Janusz Lewandowski, member of the European Commission responsible for financial programming and budget, attended an extraordinary meeting of the EESC’s Bureau this morning in order to talk on the inter-related subjects of the 2011 budget process and the budget review that should lead to a new multiannual financial framework for the European Union. It is a ‘hot’ period for the budget process – the conciliation between Council and Parliament is scheduled to end, at least theoretically, this Thursday and the Commissioner’s account was clearly ‘hot off the press’. One of his strongest messages on the financial perspectives was that, of necessity, the Commission must take a pragmatic approach. On the Council side, the absolute first priority is to find agreement between the 27 member states. The second is that there should be no big winners and no big losers – pain and gain must be seen to be shared relatively equitably (which means the status quo ante is not an option). The third is that the final product must be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. In an ideal world, the Commissioner would probably have wanted to be more ambitious but revolutionary ambitions are simply not an option in the current situation. Lewandowski speaks without notes but in a structured fashion and tinged with wry good humour. His analyses are infused with the realism that comes from having been, in turn, a parliamentarian, a minister, a European Parliamentarian and now a Commissioner. He respects questions and answers with clear sincerity. And, drawn from his considerable experience, he introduces insights and fresh elements into the reflection process. His analyses, the Bureau members’ questions and his replies made for a very interesting morning.