Me and StaffanThis evening I hosted a farewell dinner for the outgoing President, Staffan Nilsson, and all of his private office together with my secretariat and the management board of the Committee. It is our traditional way of saying thank you. In less than a week’s time Staffan’s Presidency will be over and a new one will have begun. That is the way of the Committee. In the two-and-a-half years of his presidency Staffan has been indefatigable in his efforts to cultivate a stronger European civil society. He has displayed remarkable physical stamina, travelling across Europe (and sometimes the world) non-stop, but also frequently travelling back to his Swedish dairy farm to tend his herd. He has displayed fortitude and moral force and, together with his team, has commendably stuck to a vision and seen it through (the three pillars of his presidency programme were dialogue and participation, sustainability and growth, and solidarity and development). He has made a lot of friends for the Committee in the other institutions and elsewhere and, I think he would agree with me, we have also had a lot of fun. As I told him in my little speech, personally I shall miss him a lot. I shall miss our chats on planes, at hotel breakfasts and our very early Monday morning meetings. I shall miss his constant good humour and rigorous punctuality, the paperclip sculptures he ceaselessly makes in meetings, and his practical jokes (though I think my habit of checking my chair to see whether he has let it down before my arrival is now so deeply ingrained that it will outlive his presidency!). As Staffan frequently jokes to his guests at the end of meetings, ‘thank you for leaving!’