José Sócrates, prime minister, has chosen to delay applying for a financial rescue package until the last minute. His announcement last week was a tragi-comic highlight of the crisis. With the country on the brink of financial extinction, he gloated on national television that he had secured a better deal than Ireland and Greece. In addition, he claimed the agreement would not cause much pain. When the details emerged a few days later, we could see that none of this was true. The package contains savage spending cuts, freezes in public sector wages and pensions, tax rises and a forecast of two years’ deep recession.
You cannot run a monetary union with the likes of Mr Sócrates, or with finance ministers who spread rumours about a break-up. Europe’s political elites are afraid to tell a truth that economic historians have known forever: that a monetary union without a political union is simply not viable. This is not a debt crisis. This is a political crisis. The eurozone will soon face the choice between an unimaginable step forward to political union or an equally unimaginable step back. We know Mr Schäuble has contemplated, and rejected, the latter. We also know that he prefers the former. It is time to say so.
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