Fireworks illuminate the sky around a huge euro sculpture, designed by German artist Ottmar Hoerl, in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, January 1, 2002. Several thousand people in Frankfurt celebrated at a party on
Fireworks illuminate the sky around a huge euro sculpture, designed by German artist Ottmar Hoerl, in front of the headquarters of the European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, January 1, 2002. Several thousand people in Frankfurt celebrated at a party on the streets around the ECB to welcome Europe's new currency, the euro.
Kai Pfaffenbach / Reuters

The project of European integration has always been a dream spurred by a nightmare. To escape the continent’s volatile, bloody past, the argument ran, European countries needed to bind themselves together and forge a harmonious common future. 

In fits and starts, to varying degrees on varying issues, this project has managed to achieve extraordinary success over the past seven decades, enabling Europe to reach levels of peace and prosperity at which previous generations could only have marveled. But the endeavor has always been more popular with elites than with the masses, has lurched from crisis to crisis, and has struggled to deal with the differences that keep Europe’s disparate parts from forming a seamless whole.

A man cycles by anti-EU graffiti in Athens, Greece June 28, 2015.
A man cycles by anti-EU graffiti in Athens, Greece June 28, 2015.
Alkis Konstantinidis / Reuters

Foreign Affairs has been covering the effort closely from the beginning, and as the Greek crisis comes to a head, we’ve decided to pull together highlights of our analysis of the quest for economic union in particular. This collection provides an unparalleled look at the past, present, and future of Europe’s common currency, showcasing more than two dozen of the world’s leading experts on European economics and politics to help you better understand the story behind the headlines. From the earliest days of the European Economic Community, to the formation of the European Union, to the introduction of the euro, to the trauma of the recent financial crisis and the debate over Grexit, the articles trace all the major issues from all significant perspectives.

The current turmoil has not come out of the blue, nor is it the fault of any one party alone. Greece should not have been allowed into the eurozone, because it was so far away from meeting the appropriate criteria. Once in, it should not have spent far beyond its means, running a Third World state in a First World area. The banks should not have lent so much to Greece, and once they did so, they should have been forced to accept the adverse consequences of their own bad bets. European leaders should have dealt with the crisis earlier and then should have recognized that their supposed remedies were making matters worse rather than better. And in recent months, Greek leaders should not have played their hand so badly.

The issue now is not just what will happen with Greece but how whatever happens with Greece will affect the future of the broader multigenerational project of European economic integration—in other words, whether the current night terrors will end the dream for good. Like everybody else, we will be watching closely; we offer this collection to explain how and why things got to this point and to suggest where they might go next.

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