Historians will look back on the spring of 2012 as moment when Europe's institutions and leaders either failed to contain a deepening crisis -- or as a time when leadership grasped the common stakes and rose to the occasion.
While Greece is right on the razor's edge of default, and may yet be granted some overdue relief, the prospects for broader European recovery are still very bleak until the politics get a lot more radical.
What would happen to Greece if it quit the euro? Financial chaos, capital flight, riots and bank failures... maybe. But after the apocalypse, Greece would eventually revert to its 1960's status: a poor but proud nation living off tourism, shipping, agriculture and fishing.
Only by leaving can Greece reissue the drachma and let it devalue sharply. Everything Greek will be available at fire sale prices, which will attract foreign investors and make Greek exports price competitive. Greece and its people will be left a lot poorer, but that's also now inevitable.
Europe's political winds have shifted over the past month. The first sign of this preceded the event now being hailed as the catalyst, Sarkozy's loss in France's presidential election, and it occurred in an unlikely place: the Netherlands.
Watching the jubilation at the Place de la Bastille last night, where the Socialist candidate Francois Hollande was declared the next President of France precisely at 8:00 p.m., followed by delirious chants of "Sarkozy, c'est fini!" I couldn't help thinking of Grant Park, November 2008.
Since the political middle ground has failed to deliver, voters are seeking solace through increasingly political candidates spouting extremist rhetoric, and raising the prospects of parties on the far right and left.
A President of France who has never been a cabinet minister? Until recently, the thought would have been absurd. But the Dominique Strauss-Kahn scandal has thrown France into turmoil. François Hollande, the mild-mannered regional governor, is leading the polls.
Sarkozy's tendency to honesty doesn't seem to extend as far as an appetite for debate. Given a hard ride by some journalists in relation to a major current corruption scandal -- hardly a topic that journalists ought to avoid -- Sarkozy raged at them.
In the Financial Times, Stein Ringen, a professor of sociology at Oxford, takes a lash to forecasting-happy economists, this time over the eurozone. The column provides a lesson in how difficult it is to resist the allure of prediction and the appeal of the simple dichotomy.