I received terribly sad and shocking news just after I reached my office. Former EESC President Mario Sepi (2008-2010) passed away at 7 o’clock this morning, in Rome, after a short illness. Mario’s mandate as President coincided with the start of my mandate as Secretary General. We had a tacit pact, for we were both determined to create a close and supportive relationship between the members and the administration whilst also driving through a number of important reforms. In the nature of things, we saw a lot of each other. Mario was a deeply cultured man with firm beliefs based on a lifetime career in the trade union movement. He had great wit and he and I had a lot of fun. At the political level, he was fast to realise the depth and seriousness of the crisis and took a series of initiatives to ensure that the European Economic and Social Committee played its advisory role to the full. Mario left the Committee at the end of his mandate but his old group, the Group of Employees, continued to rely on his expertise and I bumped into him quite frequently. I last spoke to him on the telephone just a few weeks ago and it is hard to believe that he is now gone.