It’s difficult to avoid clichés, but the day went by in a whirl. Here are some of the highlights.
I should have mentioned before that I came in this morning, as I always have done until now, on my bike. My resolve was sorely tested at seven-thirty when I opened the front door and saw the rain sheeting down, but I am determined to be as ‘green’ as I can be. Curiously, everybody keeps asking me whether I have an official service car and a driver. The answer to both questions is ‘yes’. Doubtless there will be formal occasions when I will use them – but surely not for coming into work and going home.
At nine-thirty I attended the last meeting of Mr Bernardo Hernandez Bataller (a Spanish member of the EESC’s Various Interests Group) as Chairman of the Committee’s Section for the Single Market, Production and Consumption. Dom Bernardo, a lawyer and Secretary General of the Spanish Association of Communication Users, AUC, always courteous and civil, has been a much-respected Section President for four years and the Section members bade him a fond and sad farewell. He isn’t leaving the Committee, though, and I look forward to working with him in his new functions as a member of the Committee’s Budget Group.
At ten I discussed with the EESC’s incoming President, Mario Sepi, and his team his plans for the October plenary session. Mario wants to organise a thematic round table to follow on from the presentation of his work programme. It’s an excellent idea and our discussion was more on mechanics than content issues. I have known Mario’s Head of Private Office, Andrea Pierucci, for over twenty years. It’s always nice to work with friends. I also get a chance to inflict my rusty Italian on them!
At eleven I signed my contract. I will have to do it again, in the presence of our out-going President, Dimitris Dimitriadis, and a photographer, on Monday. But this was the formal moment that enabled me subsequently to take over responsibility for the Committee’s €120-odd million annual budget and its staff and buildings. I signed in the presence of a Head of Unit, who then solemnly shook my hand. Ca y est! Now comes the slog…
At one I had a ‘photo call’, together with Mario and Andrea and the two incoming Committee Vice-Presidents, Irini Pari (a Greek member of the EESC’s Employers’ Group) and Seppo Kallio (a Finnish member of the EESC’s Various Interests Group). The photo call was organised by the Committee’s Communication Department, who will use the stock of portrait photographs for various publications, web products, etc. The photographer, Etienne Ansotte, is a lovely and interesting chap. On the last of these occasions he told me how he and his brother had perfected a prize-winning method for cooking frites. This time he explained how moules should properly be cooked in three steps. Until now I’d just flung in the butter and the celery and onions and then chucked the mussels on top over a strong flame. I should have known better. There’s a whole art to it, you see…
At two I held a short meeting with the members of my private office. They are a great group and I feel happy and privileged to be able to work with them. I outlined my priorities: the members, the members, the members; the budget and financial management; re-jigging the establishment plan; taking a ‘long, hard look’ at the role of the SG himself; facilitating the decision-making of the Bureau and implementing its decisions; inter-institutional relations, particularly with the Parliament; communication…. I am convinced that we are sitting on a treasure trove in the form of the administration. There is so much talent and goodwill out there. For me and my team comes the privilege of tapping into it.
For the rest, the day has been punctuated by members’ courtesy visits, packing (always cathartic, I find, since I throw so much away), dealing with IT problems, chatting about things with my new gatekeeper, Jonna Pedersen and, above all, repeated meetings on pressing financial and HR questions. Actually, it has been an enjoyable day, but I’m hoping all the same to get home in time for a spot of supper with the family.