After the keynote speeches I dashed one floor down from the Employees’ Group’s meeting to a public hearing organised by the EESC’s ‘ECO’ Section on the theme of the EU Budget 2014-2020, a topic on which the Committee is producing an opinion (rapporteur = Stefano Palmieri, Employees’ Group, Italy). The Chairman of the Study Group, Seppo Kallio (Various Interests’ Group, Finland), introduced EESC President Staffan Nilsson and two guest keynote speakers; European Commissioner Janusz Lewandowski (who was at the working dinner in the Parliament yesterday evening) and the European Parliament’s rapporteur on the multi-annual financial perspectives, Ivailo Kalfin. Both speakers highlighted a number of ironies: the EU budget is in decline (a projected 20% decrease between the 1990s and 2020) whilst national budgets are steadily increasing; that no deficits are possible, whereas a number of member states have run up massive deficits; and that administrative spending, at 6%, is very low compared with any national budget. The relative decline in the EU budget means that it is becoming less powerful as a tool and therefore must be carefully focused in order to enhance its impact, hence the Commission’s proposal to shift resources away from agriculture and towards innovation, research and education – areas in which the EU has a comparative advantage.