The foreign minister of Poland, Radek Sikorski, is one of the smartest and best guys around. He gave a tremendous speech on November 28 in Berlin about the crisis of Europe that is worth reading in its entirety: the best explanation of what's going on in Europe and what should be done about it that I have seen.
To me the most interesting parts were those addressed to Germany:
as you know best, you are not an innocent victim of others' profligacy. You, who should have known better, have also broken the Growth and Stability Pact and your banks also recklessly bought risky bonds... because investors have been selling the bonds of exposed countries and flying to safety, your borrowing costs have been lower than they would have been in normal times, so you may be benefitting in the short term, but... if your neighbours' economies stall or implode, you will suffer greatly, too.
And the summation:
We are not only by far the world's biggest economy but the largest area of peace, democracy and human rights. Peoples in our neighborhood – both East and South – look to us for inspiration. If we get our act together we can become a proper superpower. In an equal partnership with the United States, we can preserve the power, prosperity and leadership of the West.
Also important are the parts in there about restructuring the Europe-wide political institutions so that they have "democratic legitimacy": "Euro-sceptics are right when they say that Europe will only work if it becomes a polity, a community in which people place a part of their identity and loyalty."
Link via Steven Hayward at Powerline (thanks!), who explains that the speech is "startling," because it "represents a change of mind" by Mr. Sikorski: "More than once he said to me, with a mischievous twinkle in his eye, that the chief aim of his diplomacy was to keep Poland from being' Brussified,' that is, keep it from coming under the maw of the soulless and unaccountable administrative tyranny of the Eurocrats. Yet now he's calling for the European Commission and Parliament to be stronger."
I had dinner with Mr. Sikorski in Warsaw in the late 1990s when he was deputy foreign minister. As a non-American, he's got somewhat different interests than Americans do — it's less clear, from the American point of view, whether we want Europe to be a "proper superpower," or whether we're better off remaining the sole superpower. Being the sole superpower is expensive, so it has its disadvantages, but it also has its advantages. But I tend to come down on the side of the idea that a strong, healthy, Europe nets out positively for America, too, as an ally and a trading partner rather than as a rival. Between the Islamists and the Communist Chinese, there are enough rivals out there already that we don't need to spend a lot of time worrying about the potential of a European one. The Sikorksi speech argues that a failed Europe could be very messy.