This was a big day for the President, and for me. It was our second Bureau meeting together. The EESC’s Bureau is the 39-member body that is, basically, the decision-making powerhouse of the Committee. On the agenda were four heavyweight points. Two of these (rules of procedure, budget) will be of limited interest to the layperson but insiders know their potential significance. Two other significant agenda items were the President’s plans to revamp and restructure plenary debates into thematic blocs organised with visiting figures (we have both Commission President Barosso and French European Affairs Minister Jouyet coming to our December plenary session) and a draft convention with an international organisation, AICESIS (The Internatioanl Association of Economic and Social Councils and Similar Institutions). Traditionally, the Bureau meets in the afternoon, but the President quite rightly decided to start in the morning, at 10.30. The meeting closed, four solid debates later, at almost six in the evening, leading the President to miss his early evening flight to Italy. But on all four points the Bureau reached good and satisfying conclusions and we left the meeting room a little tired but very happy. The next big Bureau day is 2 December, when I hope to be able to present a reorganisation of the administration.
In the late evening, as I was doing my penance (see 7 November post), Gerhard Stahl, Secretary General of the Committee of the Regions, dropped in for a chat. It is an advantage of sharing our buildings that we can drop in on each other like that. And it is good to swap notes, for we both face similar challenges and, of course, have shared concerns. The dynamics between the administrations and the members in the consultative bodies are special and particular. The administrations provide continuity, permanence and the interface with ‘Brussels’, whilst the authenticity of our members (and the uniqueness of their role) is derived precisely from the fact that they are not habitual denizens of the ‘Brussels’ policy-making community. A constant learning process, on both sides, is therefore involved. I am told that at the EESC’s four-yearly ‘renewals’ there is about a 30% turnover of our 344 members. Gerhard tells me that in the CoR the turnover figure is 20% per year. So, if I have a big challenge Gerhard has a huge one.