Robert J. Samuelson in the Washington Post argues that:
Unless Europe reverses two trends — low birthrates and meager economic growth — it faces a bleak future of rising domestic discontent and falling global power. Actually, that future has already arrived.
A weak European economy is one reason that the world economy is shaky and so dependent on American growth. Preoccupied with divisions at home, Europe is history’s has-been. It isn’t a strong American ally, not simply because it disagrees with some U.S. policies but also because it doesn’t want to make the commitments required of a strong ally. Unwilling to address their genuine problems, Europeans become more reflexively critical of America. This gives the impression that they’re active on the world stage, even as they’re quietly acquiescing in their own decline.
I agree with Glenn Reynolds on this one, it is too early to say. Any number of factors could come into play, especially with advancements in technology, changes in trade patterns, war, disease – just because it’s been like this for a number of years does not make it written in stone.