STOCKHOLM – With the United States crippled by Wall Street’s collapse, this should be Europe’s moment. Yet the European Union’s role in the world is weakening; it is listened to less today than it was 15 years ago. As Singapore’s Kishore Mahbubani, a prominent Asian diplomat and academic, puts it, “Europeans are irrelevant to the world’s great issues, obsessed by internal process, culturally arrogant, craven in the face of the US, and blind to the rise of Asia.”

If Europe is to gain a more important role in global leadership, it must reverse its long-term economic decline. Consider the evidence of that decline:

·        Ownership : After centuries in which European corporations dominated the developing world, the trend is reversing. Indian, Middle Eastern, and other investors are buying up European steel mills and carmakers. In coming years, watch out for China and Russia.

·        Exchange rates : When the dollar slumped a year ago and eroded European competitiveness still further, both the European-led International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank proved impotent. Instead, European leaders flew cap in hand to China to ask for support. While the dollar has risen recently against the euro, Europeans did not influence this.