The Committee’s March plenary session got under way this afternoon with a major debate about the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty’s provisions on participatory democracy. On the agenda were two Committee opinions. Former EESC President Anne-Marie Sigmund (Gr. III, Austria) had drafted an own-initiative opinion on the overall provisions in Article 11 of the treaty, including both structured dialogue with organised civil society (what I like to call participatory democracy) and the citizens’ intiative provisions (what I call direct democracy), and Miklos Barabas (Gr. III, Hungary) had drafted an own-initiative opinion on how that structured dialogue could work with regard to the triumvirate of rotating Council presidencies (as also established under the Lisbon Treaty). The Committee hosted two distinguished guests, both European Vice-Presidents: Libor Roucek and Isabelle Durant. They both have particular responsibility for civil society dialogue, and their basic message, of cooperation rather than individualism at institutional level, and of working closely together, was warmly received. As Durant put it, modern technology – the internet, 24-hour news – has done away with a series of filters that used to act as both dampers and communicating rods in facilitating relations between the political and the popular. The Lisbon Treaty’s provisions give the Union a chance of re-establishing such mechanisms, but there is nothing automatic about any of this; they must be established and maintained and, it seems, the EU’s institutions are determined to do this together.