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The negotiations leading up to the recent tentative deal on Greece's debt brought into relief two competing visions of the European Union: the flexible, humane and political union espoused by France, and the legalistic and economy-focused union promoted by Germany.The Greeks, for their part, have been putting their national identity ahead of their pocketbooks, in ways that economists do not understand and fail to predict. It is economically irrational for Greeks to prefer continued membership in the eurozone, when they could remain in the EU with a restored national currency that they could devalue.Whereas that stance reflects the vision of an "ever-closer union" that motivated the EU's founders, Germany's narrower, economic understanding of European integration cannot inspire ordinary citizens to support the compromises necessary to keep the EU together.For the EU to continue its march toward a stronger and closer polity and economy – one that nevertheless falls far short of a federal state – it must offer the credible prospect of a better life for all of its citizens.
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