The Secretaries-General of the national Economic and Social Councils and the European Economic and Social Committee concluded their deliberations in Dublin this morning. In my intervention I spoke about the perverse effects of the crisis (with the risk of economies and expediency turning into permanence), the mystery of the disappearing solutions (by which I meant the Lisbon Treaty’s provisions on participatory democracy and the Europe 2020 strategy), and the paradox of austerity (by which I meant the risk, basically, of throwing the democratic ‘baby’ out with the austerity ‘bathwater’ – in particular, the risk of weakening the network of economic and social councils and the consultative function at precisely the moment when the institutions, and particularly the Commission, start to recognise its worth). These are difficult times and we must all find ways of doing more with less, but the consultative function and civil dialogue are of more importance now than they have ever been.