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Now, as Greece’s E.U. partners prepare to bail out the debt-ridden country — the first time that the 16-nation euro zone has needed to rescue one of its members — many critics, inside and outside the country, are wishing that Mr. Papantoniou had lost his bet.
Amid growing concern that the contagion could spread to countries along Europe’s southern tier and even infect the Continent’s banking system, Greece’s turbulent recent history suggests that the crisis is, in many ways, a peculiarly Greek tragedy. It is rooted in an ancient country’s epic profligacy and abetted by the hubris of European leaders whose desire for integration at any cost compelled them to allow political considerations to trump economic realities.
But those in favor of expansion carried the day, arguing that linking countries like Greece, Spain and Portugal to European structures was the best means to modernize their fragile democracies.