To the Royal Palace with my President, Staffan Nilsson, and Vice-Presidents, Anna Maria Darmanin and Jacek Krawczyk, for the Belgian King’s New Year reception for the European institutions. The Presidents, Vice-Presidents and Secretaries-General of the various institutions, together with the permanent representatives and their deputies, line up in their ordre protocolaire and are then called individually into a small room to shake the royal hands before moving on to the reception proper. I have now attended this occasion three times and I can confirm my previous impressions that, in addition to its formal raison d’être,  it is a very effective informal networking event. In particular, when we all line up before the shaking of hands there is a constant to-ing and fro-ing across the parquet. And this is followed by the general milling around in the reception hall where it is actually possible to get a lot done. This year, sadly, Princess Mathilde was not present. She is in her element on such occasions and excellent at making intelligent conversation whilst putting her interlocuteurs at ease. Martin Schulz, the Parliament’s new President, was much in evidence and much in demand!