Why has work almost stopped on the new ECB Frankfurt headquarters?

A new two-fingered skyscraper is rising up from the Frankfurt horizon. Already delayed and running over the initial €500 million cost, these new Towers of Babel have become infamous for Occupy protests – and associated eurotaxpayer demands to know why the m word will probably be a b word  in terms of costs by the time roughly 2,500 employees are housed in the new building, which is scheduled for completion in 2014.

Ten days ago, The Slog received this email  from a well-placed observer in Frankfurt (extract):

‘Is it possible for you to ask the Bankfurt mole to confirm or deny that there’s a work stoppage at the new ECB building inFrankfurt/Osthafen since c. mid July? Maybe they’re analysing whether they need it in the future. Or they already know that they don’t.’

As it happens, the Bankfurt Mole contacts me, not the other way round: he is a bloke largely on Transmit, and I rather suspect he’d be insulted to be asked such a question. Predictably, I’ve put it to him – and since then the phone hasn’t started ringing. But a further question to the architectural observer above elicited this:

‘A guy who comes along the construction site fairly frequently is wondering why there are almost no construction vehicles for the past few weeks. He also says the face of the building shows no progress for the past few weeks.’

All a bit sample-of-one and vague…as so many stories are at the outset. But further digging made my nose twitch.

Regular Sloggers will remember that last year I posted about the exponentially rising cost of LTRO: Long Term Refinancing Operations. The ECB already admits to a €1 trillion bill, but as euobserver rightly observes:

‘…what the ECB cannot solve is the core issue of having to steer one monetary policy for 17 different economies which are growing further apart….the general feeling at the moment is that at the top level, they are not 100% sure it will work.’

Have some eurocrats begun to get cold feet about the need for a new ECB building? The architect  involved Coop Himmelblau
(Blue Skies Cooperative) didn’t want to talk about it at all. The ECB itself referred me to some obscure Brussels number with a message that never seemed to stop being a message, no matter how many times one rang it.

Although the ECB New Premises Newsletter had been appearing more or less monthly, it sort of petered out in March of this year.

Type in the headline ‘New ECB building in Frankfurt’ to Paperboy.com, and no results come up. Not one. As by now a veteran observer of non-stop PR hubris when it comes to EU penis structures, I can tell you that usually, such a search would show up at least half a dozen results.

Even searching at the Frankurter Allgemeine Zeitung about this scored 0 results.

So, what else is a newshound to do in the end but ring some Frankfurt numbers? OK, this isn’t scientific – and my German is sprained these days bordering on fractured – but using Google earth and some imagination, the feedback today from those offices in close proximity to the new Tower of ECB strength was as follows:

* Very little work is taking place

* Saw no men on site last week

* Seems normal to me – nothing much happening

* Sorry, never notice either way

* Funny that, I’d been wondering the same thing.

Look, I’m not saying this is The Big Clue. But I can tell you that there is no industrial dispute involved. So the question remains: why is Supermario’s Spire of Mammon stuck at the 37th floor? Have the workers all started speaking in tongues, and deserted the site in terrified confusion? Or has some contrarian accountant in Brussels called a halt to proceedings, given the likelihood that the new ECB headquarters will never be needed?

I think we should be told.