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ECONOMIC CRISIS

Olli Rehn: “It will take 10 years to fix the Spanish crisis”

EU economic commissioner denies he is an austerity hawk “In the North, it’s the opposite; I’m considered too soft”

Olli Rehn, EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington.
Olli Rehn, EU economic and monetary affairs commissioner, speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in Washington.Andrew Harrer (Bloomberg)

The European Union commissioner for economic and monetary affairs, Olli Rehn, denied he was a hawk in terms of the fiscal consolidation programs imposed in Spain and other countries in the southern periphery of the euro zone and claimed that these programs had served their purpose, which was to restore investor confidence in those countries.

In an interview with EL PAÍS a day before Spain formally exited on Thursday the some 41-billion-euro European bailout program to clean up its banking system, Rehn, a Finn, said he did not see himself as the "king of spending cuts."

"In the North, in Germany or in my country, it's the opposite; I'm too soft. I believe that Europe needs two visions: budget consolidation and growth. You need to achieve solvent public finances and economic reforms, while at the same time investment is necessary to drive growth."

"The case of Spain shows that the Commission has tried to combine that: the timeframe for correcting the public deficit has been extended twice. There were no easy alternatives for Spain nor for anyone. Those that think there was a simple way to recover access to the markets without painful measures are wrong."

While the situation in Spain has improved notably since Spain asked for the bailout some 18 months ago, Rehn warned there is still a long road ahead before the country is fully up and running at pace again. "It will take 10 years to fix the Spanish crisis," he said.

Rehn said the situation in the euro zone as a whole has stabilized with public deficits falling from around seven percent to three percent in only two or three years.

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