I had a working lunch today with Willy Helin, who recently retired as Head of the European Commission’s Brussels Representation. A larger-than-life character, Willy served as spokesperson to various Commissioners, from Etienne Davignon to Karl-Heinz Narjes, Martin Bangemann, Filippo Pandolfi and Karel Van Miert. Willy then headed up the European Commission’s Washington representation before coming back to finish an illustrious communications career at the Commission’s Brussels representation. Willy also found time to write a novel, aimed at teenagers, about the origins of the European integration process, L’enfant de Berlin  la vie tumultueuses de Maximilien Ebert, and is an active founding member of a charity, GIVE EUR-HOPE, specifically designed to encourage European officials to give to charitable works against poverty. I wanted to pick Willy’s brains about how the European Economic and Social Committee, as the house of organised civil society, might be better integrated in and with its local surroundings. As I gaze out of my office window at the European Parliament complex I am often reminded of the observation someone once made that the European institutions are like futuristic space ships that have landed in Etterbeek and Ixelles but have little if anything to do with the people who live around them. As I expected, Willy was full of ideas and has happily agreed to come and talk to our Communication Group members in the autumn.