The annual spring meeting of the Secretaries-General of the national economic and social councils and the European Economic and Social Committee is what has brought me to Ireland and this afternoon we began our meeting, out at Loughlinstown, at Eurofound‘s headquarters building, Loughlinstown House. Our chosen theme was ‘social and civil dialogue in a time of national and European crisis’. The national councils took it in turn to describe their respective national situations. Not surprisingly, it was the same basic story everywhere, with austerity measures imposing economies and a stronger obligation on all institutions to demonstrate the added value of their work. Such an imperative is not unhealthy. On the other hand, several member states have seen erosion of their traditional consensual, consultative politics and this is a matter of deeper concern. It would be a paradox if participatory democracy were to be thus undermined since, as the Lisbon Treaty made clear, the EU needs more civil dialogue at all levels.