By the time I arrived back in Brussels late last night my President was still in the air, heading for Istanbul, where today he participated in the Euro-Mediterranean Economic and Social Summit, which brings together economic and social committees of the European Union and other European countries and the Mediterranean basin. The conference addressed two basic themes: responding to expectations in southern Mediterranean countries and the need to step up the role of civil society in the processes of change that are now under way. The European Economic and Social Committee was strongly present in the various debates. Within the EU, economic and social councils and committees can play important flanking roles for parliamentary democracies. Outside the EU, where parliamentary democracies may not yet be established, or well established, civil society organisations and civic dialogue can play vital transitional roles in consolidating strong civil society cultures and hence also the basis for strong democratic cultures.