The ghastly accident that happened on Saturday morning at Smolensk has cast a heavy pall over this busy week. The EESC’s President and his SG have of course sent letters of condolence to the Polish government and people and to our own members and staff. Today, each formal meeting in the Committee is beginning with a minute’s silence and our Bureau and Plenary Session in two weeks’ time will similarly pay tribute. The President and I have just returned from a terribly touching commemorative ceremony in the European Parliament’s hemicycle. The event began with Beethoven’s Ninth and the Polish national anthem, and then Parliament’s President, Jerzy Buzek, himself a Pole of course (but also Prime Minister when Lech Kaczynski served as Minister of Justice), spoke with great sorrow and dignity about the tragic event to the assembled representatives of all of the European Union’s institutions – their Presidents, their members, their Secretaries-General and high administrators, and member states’ permanent representatives as well as ambassadors from other countries. Buzek spoke about how touched the Polish people had been by the Russian reaction, ‘full of dignity and understanding’ and, though it would be grossly inappropriate to talk about silver linings in this particular cloud, the tragedy has clearly engendered fellow-feeling and respect among these two historically divided peoples. And then, respecting Polish tradition, Buzek and a number of dignitaries read out the names of the 96 dead, with a short description of the life and position of each, whilst their images were portrayed on the screens above and schoolchildren brought a single white rose for each victim to a central vase. The vast scale, human and political, of what had occurred was thus slowly brought home to us all. The ultimate blow, for those already swallowing hard, was Chopin’s Funeral March – so terribly, horribly appropriate, of course. It was all so very, very touching and I hope that, amid their profound grief, the Polish people can find some consolation in the fact, so clearly demonstrated in the Parliament’s hemicycle today, that the whole of Europe is with them. You can see and hear President Buzek’s tribute here.