The view from the podium

My meetings with staff continued this morning with a combined meeting (over a hundred colleagues) with the two directorates servicing the consultative works – the engine house of the Committee. Before becoming Secretary General I was one of the two Directors for consultative works and so I had the pleasure of returning to an old and much-liked haunt. I am also very much aware of the way the Committee’s output – measured in terms of opinions produced, conferences and public hearings organised, and other advisory activities – has increased at a much steeper rate than any increases in human resources. Colleagues work hard and to a high degree of excellence whilst meeting tight deadlines and maintaining good relations with the Committee’s members. Working methods are constantly under review to enhance efficiency but the feeling is that such increasing dissonance between output and resources cannot continue indefinitely. If, as seems very likely, the administration enters a period of zero growth in budgetary terms coupled with cuts in human resources, then, to use the dread term, ‘negative priorities’ will have to be identified. I write ‘dread’ because the word ‘negative’ is a misnomer. In an ideal post-Lisbon Treaty world, the Committee would be firing on all cylinders, helping to make the Treaty’s provisions on civil dialogue a reality; lesser priorities are not negative ones.