Olli Rehn and the cuts in Europe

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Olli Rehn and the cuts in Europe

Job Vice-president of the European Commission and Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro.

Reputation In charge of forcing Europe to follow the cuts / austerity regime.


Filip Horvat/AP Photo

We know now who is responsible for all the cuts in Europe – Olli Rehn. He is fat and quite young, a conservative Eurocrat from Finland. He was a footballer before and he really wants to stop Europeans spending money (for example on jobs and pensions). Rehn is more a technocrat than a politician. He became a town councillor in Helsinki in 1988. Then he was in the Finnish Parliament (1991-95) and then in the European Parliament as part of the (neo-) Liberal group in Strasbourg. He likes giving “tough love” and telling difficult truths. Conservative politicians like him to speak for them, so they don’t have to say difficult things. So Rehn is perfect for the Brussels élite and fits in well as an important member of the current European Commission.

Rehn has a lot of power, so he has become the most important person to tell Europe to make cuts. He is making sure that Irish house-buyers, French pensioners and Greek public servants suffer the effects of the cuts (because Europe’s banks have spent too much money). Rehn is very important. His office decides if countries have made enough cuts to get money (“bailouts”). The logic is simple – public finance must pay its debt before anyone thinks about commitments to its citizens. Or the whole financial system could collapse like a pack of cards. But now, people are beginning to think that the cards have been changed to support the people who want to keep their money in the financial system. Rehn’s privatization and cuts means that the people who depend on the public sector get poorer, but the people with a lot of power in the market get richer.

Lots of people have criticised Olli: people have burnt cars and set off Molotov cocktails (bombs); and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have said that the cuts forced on Europe are digging the economic hole so deep and causing such a lot of problems that it is dangerous for Europe and the Euro. Oliver Blanchard, chief economist at the IMF, did not agree with the EU austerity policies forced on Greece. Rehn then said that the IMF was wrong, but did not give much evidence for this.

For almost three years, Rehn has been saying that he can see a good economic future, if we follow the cuts. But inequality is increasing, economic growth is very low and youth unemployment is about 50 per cent in countries like Greece and Spain. But you cannot really hear the police cars and the smashing glass in the five-star hotels that Olli stays in. Yet.

As this article has been simplified, the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed. For the original, please see: http://newint.org/columns/worldbeaters/2013/12/01/olli-rehn/