The German city of Frankfurt is continental Europe’s largest financial center and host to the country’s Stock Exchange, countless other financial institutions, and the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) which is responsible for administering the monetary policy of the 18-nation Eurozone. The place is awash with money, as demonstrated by the plush new ECB office building which is costing a fortune.
The original price of the bank’s enormous palace was supposed to be 500 million euros, about 550 million dollars, but the bill has now been admitted as €1.3 billion (£930 m; $1.4 bn). This absurdly over-expensive fiasco was directed by the people who are supposed to steer the financial courses of 18 nations and their half billion unfortunate citizens. If the ECB displays similar skill sets in looking after Europe’s money as it has in controlling the cost of constructing its huge twin-tower headquarters, then Europe is in for a rocky time.
Intriguingly, the Bank isn’t alone in contributing to Europe’s bureaucratic building boom. There is another Europe-based organization of equal ambition, pomposity and incompetence which is building a majestically expensive and luxurious headquarters with a mammoth cost overrun about which it is keeping very quiet indeed.
The perpetrator of this embarrassing farce is NATO, the US-Canada-European North Atlantic Treaty Organization which is limping out of Afghanistan licking its wounds, having been fighting a bunch of sandal-wearing rag-clad amateur irregulars who gave the hi-tech forces of the West a very hard time in a war whose outcome was predictable. But the debacle hasn’t dimmed the vision of the zealous leaders of NATO who are confronting Russia in order to justify the existence of their creaking, leaking, defeated dinosaur. Their problem is not only do they lose wars, but they then look for another one to fight — to be directed from a glittery new and vastly expensive building whose cost has soared above all estimates.
Just like NATO’s wars.