One of the important items on this morning’s agenda was an own-initiative opinion (rapporteur: Ivan Voles, Czech, Employer’s Group) on EU-Russia relations. The Russian ambassador to the European Union, Mr Vladimir Chizhov, was invited to address the plenary and attend the debate, which followed hard on the heels of the 7 December EU-Russia summit and was therefore particularly timely. As a courtesy to our guest, we laid on Russian interpretation, and so we had the ‘novelty’ of hearing Russian spoken in the plenary session. Of course, it was not so much of a novelty to those of our members who, in the old Cold War Europe, learnt Russian at school. As to the debate, it is clear that in the EU’s bilateral relations with Russia, as with its relations with so many different parts of the world, dialogue between representatives of civil society organisations will become a specific and structured aspect.