I wrote a post last year about an event that I think epitomises all that is best about the European Union and the European Economic and Social Committee and its staff. The staff Christmas party is an extraordinary feast. Tonight, two floors of the Committee’s atrium were choc-a-bloc full of laden stands, groaning under the weight of regional and national food and drink, much of it cooked or created by staff themselves, and all of it – absolutely all of it (extending to music and dance) – done on a voluntary basis. This event, which is, as far as I know, unique among the EU’s institutions, is a wonderful visual and culinary and cultural representation of Europe’s rich diversity. Every year our staff committee works this major organisational miracle and it really does warm the heart to see how much generosity and enthusiasm goes into the event. Well done, everybody; well done! To the left of me in the picture, incidentally, is Alan Hick, who has served as the staff committee’s President for many a year and announced in his opening speech that he was stepping aside. I am firmly of the opinion that the staff committee and the staff representative organisations are as vital a part of the overall administrative structure as any other, and I certainly rely heavily on their advice and support. Thank you, Alan, for everything!