This afternoon, after EESC President Staffan Nilsson’s mid-term address, the Committee welcomed European Commission President José Manuel Barroso ,who spoke cogently about the way forward for the European Union. The past world will never return, he argued, but without integration Europe doesn’t count. He quoted Alexis de Tocqueville: ‘History is a gallery of pictures in which there are few originals and many copies.’ The EU was one of those originals. He knew from his travels that other areas of the world were looking to see whether Europe would rise to the challenge. He spoke about the tragedy of youth unemployment. He called for a ‘dialogue of truth’. Europe needed both discipline and growth. He then listed the many ways – inter alia, a genuine single market in services and digital technology – in which growth could be encouraged. His draft speech can be read here. There followed a truly fascinating debate, with Barroso staying well beyond his scheduled time (causing all sorts of planning problems for us – a ‘price’ well worth paying, of course). Henri Malosse (President of the Employers’ Group) argued that the EU institutions must address themselves directly to the people and the EU must give the young a vision of a positive future. Georges Dassis (President of the Employees’ Group) spoke about the ‘Sisyphean task’ of convincing the people of the need for European integration. Luca Jahier (President of the Various Interests’ Group) declared that ‘we are all Greeks because we are all Europeans.’ Those are just a few soundbites. Barroso was passionate in his response. Here’s a soundbite from him: ‘What I find worse than the xenophobia of the extremists is the pessimism of the pro-Europeans.’ At the end, having declared the Committee’s role ‘essential to the legitimacy of the Union’, Barroso thanked the Committee’s members ‘for your comments, criticisms and support. I enjoyed my visit to the European Union.’ Those who listened in to the debate would have had no doubt that what they had just witnessed was the Lisbon Treaty’s Article 11(2) (namely, an open and transparent dialogue with organised civil society) in action.