|European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro|
9 February 2010
|President||José Manuel Barroso|
|Preceded by||Joaquín Almunia (Economic and Monetary Affairs)|
|European Commissioner for Enlargement|
22 November 2004 – 9 February 2010
|President||José Manuel Barroso|
|Preceded by||Günter Verheugen
|Succeeded by||Štefan Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy)|
|European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society|
12 July 2004 – 11 November 2004
Serving with Ján Figeľ
|Preceded by||Erkki Liikanen|
|Succeeded by||Günter Verheugen (Enterprise and Industry)
Viviane Reding (Information Society and Media)
31 March 1962 |
|Political party||Centre Party|
|Alma mater||Macalester College
University of Helsinki
St Antony's College, Oxford
Olli Ilmari Rehn ( listen (help·info); born 31 March 1962 in Mikkeli, Finland) is a Finnish politician, currently serving as European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro and a Vice-President of the European Commission.1 He had previously served as Commissioner for Enlargement. He has held a variety of political positions in European institutions as well as in Finland.
Born in Mikkeli in eastern Finland, Rehn studied economics, international relations, and journalism at Macalester College in Saint Paul, Minnesota, in the United States. He gained a master's degree in political science from the University of Helsinki in 1989, and a D.Phil. from St. Antony's College, Oxford in 1996 on the subject of "Corporatism and Industrial Competitiveness in Small European States".2
He began his political career already in youth politics as a regular member of the Finnish Centre Youth and soon became the Secretary General of the Nordic Centre Youth. In 1987 he was elected as the president of the Finnish Centre Youth. That position can be seen as predicting high political responsibilities in Finnish politics.3
In 1988 Rehn was elected as a city councillor in Helsinki. He was vice president of the Centre Party from 1988 to 1994, having been president of its youth wing from 1987. Elected to the Finnish Parliament in 1991, Rehn led the Finnish delegation to the Council of Europe, and was a special adviser to the Finnish Prime Minister Esko Aho from 1992 to 1993. He left the Finnish Parliament in 1995 to become an MEP, aligned to the liberal group. He was, however, not re-elected in the 1996 election.
He was briefly the chairman of Veikkausliiga from 1996 to 1997. From 1998 to 2002 Rehn ran the office of Erkki Liikanen, Finland's representative on the Prodi Commission. Rehn would later succeed Liikanen in the role of Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society. In 2002 he left European politics for the University of Helsinki, where he led the Centre for European Studies. In 2003 he became an adviser to the Prime Minister on economic policy, a position he held until his appointment to the European Commission the following year.
Rehn served briefly on the Prodi Commission. He was appointed European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society on 12 July 2004, taking over the role from the previous Finnish Commissioner Erkki Liikanen, who left his post the same day to become Governor of the Bank of Finland. The Finnish government nominated Rehn for the incoming Barroso Commission, which took office on 22 November 2004.
Rehn's appointment to the enlargement post was seen as a slight disappointment for Finland, who had hoped for their nominee to be given a portfolio relating to economic issues. Enlargement was a central issue for the EU in the run-up to the landmark accession of ten countries on 1 May 2004, but has since declined in importance, if only slightly. Rehn presided over the accession of Bulgaria and Romania in 2007, as well as continuing negotiations with Croatia and opening them with Turkey, the latter being perhaps the most significant and the most hotly debated future accession.
Rehn favours Turkish membership but has controversially suggested permanent restrictions on the free movement of workers from Turkey, "in case serious disturbances occur in the labour market within the EU as a result of Turkey’s accession", an attitude seen by some as running counter to the whole purpose and spirit of the EU.5 He has stressed the importance of greater respect for human rights and civil liberties as preconditions for Turkey's entry, while acknowledging the advances it had already made in this respect.
Questioned by the European Parliament, Rehn offered his thoughts on the prospects for accession of each of the countries highest on the enlargement agenda. He praised Turkey for the human rights advances it had made but said he would advocate stronger monitoring if the decision was taken to open accession talks by the European Council when it considered the question in December.
Asked about free movement of Turkish labour after the country's accession, Rehn expressed the view that there should be "considerable transitional periods as well as a permanent safeguard clause". He was cautious on the question of the inevitability of Turkish membership, stating that he did not "believe in historic determinism", but that if negotiations were begun, "underpinned by the commitment that [Turkey] will be able to join [the EU] once it fulfils all conditions, it will join as soon as it does meet the conditions".
He insisted that Bulgaria and Romania would be judged on their merits and that he would not hesitate to delay accession by a year if the EU's requirements were not met on time. He considered the establishment of a pre-accession strategy for the Western Balkans one of his prime tasks.
In late June 2011, Rehn spoke out on austerity measures being considered by the Greek parliament, saying, "The only way to avoid immediate default is for parliament to endorse the revised economic program...The program includes both the medium-term fiscal strategy and the privatization program. They must be approved if the next tranche of financial assistance [a 12 billion euro aid payment] is to be released...To those who speculate about other options, let me say this clearly: there is no Plan B to avoid default".6
In May 2012, coincident with warnings from Mario Draghi of the ECB, Rehn said that even if Eurobonds "were ever approved, it would still not be sufficient to save the euro. The single currency’s members needed 'a genuine stability culture and a much upgraded common capacity to contain common contagion', if they wanted to avoid a disintegration of the eurozone and if they wanted it to survive".7
Rehn has continued to maintain that the only way out of the crisis is a continued programme of fiscal austerity. Economist Paul Krugman has been critical of this stance, saying in early 2013 that Olli Rehn, and the economic management of the European Commission, had been proven disastrously wrong in their predictions and management since the beginning of the crisis. He noted, "European leaders seem determined to learn nothing, which makes this more than a tragedy; it’s an outrage."8 Krugman maintains that Rehn's focus on fiscal discipline is in fact an excuse to dismantle the social safety net and reduce the size of government, as he has criticized countries, such as France which have tried to achieve fiscal discipline through tax increases.9
In mid-2013, Rehn claimed that the European Commission was following a pragmatic policy balancing austerity policies with pro-growth policies and that much of the criticism was unfair.10
- Olli Rehn portfolio, EC webpage.
- Olli Rehn CV, EC webpage.
- Vanhanen, Tatu. Vihreä Nuoriso, Nuoren Keskustan Liitto r.y., 1995, p. 104.
- "Olli Rehn: Personal profile". European Commission. Retrieved 9 November 2010.
- Speech in Istanbul on Turkish accession (full text), 20 October 2004
- Watts, William L., "EU's Rehn: 'No Plan B' to avoid Greek default", MarketWatch, 28 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- Kirkup, James, "Euro is facing disintegration, Commission warns", The Telegraph, 31 May 2012. Retrieved 2012-06-01.
- Krugman, Paul. "Disastrous Predictions and Predictable Disasters". New York Times. Retrieved 16 March 2013.
- Krugman, Paul (10 November 2013). "The Plot Against France". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- "Olli Rehn Tries to Shed ‘Austerity’ Label". New York Times. 18 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Olli Rehn|
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Olli Rehn.|
- Olli Rehn Official Media Gallery
- Official EC website with speech links
- Interview with Olli Rehn, 26 February 2003, part of the Conversations with History series from the Institute of International Studies, UC Berkeley
|Finnish European Commissioner
|European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
Served alongside: Ján Figeľ
as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry
as European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
|European Commissioner for Enlargement
as European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
as European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs
|European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro