Instead of postponing the inevitable Greek default, it would be far smarter to prepare for it. Seen from Brussels, Berlin or Frankfurt, the crisis playing out in Athens this month looks almost simple, and linear in its direction. The Greek prime minister, George Papandreou, wins a confidence vote, as he did on Tuesday night. The government gets MPs to approve its package of austerity measures, set for a vote next week. Then comes the next slug of cash from the IMF and the eurozone, plus the agreement of another massive loan, worth tens of billions of euros. This isn’t easy, European policymakers admit: it requires adept political management, courage, and the ability to stay the course. But the alternatives don’t bear thinking about: the first-ever default by a sovereign member of the European single currency, the possible toppling of the Greek banking system and other institutions around the world in a repeat of the panic that followed the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008 – and an existential threat to the entire European project.
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