Goke Frerichs

From a managerial point of view, this was potentially an extremely heavily-charged and fraught plenary session. On the agenda were: two distinguished guests (Barnier and Chastel) and debate; presentation and debate of the outcome of the Committee’s Florence biennial conference on education to combat exclusion; thirty-five opinions, not all of them uncontroversial, for debate and adoption; and, last but not least, adoption of amendments to the Committee’s rules of procedure and to its Members’ Statute in the light of the Lisbon Treaty. The rules of procedure debate and vote was potentially the most fraught of all. Until the eve of the plenary there were still some major differences between the Groups on some provisions and to adapt its rules the Committee requires an absolute majority – 173 votes – in favour. One of the reasons why the Committee is less attractive to journalists is, I am sure, that its basic working method is quintessentially consensual and here, once again, ‘consensus broke out’. As the President of the rules of procedure panel, a former Committee President, Goke Frerichs (Employers’ Group, Germany), put it, the fact that the Committee is able to overcome internal differences and forge consensus like this is one of its undoubted strengths.