Anand Menon has an excellent essay in European Voice dismissing the "preposterous argument" that the Lisbon Treaty would have helped Europe deal with the credit crunch or the Georgia crisis. This is his conclusion:
"...the brutal truth exposed by both crises is that the EU's soft power relies for its effectiveness on a permissive hard-power environment, on real rather than confected common purpose. The EU can bring about change, but only if no powerful state opposes it. The Europeans, quite simply, lack the power to deter, let alone coerce Russia.
Claims that Europe is one institutional reform away from global power feed into a profound sense of denial afflicting many in the ‘Old Continent'. How long is it, really, since the states of Europe, either individually or collectively, could decisively shape global politics?
The open contempt Moscow has shown for European attempts to secure its withdrawal from Georgia underscores a stark, painful truth.
Now more than ever, Europeans inhabit a non-European world. There is no choice but to adjust to that and safeguard, as quickly and soberly as we can, what is left of Europe's role in global politics and economics."
Menon touches on a key failing in the thinking of much of the European political class - the idea that Europe's rapidly declining power can be remedied by closer institutional centralisation.
Surely this notion has been tested to destruction by now?
In the broad sweep of history, Europe's period of dominance was short - 200 years at most. This ascendance was achieved as a result of complex factors that are hotly debated amongst historians. But there are two key points to note. First, Europe may be weak now, but it was relatively much weaker in the past (as recently as 1700, Qing China and Mughal India each represented a little less than 25 per cent of world GDP). Second, Europe's meteoric rise was achieved not through the centralisation of power, but through technical, fiscal, political and cultural innovation amongst diverse nation states.
Is European decline innevitable? Can it be reversed? If so, how? This subject won't be resolved in a blog post - but recent events should certainly provoke some serious thought on the issue.