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Europe’s Real Existential Crisis

However the Greek crisis ends, whether with Athens leaving the eurozone, or submitting and accepting austerity at the dictates of its creditors, the European Union appears headed for an existential crisis.

Greece borrowed and spent beyond its means, like New York City in the ’70s, and Detroit, Illinois, and Puerto Rico today. But the crisis of Europe is about more than budget deficits and bad debts.

All the momentum toward One Europe — the dream of the generation of Jean Monnet that drove Europeans toward ever-deeper union — seems to have dissipated. The momentum is now toward separation and dissolution.

The Greek crisis exposed one fault line in the union, the desire of the Mediterranean nations to build welfare states that their economies could not sustain without huge borrowing abroad.

Paying these debts is going to force ever-greater austerity on those nations. Eventually, their peoples may choose, as debtors do, to walk away, rather than pay.

But not only economics imperils the EU. There is the call of tribe and nation that has often before torn the Old Continent apart.

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