The European Economic and Social Committee has been back to cruising speed for a few weeks now. The past two weeks have seen several Sections meet and yesterday the Transport and Energy Section held a big and well-attended conference on the reform of European railway legislation, with our President, Staffan Nilsson, welcoming European Parliament Vice-President Isabelle Durant and European Commissioner Siim Kallas to the proceedings. Our President has been particularly busy and the undoubted highlight of the week was his very positive and amicable Wednesday meeting with European Parliament President Martin Schulz (picture) to discuss ways to take the cooperation between the two institutions forward. On a general note and related to the current crisis of confidence, Schultz confirmed to Nilsson that he considered that the EESC had an important role to play in reaching out to citizens through the grassroots civil society organisations the Committee represents and though its advisory work. On the topic of the EU’s cooperation with Southern Mediterranean countries, the EESC President informed President Schultz about the next Euro-Mediterranean Summit of Economic and Social Councils and similar institutions (Amman, 17-19 October 2012), which will be tackling issues such as the role of women, social dialogue, freedom of the media, corruption and sustainable development. President Nilsson asked the support of the European Parliament for the setting up of an Assembly of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions with the status of a consultative body within the structures of the Union for the Mediterranean. The two institutions have been carrying the same messages on the Arab Spring uprisings and have been looking into the same policy areas to encourage further progress in the region: support to SMEs, free trade agreements, visa access for students and business people as well as strengthening the social dialogue and cooperation with trade unions on these matters. For his part, President Schulz invited President Nilsson and the EESC to participate in and contribute to the Mediterranean Forum of the Civil Society promoted by the EP and the Anna Lindh Foundation (4-10 April 2013).