Many moons ago, when I was a young and not particularly bright young thing in the Commission’s Secretariat General, my French no more than rudimentary even on a good day, I found that there were two types of official. There were the friendly and welcoming officials who treated me more-or-less as an equal and there were the rest. I shall not dwell on the latter here (though some would later became good friends) but Alain van Solinge, whose untimely death I learnt about today, was undoubtedly one of the former. He was a brilliant lawyer who gave dispassionate, incisive and dependable legal advice on constitutional, inter-institutional and trade issues to three successive Commission Presidents (Delors, Prodi and Barroso); he was an academic manqué, who gave courses and lectures at the ULB, and he was, perhaps above all, a nice guy, who was always ready to discuss whatever constitutional nuances I thought I had discovered and, in fact, he had long ago considered and resolved. He was never fazed, as I surely was at the time, by such higher authorities as François Lamoureux and Claus-Dieter Elleman and I suspect this was quite simply because he was one of them – not just a lawyer and indeed a member of the Commission’s elite legal service, but such a passionate believer in the integration process that, if it ever came his way, he simply transcended criticism. It had been a while since I last saw him, but what a shock to see in this week’s Commission en direct (the Commission’s in-house journal) that he had died (on 11 April)! The photograph (to follow) – that impish smile – says a lot, I think. Michel Petit, a former Director General of the Commission’s Legal Service, paid him a fine tribute in Commission en direct: ‘What talent, Alain! And the fragility that went with it. Farewell to the artist.’