Sven and saw

Today was a bit of a speechifying day but altogether a rewarding one. It began in the early morning at La Hulpe, where one of my directorates had gone for a team-building ‘away day’. I was invited to give an introductory talk about the challenges ahead. The basic message that I hope I got across is that, with the start of a new mandate and a new Presidency and the implementation of the Lisbon Treaty, the Committee is well-placed to play a valuable flanking role, not only by carrying out its advisory function but also by providing a forum in which the concept of participatory democracy may be fleshed out. In the afternoon I gave the closing speech to a group of new Committee officials. I try always to give a sense not only of what the Committee is about but also what the European public service is about and why there is a strong moral imperative upon us all to behave in exemplary fashion – it’s not just the Committee’s reputation that is at stake, but that of the European ideal as a whole. In between, there was a farewell lunch for the outgoing chairman of the Committee’s specialised section for energy and transport, Janos Toth, who will be much missed and, in the evening, a farewell for a colleague, Sven Damman, leaving for the European Commission. I dubbed the latter my ‘eco-warrior’, since he constantly sought to improve our environmental performance. For his farewell party he had written a poem and this he recited, accompanying himself with a musical saw (his usual instrument is the trombone). The day was thus a mixture of prospective and retrospective. All things must pass.