Our plenary session this time is being held in one of the European Parliament’s meeting rooms in the Jozsef Antall building (one of the ways in which both consultative bodies save the taxpayer money is by borrowing the Parliament’s or the Commission’s meeting rooms for their plenary sessions). This particular meeting room is named after Italian politician and European founding father Alicide De Gasperi, and the back of the room sports two huge photographic portraits of him, plus another, famous, picture of him on the cover of Time magazine. Once upon a time, before professional life got quite so busy, I had the intention of editing a series of books on various cross-system political phenomena. So far, only one of the titles, Leaders of Transition, has seen the light of day. Another title in the projected series is Political Survivors and I realised that I was looking out from the podium at a good example of the phenomenon. De Gasperi was not only the Prime Minister of eight successive coalition governments in post-war Italy. Born in the Tyrol (1881), he became active in the Austrian Social Christian movement and was imprisoned as a demonstrator in Innsbruck before later (1911) becoming a member of the Austrian Reichsrat. In 1919 he founded the Italian People’s Party and served as a member of the Italian Parliament (1921-24). In 1927 he was arrested and sentenced to four years in prison by the Fascist regime. In 1943 he created the Italian Christian Democracy Party and in 1945 he became Prime Minister for the first of eight times. He was an embodiment of continental European history.