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Transatlantic Strife

NEW YORK  A public spat has erupted between New York Times-columnist Paul Krugman and European Commission officials. For weeks Krugman has been heaping scorn on EU commissioner Olli Rehn, who is responsible for economic and monetary affairs, singling Mr Rehn out as the symbol of the eurozone’s – in his view misguided – austerity drive.

Not only did Mr Krugman assail commissioner Rehn for his claim that – thanks to the eurozone’s austerity measures – calm had been restored on financial markets, but also for his assertion that high government debt levels pose a significant drag on a country's economic growth, hindering economic recovery. Mr Krugman dismissed this as “cockroach ideas,” – “ideas that you try to flush away, but keep coming back,” even though Olli Rehn based his claim on research by Kenneth Rogoff and Carmen Reinhart, two renowned Harvard professors.

The spokespersons of the European Commission took to Twitter in defense of the economic and monetary affairs commissioner. Director of Communications Koen Doens wondered aloud whether the Nobel laureate would next resort to "spitting" and Ryan Heath, spokesperson of commissioner Kroes, criticized Paul Krugman for his "unimpressive" performance in 2009 when he was invited to Brussels to give actual crisis ideas. EU commissioner Neelie Kroes, responsible for the digital agenda, tweeted that the single market and the EU are the biggest "cockroaches" – they will not go away.

It is quite telling that Ms Kroes fails to dub the euro a cockroach, but this as an aside.