Douglas AlexanderTo the Brussels Press Club Europe this evening to listen to Douglas Alexander, the UK Shadow Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, deliver the annual John Fitzmaurice Lecture. John Fitzmaurice was a European Commission official, half-British, half-Danish, who was also a prolific author and a political activist. I was John’s trainee in 1985, and later came back to the Commission’s secretariat general as a colleague and a good friend. Because of that connection, I was honoured to be invited to give the same lecture a few years back. Of course, Alexander’s speech took place against the backdrop of the UK Prime Minister’s recent commitment to renegotiation and a referendum on the UK’s EU membership terms. The Labour Party has so far staunchly resisted the pressure to make a similar commitment and the audience was therefore understandably interested in the alternative case that Alexander had come to make – basically, muscular and substantive reform within the existing Treaties. Alexander was eloquent on the way war in Europe had moved from ‘memory to history’ and how the new narrative for European integration had to be more about enlightened self-interest in a globalised world where European economies would increasingly find it difficult to survive in any viable form outside the EU trade bloc. My professional ears pricked up when Alexander spoke about a compact between the UK government and civil society. Alexander, I recall, was an enthusiastic and interested visitor to the EESC in 2005, when he was Minister for Europe. He needed, I remember, no convincing about the importance to democracy of a healthy civil society.