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Olli Rehn

Olli Rehn
Minister of Economic Affairs
Assumed office
29 May 2015
Prime Minister Juha Sipilä
Preceded by Jan Vapaavuori
European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
In office
9 February 2010 – 1 July 2014
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Joaquín Almunia (Economic and Monetary Affairs)
Succeeded by Siim Kallas (Acting)
European Commissioner for Enlargement
In office
22 November 2004 – 9 February 2010
President José Manuel Barroso
Preceded by Günter Verheugen
Janez Potočnik
Succeeded by Štefan Füle (Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy)
European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
In office
12 July 2004 – 11 November 2004
Served with Ján Figeľ
President Romano Prodi
Preceded by Erkki Liikanen
Succeeded by Günter Verheugen (Enterprise and Industry)
Viviane Reding (Information Society and Media)
Personal details
Born (1962-03-31) 31 March 1962
Mikkeli, Finland
Political party Centre Party
Alma mater Macalester College
University of Helsinki
St Antony's College, Oxford

Olli Ilmari Rehn (   ; born 31 March 1962 in Mikkeli, Finland) is a Finnish politician, who is the Minister of Economic Affairs in Juha Sipilä's cabinet. Previously, he served as European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro of the European Commission from 2009 to 2014 and the European Commissioner for Enlargement from 2004 to 2010. [1] Rehn is a member of the Centre Party of Finland.


  • Early life and education 1
  • Finnish politics 2
  • European Commission 3
    • Selection hearing 3.1
    • European sovereign debt crisis 3.2
  • European Parliament (2014–2015) 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life and education

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]

Rehn also played football for his hometown club Mikkelin Palloilijat in Finland's top division Mestaruussarja (now Veikkausliiga) in his youth.

Finnish politics

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 is married with one child. He was the youngest member of the first Barroso Commission. In addition to his native Finnish he speaks English, French, Swedish, and some German.[4]

European Commission

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.

Siim Kallas was twice Acting Commissioner in his stead, from 19 April 2014 – 25 May 2014 while he was on electoral campaign leave for the 2014 elections to the European Parliament and from 1 July 2014 – 16 July 2014 after he took up his seat.[6][7]

Selection hearing

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.

European sovereign debt crisis

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".[8]

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".[9]

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."[10] 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.[11]

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.[12]

European Parliament (2014–2015)

Rehn was a candidate in the 2014 European election and was elected MEP. In the European Parliament he was elected to be one of the parliament's 14 vice presidents.[13]

In 2015, Rehn was elected in the Finnish parliamentary election with 6,837 votes.[14] His term in the European Parliament ended on 27 April, when Rehn officially accepted the seat in the Finnish Parliament.[15]


  1. ^ "Olli Rehn portfolio". EC webpage. Archived from the original on 4 March 2010. 
  2. ^ "Olli Rehn CV". EC webpage. 
  3. ^ Vanhanen, Tatu. Vihreä Nuoriso, Nuoren Keskustan Liitto r.y., 1995, p. 104.
  4. ^ "Olli Rehn: Personal profile". European Commission. Archived from the original on 27 February 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2010. 
  5. ^ Speech in Istanbul on Turkish accession (full text), 20 October 2004
  6. ^ EU Observer – Six Commissioners Head for EU Election Campaign Trail
  7. ^ KUNA – Barroso announces caretaker replacements following resignation of 4 EU Commissioners
  8. ^ Watts, William L. (28 June 2011). "EU's Rehn: 'No Plan B' to avoid Greek default".  
  9. ^ Kirkup, James (31 May 2012). "Euro is facing disintegration, Commission warns". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on 1 June 2012. Retrieved 1 June 2012. 
  10. ^ Krugman, Paul. "Disastrous Predictions and Predictable Disasters". New York Times. The Conscience of a Liberal. Retrieved 16 March 2013. 
  11. ^ Krugman, Paul (10 November 2013). "The Plot Against France".  
  12. ^ "Olli Rehn Tries to Shed ‘Austerity’ Label". The New York Times. 18 May 2013. Retrieved 18 May 2013. 
  13. ^ Olli Rehn valittiin EU-parlamentin varapuhemieheksi,, 1 July 2014, accessed 1 July 2014
  14. ^ "Eduskuntavaalit 2015: Valitut ehdokkaat". Ministry of Justice. 22 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "Hannu Takkula aloitti työnsä EU-parlamentissa". Ilta-sanomat. 29 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. 

External links

  • Official personal website (in Finnish)
  • 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
Political offices
Preceded by
Erkki Liikanen
Finnish European Commissioner
Succeeded by
Jyrki Katainen
European Commissioner for Enterprise and Information Society
Served alongside: Ján Figeľ
Succeeded by
Günter Verheugen
as European Commissioner for Enterprise and Industry
Succeeded by
Viviane Reding
as European Commissioner for Information Society and Media
Preceded by
Günter Verheugen
Janez Potočnik
European Commissioner for Enlargement
Succeeded by
Štefan Füle
as European Commissioner for Enlargement and European Neighbourhood Policy
Preceded by
Joaquín Almunia
as European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs
European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs and the Euro
Succeeded by
Siim Kallas
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