that the world has never been so small. National borders are no longer the barriers they once were to movement, and as a consequence, many people are migrating to where they feel that there are more opportunities. 

In the ARTE RE: series, Viktoria and Zoltan make the move from Hungary to Germany. Both workers for Bosch, they see Germany as a land removed from the ‘frustration, nepotism and corruption’ that they see in Hungary. However, it’s not all smooth sailing. The language barrier, job rejections for Zoltan and a lack of assistance for new arrivals all must be overcome.

The series also follows Pippa, who is the British descendant of Jewish Germans as she seeks to return to the land of her ancestors. Pippa, especially, wants to learn about her grandfather’s role in the First World War, before the wide-scale persecutions of Jews began. However, it is really her homeland? What connects her to it? How long does it take us to lose our sense of identity? 

As Pippa muses as she follows her family’s history: “Where exactly was I? Home or elsewhere?

Follow Viktoria, Zoltan and Pippa as they navigate their way through migration journeys with the ARTE RE: series from ARTE.tv

Pippa searches for her Jewish roots in Frankfurt. Photo: ARTE.tv
Viktoria & Zoltan dance in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Photo: Arte.tv

Saving the planet

Reversing the damage that man has done to the planet has been a hot-button issue for decades. In recent years, the startling increase in global warming has brought the issue to the fore. It seems that every day we are faced with debates over what can be done to prevent perhaps fatal climate change. 

ARTE RE: takes us to see people making extraordinary choices in the battle against climate change. In France, Vincent struggles against scepticism and the challenges of farming as he tries to bring a hemp crop to fruition – a material that he believes is far more sustainable than other crops used to make both foodstuffs and fabrics. 

In Wales, the Watkinsons live a life completely off the grid. They generate their own power, maintain their own water source and pick their own food, in an attempt to live in such a way that their ‘ecological footprint’ is far smaller than the average consumer.

As Matthew Watkinson states: “We’re only using our fair share of the earth’s renewable resources. In the West, we’re living as if we have two or three planets. In America, they’re living as if they have five.

 “The party is coming to an end, I think. The planet can’t take it, the climate can’t take it.” 

Far away in the Hebrides, Rock lives a similar lifestyle in such a way that it leaves as little trace as possible – yet as both can see, change may be irreversible, despite their efforts. 

Rock, for example, ponders the inexorable arrival of plastic on his island: “More and more keeps coming in. We can’t win”. 

See how the Watkinsons, Vincent and Rock are all trying to live in harmony with an earth that is rapidly changing, with the ARTE RE: series from ARTE.tv 

Rock walks in the Hebrides. Photo: ARTE.tv

Matteo Salvini and supporters in Rome. Footage: ARTE.tv

Populism and the power of the people 

With an ever-changing environment, and human movement on an unprecedented, it can be hard for governments to keep up in governing individual nations. This has both fed, and enabled a rise in populist movements that who have scapegoated both certain minority groups, and institutions such as the European Union. These groups are portrayed as being technocratic, out of touch and not fit for the realities of the 21st century. 

In one recent ARTE RE: episode, Italy’s Republic Day is the scene for rising tensions, as supporters of populist politician Matteo Salvini meet Daniel and Emmanuele, supporters of a pro-European group. Can Daniel’s impassioned entreaties of “Italy and Europe, together strong!” win over his opponents, or will it only further inflame their anger? With emotions high, and the pan-European response to the coronavirus pandemic at the forefront of many Italians minds, will there be a chance for dialogue – or will polarisation continue? 

Walk through an anti-European protest with Daniel, Emmanuele and their friends as they seek to stand up for what they believe in, in the acclaimed ARTE RE: series from ARTE.tv

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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