An enlarged President (again)

Today was the first of five very busy and also very moving days, marking the end of the current mandate of the European Economic and Social Committee and also therefore the end of the mandate of the current President, Mario Sepi. I get into the office quite early and each day begins with a pang, if not of guilt then of sympathy, for apart from the security guards at the entrance, the first person I meet is the cleaning lady who ‘does’ my floor. Of Turkish origin, she is always in a good mood. I admire her for this. As a student, I once had a similar job and hated it – the early mornings, the artificial light, the cleaning products, other people’s mess. I was Mr Grumpy. She is Mrs Sunshine in comparison. The pang comes because this lady has young children at home. I always see my children in the morning, at the breakfast table. With the exception of weekends, this lady never does. She is philosophical about it but, maybe because Cancer is my star sign, I feel for her every time I see her – which is every weekday morning. It’s a reminder of the real world out there. The day progressed with a series of coordination meetings: the weekly management board meeting, which I chair, first, followed by the pre-plenary session planning meeting with all colleagues involved (which I also chair), and then, in the afternoon, a political level meeting of what we call the ‘enlarged Presidency’ (the President, Vice-Presidents, Group Presidents and the Secretary General) to resolve a number of outstanding political issues related to the imminent plenary session, followed by a farewell dinner in the evening, where the incoming President, Staffan Nilsson, paid the first of what will surely be many tributes paid to Mario Sepi this week. In between all of this I had lunch with a new trade attaché at one the permanent representations, a very old friend from Florence days, and met a much-admired academic, Richard Rose, who, encouragingly, has started to get interested in the Committee and wants to write about it. A rich day, then, at the beginning of a very rich week.