This afternoon the Committee hosted a high-level hearing with representatives of various European civil society organisations on the next multi-annual financial framework for the European Union. Among the guest speakers were Janusz Lewandowski, the Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget, and Ms Eniko Gyori, the Hungarian Minister of State for European Affairs (representing the Hungarian Presidency). The hearing was organised in the context of an opinion being prepared by Henri Malosse (France, President of the Employers’ Group) and his co-rapporteur Gerard Dantin (France, Employees’ Group). Lewandowski expressed hope for an early agreement, pointing out that absence of agreement would lead to far from optimal accelerated budgets later. In the same context he pointed out that, within the existing seven-year framework, it was normal that budgets should grow, as programmes reached maturity. However, he acknowledged that a middle way now had to be found between ‘the mood of the time and what is necessary’. Eniko Gyori opined that letters from the net contributors had become a familiar rite of passage but that what was needed in the first instance was a policy-driven debate. A broad consensus emerged in the ensuing exchanges. As Malosse put it, the EU’s budget is not a matter of figures. Behind the figures lies a project and Europe’s ambitions, and these should be defended. That project includes common values and an inclusive, collegial approach. Last but not least, a far more pro-active case should be made for the benefits and efficiency of money spent at EU level; despite caricatures to the contrary, EU expenditure represents economies, synergies and efficiencies rather than additional costs.