Today was a big day for the European Economic and Social Committee and also for its new President and its new Secretary General. This afternoon the 39-member Bureau (the main managerial decision-making organ of the Committee) met. It had a number of politically important points on its agenda, not least of them the European Commission’s recovery plan (its President, José Manuel Barroso, will be speaking to the plenary on this subject this Thursday morning) and the proposal of our President, Mario Sepi, for the Committee to generate a ‘manifesto’ of ideas and proposals in the Spring of next year to feed into the European Parliament’s reflection processes, in the lead-up to the autumn 2009 investiture of the new Commission and the generation of its work and legislative programmes. The Bureau held rich debates on both topics, and the President received unanimous backing for his plans, which was really great for him. He has prepared very carefully for his Presidency and has ‘hit the ground running’. The ‘manifesto’ is a flagship idea that will surely be a great success in terms of voicing the concerns and priorities of civil society organisations for the next five years.
The Bureau also discussed ‘stickier’ topics, such as budgetary issues and the launching of the process of adapting the Committee’s rules of procedure. Traditionally, however, there is no topic stickier than changes to the Committee’s establishment plan, and my proposal for a wholesale change to that plan was also on the agenda. We got to it late, at seven-thirty in the evening, but after a robust and frank debate the Bureau unanimously gave me its confidence. It was the rewarding culmination of an intensive period of reflection that began when I was first nominated as SG on 8 July this year and which involved a very broad consultation and information process, both within and outside the house. The Bureau’s unanimous confidence means a huge amount to me, and I am absolutely determined to repay it by delivering the results I promised on 8 July and have repeatedly promised ever since; a dynamic, highly qualified and positively-motivated administration working in the spirit of a service culture and providing the strongest possible support for our members and the unique role they play in the European Union’s policy-making processes.