This afternoon I attended a meeting of the European Economic and Social Committee’s Budget Group, chaired by Jacek Krawczyk (Poland, Employers’ Group – picture) in order to make a first presentation of the Committee’s draft 2014 budget. We are still a long way out and yet such is the way that the European Union’s budgetary procedure works that we will have to send a final draft of our 2014 budget to the European Commission by the end of March 2013. And we still have to deal with a number of ‘known unknowns’ (at the moment there is still no agreement on the 2013 budget, for example, though we have a pretty good idea what it will look like). Nevertheless, we can already have a clear picture of how the various building blocks of the budget will be structured (meeting legal obligations such as salaries and rents, for example) and our political masters (the Bureau, the Budget Group)  have already given us clear guidelines as to how the overall budget should look. It is, as I said to the Budget Group’s members, a sign of the EESC’s maturity and its sense of responsibility that this drafting exercise has been carried out in a perfectly consensual and collegial way. As I never tire of pointing out, our members have a unique authenticity derived from the fact that they spend most of their time back in the member states, in their organisations. They know how much it is hurting out there and are determined to show restraint, responsibility and solidarity and we, as an administration, are determined to support them.