This morning began with another rite of passage for the EESC – greeting the newcomers. The Committee organises a two-day seminar for all of its new officials and the Secretary General is expected to greet them and give an overall presentation of the Committee. I always enjoy such first encounters and, of course, as the Union enlarges, so the number of nationalities in the room naturally increases. Beethoven’s Ninth is the EU’s informal anthem but, as my kids know, I think the modern European anthem should be Kraftwerk‘s ‘Europe Endless’ from the album Trans-Europe Express. Its deceptively simple lyrics – ‘Europe, endless’ – come back to me on such occasions.
Later, I set off for Liège, to the Walloon Economic and Social Council where, at the kind invitation of its Secretary General, Jean-Pierre Dawance, I delivered a lunchtime talk about the European Economic and Social Comittee. This was preceded by a guided tour of the Council’s Headquarters, a historic building known as Vertbois, a former foundlings’ home and hospital. My guide was Pierre Gilissen, who is permanent secretary of the Walloon Region’s Royal Commission for Monuments, Sites and Excavations. The building’s history is fascinating and the guided tour was a privilege and a pleasure. The Wallon Council is celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary (the EESC is this year celebrating its 50th!) and it was good to meet with the Council’s members, its administration and members of the public who had come for the talk. Clearly, the consultative function and advisory role can be played at all levels, from the local to the European.
One of our members, Yves Somville, is living proof of this, since he is a member both of the EESC and of the Wallon Economic and Social Council!