I spent this afternoon, together with my President, in the annual assembly of the Presidents and Secretaries-General of the national economic and social councils and similar institutions, of which there are twenty-two. There were formal and more academic points on a full agenda. We debated and adopted a joint declaration on ‘the involvement of civil society and social partners in the Europe 2020 Strategy’, and I presented a proposal to launch a study into how we might update and reformulate our Internet-based cooperation. The more academic point was a truly fascinating presentation by a team of Belgian, French and Dutch academics into the relationship between the European level and Belgian social policy. I cannot even begin to do justice to the many interesting findings described in their presentations, but I would like to cite just three findings that I, as an ‘institutionalist’ found particularly fascinating. The first concerned what the academics described as the ‘boomerang effect’, when national governments enjoying the presidency of the Council of the European Union feed up a domestic policy as a best practice to be generalised among all the member states. The boomerang occurs because, the research team found, quite frequently the European level adapts and enhances a domestic best practice, so that the member state in question will itself have to adapt what it previously considered to be an example for everybody else. The second fascinating finding is that member states have been using their presidencies of the Council of the European Union to enhance domestic networks, galvanised by a national presidency plan. The recurring presidencies give such networks the chance to be enhanced and ‘re-booted’ at frequent intervals. However, successive enlargements have meant that the intervals have grown much less frequent. As a result, these networks are inventing substitute reasons to re-invigorate themselves. The third finding was that many NGOs are empowered in the domestic context by the European level. The meeting was another occasion for tributes and a fond farewell to Mario Sepi. In the picture Paul Windey, Chairman of the Belgian National Labour Council (Belgium is chairing the network this year), is offering Mario a commemorative gift on behalf of all the Presidents and Secretaries-General.