European Union: Are you Lisbon or are you Swiss?

The Europe of your dreams. A Swiss village near Zürich (Image: Juhanson)
The Europe of your dreams. A Swiss village near Zürich (Image: Juhanson)
2 October 2009 – The Guardian (London)

The European Union offers a high level of security, prosperity, freedom and social welfare for most of its citizens, but on the world stage is something of an irrelevance. If it is to escape its status as a “Greater Switzerland”, then it is crucial that the Lisbon Treaty is approved, argues Timothy Garton Ash.

Once upon a time, and a very bad time it was, the world trembled when Germany spoke. Now it hardly notices. If, for instance, I had relied solely on American television and newspapers over the last few weeks, I might not even have known that Europe's most important country was having an election. As for Gordon Brown at his party conference, offering a glossy cruise prospectus for his sinking ship – forget it.

This is not just a reflection of America's changed priorities (an Afghan election matters more than a German or British one) and a general decline in foreign news coverage. If you were in China, India or Brazil, you would have a similar experience. The antics of Silvio Berlusconi or Prince Harry make the cut, but not Europe's serious politics. Europe is neither dangerous enough to demand attention (today's Nazis are in Waziristan) nor dynamic and impactful enough to command it, as China does. Europe is nice, boring and irrelevant. Read full article in the Guardian...

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