The EESC’s thirty-nine member Bureau met this afternoon. As always, the primary function of the meeting is to prepare the next plenary session and to decide on budgetary questions. The Bureau also deals with a number of recurrent points. These include deciding on authorisations for ‘own-initiative’ opinions. The Committee only won this right to speak when it wants to – rather than when it is asked – in 1974. The traditional attitude within the Committee has been that the right should be used sparingly so as to maximise the impact of any individual own-initiative opinion. But the policy scope of the European Union is now extensive and, as the Section and CCMI Presidents discussed yesterday, the window of opportunity for making the Committee’s voice heard upstream of the traditional legislative procedure is increasingly narrow. I sense that the attitude is therefore changing. Own-initiative opinions enable the Committee to express the voice of organised civil society on topics it feels are important. So today the Bureau discussed which opinions to authorise for the coming six months or so. To give a flavour, the following topics caught my eye: the role of female entrepreneurs and specific policies to favour growth and employment; the contribution made to the EU’s economy by immigrant entrepreneurs; independent workers; and the involvement of consumers’ organisations in the internal market. Clearly, the backdrop to much of the Committee’s reflections at the moment is the ongoing crisis and the two sides of the coin; how to encourage growth, and how to deal with, and minimise where possible, the consequences of the crisis.