The Lisbon treaty, which would fortify the federal power of the European Union and increase its global sway, is nearing adoption. With Irish ratification a done deal, and Czech ratification on the horizon, the debate is on for where the EU goes next. What's at stake? According to European writers, nothing less than the difference between the decline and irrelevance of Europe and its return to greatness on the international stage. Here's where they think it's headed:

  • World Domination "Fortified by its new foreign-policy structures," writes the Financial Times' Gideon Rachman, "the Union is staking a claim to be taken seriously as a global superpower." He cites British foreign minister David Miliband's call for an American-Chinese-European G3. He also suggests that the current G20 is "Europe's Trojan horse," with structures and language more familiar to European leaders than to their Asian and American counterparts:
The surroundings and atmosphere [in Pittsburgh] were strangely familiar. And then I understood; I was back in Brussels, and this was just a global version of a European Union summit.
  • Collapse? Not only is the Lisbon treaty an attempt "towards a federal superstate, with Tony Blair as a kind of Holy Roman emperor," writes Roger Boyes at the London Times. "The fundamental problem is that it is a treaty based on fear." With a poorer Europe and an eastward focus, the core countries are worried:
On the borderlands there are wobbly dictatorships such as Belarus, blood feuds in the Balkans and, in the popular imagination, hordes of potential immigrants from Ukraine. Berlin and Vienna are little more than a hop, skip and jump from some dirt-poor communities.

Enlargement once seemed to give the EU a moral purpose; now it is seen as trouble ... It should be quarrying out a new sense of purpose. Instead it has cobbled together a treaty of which the deepest purpose is to find institutionally acceptable ways to block the entry of Turkey or Ukraine.
  • German Leadership and an EU Army Thornsten Benner and Stephan Mergenthaler for Der Spiegel are also pessimistic, but they see a way out: Germany. It is "the only remaining motor of Europe," they say, and "[it] is up to Germany's new government to lead the E.U. out of a decade of doldrums." That statement not strong enough? "A European Army would be a good place to start," they add, writing that an army "would reinvigorate EU integration" and "make the bloc a much bigger player on the international stage."
  • A Test There is, according to the Washington Post's Anne Applebaum, a way to "evaluate the Lisbon Treaty": watch to see which leaders the new EU picks. Multilateral institutions "traditionally" choose leaders through a "process of elimination," with the "least interesting ... and least influential" candidate getting picked. Countries choose leaders differently, and a strong EU with support for a "common European policy" would, too.
  • Tony Blair Actually, notes Der Spiegel's Carsten Volkery, that new leader just might be Tony Blair. "Britons," he writes, "see their former Prime Minister ... as a shoe-in." One problem among many: "The question remains as to whether Blair can shake his 'Bush's Poodle' image."