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Europe’s Historic Gamble

BERKELEY – The last few weeks have been the most amazing – and important – period of the euro’s 11-year existence. First came the Greek crisis, followed by the Greek bailout. When the crisis spread to Portugal and Spain, there was the $1 trillion rescue. Finally, there were unprecedented purchases of Spanish, Portuguese, Greek, and Irish bonds by the European Central Bank. All of this was unimaginable a month ago.

Europe’s fortnight mirabilis was also marked by amazing – and erroneous – predictions. Greece would be booted out of the monetary union. The eurozone would be divided into a Northern European union and a Southern European union. Or the euro – and even the European Union – would disintegrate as Germany turned its back on the project.

But, rather than folding their cards, European leaders doubled down. They understand that their gamble will be immensely costly if it proves wrong. They understand that their political careers now ride on their massive bet. But they also understand that they already have too many chips in the pot to fold.

Those forecasting the demise of the euro were wrong because they misunderstood the politics. The euro is the symbol of the European project. Jacques Delors, one of its architects, once called the single currency “the jewel in Europe’s crown.” Abandoning it would be tantamount to declaring the entire European integration project a failure.