On GDPR Day, 25 May 2018, he was invited to attend a meeting of the directors-general of the European Commission. Selmayr sat him to his right, and welcomed the elite throng of white, grizzled, po-faces arrayed around an elliptical table to a rare audience with ‘the most senior independent official in the EU’. Nice bit of research behind that remark, I thought, from the ever-charming, baby-faced Richelieu. Giovanni Buttarelli duly obliged with a some gentle schooling on the brave new world of European data protection.
Emerging later from the Berlaymont building, Giovanni, escorted by his personal assistant Silva, spotted a one Euro cent coin from the ground.
‘Non dovete mai lasciar stare le monete. Porta fortuna.’
He told me to pick it up and give it to Silva.
‘Ecco. Diventerai ricco.’
Then he ambled over to the big European Commission sign for a souvenir photo.
It is just one of many trivial, poignant memories that came to mind, two years to the day that we lost Giovanni Buttarelli, a great man of kindness, wit and wisdom, sorely missed.