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Europe Wednesday, 21 April, 1999, 14:31 GMT 15:31 UK
Books, bricks and beer in Strasbourg
The new European Parliament now dominates Strasbourg's landscape

In this edition of Crossing Continents, Emily Buchanan travels to Strasbourg in north-eastern France, where there is increasing concern about youth violence both on the streets and in the classroom.

Listen to the programme in full

Right across France, there is rising dissatisfaction with the education system and fear for the future of its pupils. The popular stereotype is that schools in areas of high immigration and low average income are being left behind. But Strasbourg, a generally prosperous city near the German border, which still has a considerable problem with youth violence, doesn't conform to stereotype. For the last two years running, the New Year has been brought into Strasbourg with rioting, arson and looting.

Teachers like Benoit Stein are trying to turn the crisis around
Earlier this year, secondary-school students mounted demonstrations expressing their frustration. Parents say they are unable to control their children and teachers' morale is at an all-time low. The government has now announced measures to curb street violence and admitted the country's infamously strict education system needs reforming. Emily Buchanan visits a previously failing school which has signed a 'contract of success' with the French government, and a community centre encouraging children to think for themselves.

With unemployment so high in France, she also talks to parents, teachers and students about education reforms which the government hopes will help provide employees with the right skills to take them into the 21st century.

Emily Buchanan, dwarfed by one of the brewery's vats
Strasbourg is the regional centre of the province of Alsace, one of the few parts of the world where grapes, barley and hops can be grown in proximity. 20 minutes from Strasbourg at the foot of the Voges, beer has been brewed in the village of Hochfelden since 870. Today, the seventh generation of the Haag family runs one of the last remaining family- owned breweries in Alsace.

Set right in the centre of Hochfelden, some villagers are the third generation to work in the brewery which is determined to remain private against all the odds. 50 miles to the south, another branch of the Haag family runs a vineyard. Emily Buchanan talks to the Haag family and their employees about the battle to stay private and about Alsace's unique dual wine and beer culture.

Emily Buchanan and architect Alain Bretagnolle by the new building
The new European Parliament building in Strasbourg is almost ready to be occupied by MEPs. The 330 million building has courted controversy because Brussels has just built an even more expensive building to house the parliament, which only sits in Strasbourg for one week in every month. Alain Bretagnolle, of Architecture Studio in Paris, was one of the designers: he takes us on a tour of the building and tells us how he has tried to reflect the ideals of democracy and European union in his design.

Emily Buchanan, brewery, Strasbourg March 1999
to the Haag brewery's 'spring beer'...
See also:

03 Nov 98 | Europe
01 Jan 98 | In Depth
01 Jan 99 | In Depth
22 Jan 98 | In Depth
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