MEPs slam Rehn over economic policy
By Benjamin Fox
EU economic affairs commissioner Olli Rehn faced a sustained verbal shellacking on Thursday (25 April), with MEPs on both the left and the right finding fault with his policy-making.
Rehn, who was speaking at a hearing with the economic and monetary affairs committee in Brussels, found himself criticised by the right for going soft on austerity and chastised by the left for not doing enough to promote growth.
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Jean Paul Gauzes, spokesman for the centre-right EPP group, accused him of "lacking courage and conviction."
It would be "a very bad sign if we say we have to move away from austerity," he noted.
The committee debate comes towards the end of a week in which EU officials offered conflicting views on the pace of economic reform in the eurozone.
For his part, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso indicated in a speech that austerity had "reached its limits," even though the EU executive was quick to maintain that its economic policies remain unchanged.
In a nod to efforts made to balance budgets across European capitals, Rehn noted that the pace of deficit reduction would slow to 0.75 percent in 2013 compared with a 1.75 percent fall in 2012.
Most countries now "have the room to make fiscal policy with a more medium-term view," he said.
But his comment was not enough to pacify the centre-left.
Green MEP Philippe Lamberts accused Rehn and the EU's other economic policy chiefs of "collective blindness."
Elisa Ferreira, the Portuguese spokesperson for the Socialist group, said her country is heading "straight for disaster" because the EU has provided no alternative to austerity.
"Enough is enough," she said.
Her fellow-countryman Diogo Feio, a centre-right MEP, called on the commission to offer incentives to Portugal, warning that the "social and political consensus is extremely fragile."
"If you have a country that respects its commitments you need to provide more instruments," he said
Rehn also conceded on the need for more transparency on decision-making in the Troika - a joint body of commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund officials which control EU bailout conditions.
The commissioner himself described the Troika's work as "complex and cumbersome."
"You have 20 vetoes and 20 red lines which … leads to decisions that are not first best, but second best," he said.