Greek ECB staff find a fulfilling life in Frankfurt

The European Central Bank (ECB) is a relatively new and small-scale employer. In Frankfurt, where it is based, the number of employees in the Eurotower is dwarfed by the thousands in the twin towers of Deutsche Bank and the other big institutions in the European heart of money (London aside). Around 1,200 people from all European countries – and not just the eurozone 12 – work in the 63 stories of the ECB building at 29 Kaiserstrasse. Some 40 Greek men and women are already among them. By comparison, there are no more than 10 Portuguese and 100 French. Most of the Greeks, who average around 35 years of age, say their lives would not have been the same had they remained back home. «Greece is a small ‘market’ and nobody can be sure of their professional advancement on the grounds of merit,» one of them says. Some of them were hired through competitive tests right after finishing their studies, but others were already following a career when they left Athens and could not resist the lure of working in the organization which carves out Europe’s monetary policy. These are certainly jobs for competitive people who like to work hard. The Greeks of the ECB are not concentrated in any particular directorate or specialization. They range from the lowest grades to economic analysts and legal advisers, and were all hired without pulling strings – as has traditionally been common back home. «The reputation of the Greeks has not simply improved, it has changed,» says a senior member of staff. The ECB’s Greeks are well liked as a group; and they became even more popular when the governor of the Bank of Greece, Lucas Papademos, emerged as the favorite for the position of ECB vice president, a post he will assume next month. Weather conditions in Frankfurt may well leave a lot to be desired – compared to the Mediterranean – but the city certainly «offers its citizens a high standard of living,» says Dr Chryssa Papathanasiou, who is a legal adviser to the ECB. Traffic in the city is not a problem, services are satisfactory and good organization makes life easier. The same goes for employment issues. «The organized and highly professional environment is conducive to making employees both more productive and satisfied with the quality of their job,» says Triantafyllos Karmianiolas, a multilingual jurist who translates legal documents into Greek. He explains, «There may be a lot of work, but it is rewarding and less tiring due to the fact that good organization yields maximum efficiency.» There is no doubt where they would choose to work given the chance again. «It’s better in Frankfurt,» says Pavlos Karadeloglou, a senior economist. «The work environment, the emphasis on issues of organization, both at professional and living levels, are the most important incentives for a professional… When you have access to information at any moment, your work is done quickly and efficiently, and, of course, when there is a spirit of cooperation, the result is not only better, but you also find there are margins for improvement,» says Papathanasiou. ECB staff go through strict assessment procedures every year, but no one is wary of this. «As long as you meet your obligations, your performance is satisfactory, you assume initiatives and are on good terms with your colleagues and superiors, you are not afraid of being treated unfairly. Stress could not be absent from a demanding job, but the fact that you know that your assessment will be objective is a great help,» says Dimitris Koukidis, who is an administrator assigned with the task of organizing conferences and seminars. In «modern Babylon,» as the ECB has been described due to its multilingual character, the official language is English and most staff are fluent in at least two languages; communication is excellent. Most Greeks in the ECB are acquainted with each other but not «cliquish,» unlike their compatriots tended to be in the past when abroad. Their friends, they say, come from all member states of the eurozone. It would seem, in a multiethnic environment, that the national characteristics of personalities are blunted. There are moments when they miss home and small but important details: «The sun and the sea, the grandparents minding the kids; but it could be worse!» said one. Curb graft, get money