This afternoon I attended a meeting of the EESC’s Budget Group, under the chairmanship of our Vice-President with responsibility for budgetary matters, Jacek Krawczyk, where the process of producing the Committee’s draft budget for 2013 is getting under way. This is going to be a particularly complicated exercise, with all sorts of constraints to be taken into account and information missing. The Lisbon Treaty inadvertently froze the smaller institutions out of the budgetary exercise, so the draft we have to submit before the end of next March (yes, nine months before the year in question) must, because it’s our only input, be our ‘best shot’. The backdrop is, naturally, austerity across the board. At the same time, we have to act responsibly. We have to budget to be able to pay for the rent, for example, and we must budget to recruit Croatian language translators (which will have a knock-on effect on the salaries bill). We have to pay the salaries of our officials – it’s a legal obligation – but we probably won’t know what sort of annual adjustment will be made until after the exercise has closed. We won’t know what the Commission’s projected rate of inflation (the standard on which we have to base our calculations) for 2013 will be much before January. How, then, to calculate probable rent increases with any accuracy? We have to plan the budget for our pooled resources with the Committee of the Regions in close cooperation with our sister institution. If the Council and the Parliament cannot reach agreement in their November conciliation meeting, we may not even have a budget for 2012 and so no certitude about the basis for our 2013 estimations. And all of this is without taking into account the reform package presented by the Commission in the summer that may or may not involve cuts to staff of 5% or more over a five year period from 2013 onwards. We’ll get there; we always do. And we are all in agreement, at political and administrative level, that we are going to do this together and in as consensual a way as possible. From that point of view the meeting was an encouragingly positive one; where there is a will, there is a way.