If anyone in Brussels ought to believe in austerity it is Olli Rehn, the economics and monetary affairs commissioner whose job it is to force the Greek government to take the axe to public spending. But should Rehn be willing to take a pay cut himself in sympathy? Salaries at the European commission are set by a complex formula based on what happens to civil service pay in the member states. That means that any reductions this year around the EU would feed through to the pockets of eurocrats in some form next year. Such a situation would not, of course, prevent a gesture from the commissioners who are hardly on the breadline. Asked about this by a Spanish journalist at a press conference, Rehn for once stopped emphasising the importance of strong leadership, belt tightening and fiscal rectitude. Salaries, he replied, were not his departmental responsibility.
This article originally appeared in the July 2010 edition of Prospect.