The key event of this morning’s session was the (first) visit of the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy. The former Belgian Prime Minister comes from a Member State where the consultative function plays an important role and, promising to return later in the year, he clearly attaches importance to the Committee’s role at EU level (‘the European Economic and Social Committee is an invaluable asset to the Union’). He spoke passionately about the two extremely difficult balancing acts that governments and the EU are having to perform during the current crisis. The first is to reduce debt and deficits whilst not jeopardising growth which, almost paradoxically, is the only way out of the crisis. The second is to reduce deficits whilst maintaining high levels of investment in Europe’s comparative advantage – highly-educated human capital. Closing his speech, Mr Van Rompuy came out with the excellent exhortation that we should  ‘never under-estimate people’s sense of reality!’ Governments must not only act and react but, he insisted, they must also explain: ‘Politicians will not just have to explain budgetary cuts, they will also have to defend long-term socio-economic changes. We must keep this double focus.’