Inside Europe: The inside take on European affairs 22.05.2010 May 22, 2010

from Inside Europe· ·

On this week's program: Tourists shun Greece over protests - Germans go for gold as the euro plummets - Turning volcanic ash into cash - The bets are on for the Eurovision Song Contest - Russia's FSB to gain more power - A new monument to Stalin divides Ukraine - Prague's spooky past - Great Famine letters go under the hammer in Ireland - How to produce a blockbuster when you're bust.Tourists shun Greece over protestsThousands of protesters took to the streets of Athens this week as unions held another general strike against austerity measures. Two weeks ago violent protests ...



On this week's program: Tourists shun Greece over protests - Germans go for gold as the euro plummets - Turning volcanic ash into cash - The bets are on for the Eurovision Song Contest - Russia's FSB to gain more power - A new monument to Stalin divides Ukraine - Prague's spooky past - Great Famine letters go under the hammer in Ireland - How to produce a blockbuster when you're bust.Tourists shun Greece over protestsThousands of protesters took to the streets of Athens this week as unions held another general strike against austerity measures. Two weeks ago violent protests left three people dead in a fire at a bank. The leaders of Greece's tourism industry have appealed to demonstrators not to damage the country's image during strikes.Greece's financial recovery is dependent on tourism. And protests against austerity measures demanded by Europe and the International Monetary Fund, have driven holidaymakers away. As Malcolm Brabant reports, the demonstrations could also lead to more belt tightening.Germans go for gold as the euro plummetsDespite the massive stabilization plan for Greece, the euro lost a lot of ground against the US dollar this week as speculators kept up the pressure on the common currency.The European Central Bank has indicated it will intervene in the securities markets to buy government bonds. Many people are therefore concerned that inflation could pick up. As a result, many nervous investors, for example here in Germany, are putting their money into gold. As Nathan Witkop reports, they see gold as a safe haven to help them weather the financial storm.Turning volcanic ash into cashIceland's volcano has been continuing, on and off, to wreak havoc across Europe, resulting in periodic closures of airspace and thousands of frustrated travellers. It's also causing headaches for the people of Iceland. They were hoping that thousands of tourists would be flocking to Iceland to take advantage of the flagging krona. But the volcano has changed that.Nonetheless, some Icelanders are trying to make the best of the situation. Like Hafsteinn Guobjartsson. He's with Nordic Store, a company that sells Icelandic products online. And they're now selling volcano ash.The bets are on for the Eurovision Song ContestThere's a week to go until the Eurovision Song Contest and excitement is mounting. The contest with songs this year from 39 countries is a massive spectacle of glamour and hype with its fair share of divas, over-wrought ballads, and euro-trash hits.The winner is decided through a complex voting system. Besides a team of professional judges or juries in each country, every person is entitled to vote up to 20 times. But the catch is that you're not allowed to vote for the country you're calling from. This means that for a song to win, it must be popular outside it's country of origin. Predicting who has a chance to win with such a wide variety of songs, sung in many different languages is pretty tricky. But as Cinnamon Nippard has discovered, there are some people with insider tips.Russia's FSB to gain more powerRussia's parliament is considering a new law that would extend the powers of the FSB, the country's secret security agency. If the bill is passed, it would restore practices once associated with the infamous KGB.Russia's security services have steadily regained power and influence under Vladimir Putin, himself a former KGB officer. And as Jessica Golloher reports from Moscow, human rights advocates are concerned that the new measures could further curtail the rights of government critics and the independent media.A new monument to Stalin divides UkraineA dispute has erupted in Ukraine after Communists erected a new monument to the former Soviet leader Josef Stalin in the city of Zaporizhzhia earlier this month. The Communists admire Stalin for leading the Soviet Union to victory over Nazi Germany, but others see him as a repressive dictator who caused the deaths of millions of Ukrainian people in a mass famine in the 1930s.The controversy comes after Ukraine elected a new pro-Russian president who is reorienting the country away from the west and back towards Moscow again. Matthew Collin reports from Zaporizhzhia.Revisiting Prague's spooky pastThe Czech capital Prague has just seen the opening of a new and rather unusual tourist attraction. It's a former secret police observation post perched at the top of a bell tower in one of the city's gothic churches.For just under four decades – from the 1950s to the 1980s – the tower was home to a detachment of communist secret policemen who'd spy on the foreign embassies in the streets below. Rob Cameron climbed to the top to have a look.Great Famine letters go under the hammer in IrelandThe unique collection includes letters from landlords' agents concerning rent collections as well as tenants asking for relief and mercy. One million people died and more than a million left Ireland in the 1840's when potato blight caused widespread famine.The auction aroused a lot of interest overseas, particularly in North America and there had been fears that the letters would leave the country. But the collection was bought by an archive in Ireland. One person who's pleased about that is John O'Driscoll. He's the General Manager of Strokestown Park in Co Roscommon. It's a stately home which has a famine museum.How to produce a blockbuster when you're bustSome of the biggest names in the film industry have been attending the Cannes Film Festival this week, promoting their latest movies or perhaps, simply promoting themselves. Many film directors spend years perfecting their skills before being selected for an event like Cannes.They often start out producing low-budget movies calling in friends and favours to realize their celluloid dreams. Making a film without a budget isn't exactly the ideal way of making movies. But as Kate Hairsine has been finding out in Karlsruhe, the results are often surprisingly good.