I took the night flight to Larnaca yesterday evening in order to attend an extraordinary meeting today of the EESC’s workers’ group at Nicosia on the theme of ‘A European budget for employment’. The meeting took place at the headquarters of the Cyprus Workers’ Confederation (SEK). The conference was addressed by, among others,  the Deputy Minister for European Affairs, Andreas Mavroyiannis, the Minister of Labour and Social Insurance, Sotiroula Charalambous, and the General Secretaries of the three main Cyprus trades union federations. After presentations by the three General Secretaries, the first part of the meeting concentrated on the economic and social situation in Cyprus. This was followed by a presentation of the Cyprus Presidency’s programme. The afternoon sessions concentrated on strategies to relaunch the local and national economy, particularly with regard to the strategic use of the European budget. Quite apart from the divided nature of the island, its small population, geographic distance (it is just 100 kilometres from Syria and Lebanon, whereas mainland Greece is 800 kilometres away) and special history, Cyprus is characterised by a number of specificities, including a high quality primary and secondary school system, accompanied by a high level of mobility of its young population for university studies (who necessarily have to go abroad). In a few observations, the sense of the day’s proceedings was: the chain of crises was initially triggered by an exogenous crisis (American) and in the reforms currently underway measures should be taken to ensure that the European economic and banking system cannot be affected similarly by such exogenous factors in the future; the obvious response to the current crisis is a coordinated European one, which means that all instruments at the Union’s and the member states’ disposal should be used together in a holistic fashion; Europe’s social model should not allow itself to be portrayed as being somehow part of the problem but, rather, a key to a successful relaunch, capitalising on intellectual capital and a highly-skilled work force; strategies for employment-rich growth are vital. In this context the conference heard from three EESC rapporteurs: Carmelo Cedrone (Growth and sovereign debt in the EU: two innovative proposals); Gérard Dantin (Smart fiscal policy consolidation strategies); Stefano Palmieri (Financial transaction tax). The Deputy Minister, present at the Committee’s ‘Step Up’ conference in Brussels just three days previously, clearly appreciates his interactions with the Committee and values the Presidency’s dialogue with it. This was a long trip for a short conference but, as the Workers’ Group’s President, Georges Dassis, pointed out at the beginning of the proceedings, it gave all of the non-Cypriot participants an insight into the experiences of the EESC’s Cypriot members every time that they participate in Committee proceedings. Even with direct flights, when those are on time, a Cypriot member would need to spend a day-and-a-half on travel even for a half day meeting, involving a return flight arriving at one in the morning of a third day. (In my specific case, the flight was delayed by almost an hour, so that we arrived at almost two a.m.. By the time we had travelled to our hotels it was three a.m.) This brings me on to another observation. Nicosia’s international airport has been closed since the Turkish invasion in 1974. Larnaca has become, by default, Cyprus’s main international airport. But, although connected by a good motorway to the capital, Larnaca is nevertheless about one hundred kilometres away from the capital. Whilst the Committee’s Cypriot members are not alone in facing travel challenges, it was good for us all to witness first hand the specific travel challenges facing them. Those Cypriot organisations nominating members to represent them must be very understanding of the amount of absence this will involve. (In the picture: Georges Dassis, President of the Workers’ Group, and Luca Jahier, President of the Various Interests Group.)