This morning I gave a talk to a group of managers, journalists, diplomats, civil servants and NGO representatives coming from France, Belgium, the UK, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Venezuela. The visit had been organised by the European Centre for Public Affairs as part of an overall course on ‘public affairs in the New Europe’. I confess, as I set off for the engagement I did wonder what had possessed me to do such a thing on quite such a busy day in quite such a busy period. Very soon, though, I remembered. We denizens of ‘Brussels’ run the constant risk of losing touch with the ‘real world’ on whose behalf we are working. I have always believed that the best way for people like me to keep in touch with the ‘real world’ is … to keep in touch with it! Such speaking engagements are an easy way to enter into dialogue with people and practitioners and the questions I had to field at the end of my talk did not disappoint in that context. Indeed, I think all denizens of ‘Brussels’ should be obliged to speak to the real world on a fairly regular basis.