Workers dismantle Frankfurt Euro sculpture

As a possible Greek exit from the eurozone looms ever larger, threatening to change the face of the euro forever, the currency's home city of Frankfurt is giving its famous Euro sculpture a much-needed facelift.

Workers dismantle Frankfurt Euro sculpture
A worker on a crane removes stars from the Euro sculpture in central Frankfurt. Photo: DPA

While the eurozone's leaders buckle down for what could be the most decisive talks in the relatively short history of the single currency so far, few will fail to see a certain symbolism in the dismantling and renovation of the 14-metre (45-feet), 50-tonne sculpture that has become one of Frankfurt's most photographed landmarks.

The huge neon sign is the work of artist Ottmar Hoerl and was erected at the foot of the then headquarters of the European Central Bank in Frankfurt's financial district in 2001.

Last year, the ECB moved into its new, spectacular twin-tower headquarters in the east of the city.

The sculpture shows a blue Euro symbol with 12 yellow stars representing each of the single currency's initial member countries.

Hoerl's cartoonish sculpture, loved and loathed equally by Frankfurt's inhabitants, remains in the green belt of park that girdles the city centre.

It was here, at the foot of the Eurotower headquarters, that the anti-capitalist protest group Occupy camped in a makeshift village of tents for months during 2012, in protest against the perceived greed and corruption of banks.

Time has left its mark on the sculpture, however, and it is looking increasingly worse for wear.

So, the non-profit association Frankfurter Kultur Komitee has decided to completely renovate it for the first time in 13 years at an estimated cost of €60,000.

The group originally bought the artwork for 350,000 euros.

As part of the renovation, the sculpture will be taken apart and cleaned.

Its blue and yellow acrylic glass panels will be replaced.

Its 330 neon light strips will be swapped for energy-saving LED lighting, slashing power consumption by 80 percent and cutting electricity costs from the current 12,000 euros per year.

The work is being done by young apprentices from a Frankfurt school and from the city's craftsmen's guild.

The project is being financed with donations, including the ECB itself, the German central bank or Bundesbank, a number of private banks and private individual donors.

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Inflation rose in Germany in December: report

Inflation in Europe's largest economy Germany clambered higher in December, official data showed Friday, but remained short of the European Central Bank's target for the 19-nation eurozone.

Inflation rose in Germany in December: report
Prices in Germany are rising, but not as fast as they should be. Photo: Jens Büttner / zb / dpa
Price growth hit 1.5 percent year-on-year last month, statistics authority Destatis said, some 0.4 percentage points higher than in November.
And it reached the same level when measured using the Harmonised Index of Consumer Prices (HICP) yardstick preferred by the ECB.
But while German price growth was headed in the right direction, it was still well short of the ECB's just-below-two-percent goal. Over the full year 2019, inflation averaged just 1.4 percent.
“There is little sign of sustained growing price pressure that could prompt the ECB to rethink its ultra-expansive monetary policy,” said economist Uwe Burkert of LBBW bank.
Here's a graph put together by the German newswire DPA, showing how the inflation rate in Germany has fluctuated between 2008 and 2019. 
The ECB has set interest rates at historic lows, granted hundreds of billions of euros in cheap loans to banks, and bought more than 2.6 trillion euros ($2.9 trillion) of bonds in efforts to keep credit flowing to the economy, stoking growth and inflation.
But it has fallen short of its eurozone-wide price growth target for years, predicting last month it would inch up to just 1.6 percent by 2022.
Economists have pointed to both uncertainty over political events, like trade wars and Brexit, and long-term developments like ageing populations as possible reasons for sluggish growth and inflation.
Under new chief Christine Lagarde, the ECB plans to launch a wide-ranging “strategic review” this year, its first since 2003, that could adjust its tools or even reexamine the inflation target itself.
In the meantime, she has urged countries — like Germany — with sound government finances to lift spending in hopes of juicing the economy.