The official day began early, at eight-thirty, with a new round of interviews to recruit a director to one of the Committee’s two consultative works directorates. At midday I ran from there to a meeting of our Employers’ Group, whose President, Henri Malosse, had kindly invited me to participate in a round table discussion on gender equality and equal opportunities. The Chair, Madi Sharma, fiercely limited me to two minutes, but I think I got across my fundamental point, which is that for me, as Secretary General, assuring a better gender balance is not a matter of political correctness but, rather, of rational management. In the first place, a large number of empirical studies now exist to prove that organisations (whether in the public or private sectors) with more women in their higher management perform better. Second, as a representative bureaucracy, the administration of the European Economic and Social Committee has a duty to demonstrate a balanced composition. Last and not least, we are a small institution in competition with many others to recruit the brightest and the best. If we wish to recruit bright and good and ambitious women we must demonstrate to them that it would actually be to their advantage to come to us. From the round table I ran, with Vice-President Irini Pari, to a lunchtime reception organised to thank all of those involved in our visitors programme.
The whole policy is run by just one assistant, a highly conscientious and efficient Finnish colleague, and visitors are received entirely by volunteers, whether our members or our staff. The reception was the institution’s way, through its Vice-President with responsibility for communication, to recognise that work and say thank you. Thereafter, I had a quick lunch with one of our members working on minority rights issues. The Committee has been very active in this field. Its members, like my guest, are deeply concerned by a clear trend towards greater prejudice. I fear the June European elections will graphically underline this trend.
Then it was off to the plenary session (in the Joszef Antall building in the European Parliament), where the European Ombudsman addressed the members and explained to them his work in trying to encourage greater transparency and a more ‘citizen-friendly’ European Union. You can read his speech here. At around six I was called back to the Committee to sign some urgent documents. Whilst there, I was called by a furious member whose suitcase had been inadvertently taken by another member. Fortunately, the member who had taken the suitcase realised his error and returned it, but the understandably furious member had meanwhile lost her flight. I poured what oil I could on the troubled waters. The plenary went on, without major incident, until eight-thirty. I have noted the day down in some detail here because it gives a pretty good idea of the varied activities of the Secretary General.