At midday today our plenary session was addressed by Janusz Lewandowski, European Commissioner for Financial Programming and the Budget (and, by coincidence, also a Pole). He came to present the Commission’s proposals for the 2014-2020 multiannual financial framework. ‘We are at the beginning,’ he declared, ‘of a procedure that must result in the unanimous agreement of twenty-seven member states.’ (And, he could have added, be approved by the European Parliament.) Therefore, the Commissioner hinted, the way to see the Commission’s proposals is as a set of opening bids, a negotiating package that must be balanced in its composition and its results, so that, if there are winners and losers on one issue, the losers are winners on another issue and nobody wins too well or loses too badly. It is the pragmatic approach he had already spoken about when he visited the EESC’s Bureau last November and is necessitated by the political realities of member states’ pre-emptive starting positions (already loudly declared). All of this must therefore take place within an overall envelope of 1% of GNI – which everybody knows is peanuts – and therefore the budget has to be very carefully targeted if leverage is to be maximised. And that, as he explained, is where some of the innovations come in: freezing or reducing agriculture and cohesion spending to favour education, research and development, for example. The headlines will be about percentages and rebates and own resources but underneath the¬†headlines some interesting cultural changes could be under way.