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European Journal

Is Portugal The Next European Domino? (#3009)

Greece and Germany: Blind Fury - The ongoing controversy about aid to debt-ridden Greece has left nerves frazzled, and the relationship between Athens and Berlin at a nadir. Greek President Karolos Papoulias accused Wolfgang Schauble of insulting his country after the German finance minister likened Greece to a bottomless pit. Other countries, including Finland and the Netherlands, have also expressed reservations about Greece's efforts toward reform. But in Greece, it's Germany that has roused most of the ire. Greek newspapers have depicted Chancellor Angela Merkel wearing a Nazi uniform, and demonstrators have burned German flags in the streets of Athens. The Greek political and economic crisis has fueled prejudices and stereotypes everyone thought had been overcome.

Russia: The White Ribbon - The ribbon has become a symbol of the latest protests against Vladimir Putin's rule. Supporters of the movement are calling for a new Russia without corruption or vote-rigging. Bloggers, business professionals and artists are tying a white ribbon to their lapels to show where their sympathies lie. That has been reason enough for Putin, currently Russian prime minister, to mock his critics, claiming in a TV interview, for instance, that the white ribbon resembles a used condom. The movement's supporters include the popular band Rabfak, who titled one of their songs "The White Ribbon", though the musicians also complain that the new movement lacks teeth - it's too weak to effect any real change. But now even some former paratroopers have made an internet video supporting the protests.

Portugal: The Next Greece? - Portugal, the poorest country in western Europe, is having to tighten its belt till it hurts. To make things worse, its economy is contracting. And yet the mood in Lisbon is not nearly as ugly as it is in Athens. In Portugal, as in Greece, it's the people who are bearing the brunt of the crisis and resulting austerity measures, and there have been some protests. Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho has been doing what he can to spread the pain more or less evenly. He's extended working hours, while eliminating tax write-offs for the high wage-earners. But much more has to be done before Portugal can get by without emergency funding from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. First and foremost, Portugal will have to re-think its economic model of serving as the local low-wage country. That fell apart long ago.

Slovakia: Corruption in Every Party - With parliamentary elections coming up in early March, Slovakia has been hit by a major corruption scandal. Almost all the parties are implicated to some extent. The scandal has to do with government contracts and privatization of state enterprises. The misdeeds are alleged to have occurred on the watch of former prime minister and current foreign minister Mikulas Dzurinda between 2002 and 2006. Wiretap transcripts recently published by the Slovak secret service point to a network of party politicians and influential business figures.

Poland: the Unloved Palace - It was Josef Stalin's gift to the Polish people: Warsaw's Palace of Culture still dominates the capital's skyline, and the colossal structure in elaborate Russian Gothic style still inspires controversy. The palace's 235-meter central office high-rise is visible from all over Warsaw. And the palace's terrace provides a panoramic view of Warsaw. The massive complex houses exhibition space, offices, theatres, cinemas and restaurants in its more than 3000 rooms. But the palace scarcely pays for its own upkeep. When it was completed in 1955, it had already been nicknamed Stalin's revenge. Even so, not everyone in Poland agrees with Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski's call for its swift demolition. [26 minutes] Closed Captioning

This episode has not aired in the past few months on Iowa Public Television.

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Series Description: EUROPEAN JOURNAL looks beyond the headlines and sound bites to deliver relevant, unbiased and imaginative reporting on the events shaping the political, economic and cultural landscape of Europe. Each week, teams of journalists, photographers and producers scour the continent in search of stories with impact and meaning for American viewers, while alternating presenters Jim Gibbons and Cathy Smith provide in-depth analysis on this dynamic region.

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