If the two biggest economies in the euro zone weren't abiding by the rules, why should anyone else?--Der Spiegel, 2011.
Determined to lay the foundations of an ever closer union among the peoples of Europe,
Resolved to ensure the economic and social progress of their countries by common action to eliminate the barriers which divide Europe,
Affirming as the essential objective of their efforts the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples,
Recognising that the removal of existing obstacles calls for concerted action in order to guarantee steady expansion, balanced trade and fair competition,
Anxious to strengthen the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions,
Desiring to contribute, by means of a common commercial policy, to the progressive abolition of restrictions on international trade,
Intending to confirm the solidarity which binds Europe and the overseas countries and desiring to ensure the development of their prosperity, in accordance with the principles of the Charter of the United Nations,
Resolved by thus pooling their resources to preserve and strengthen peace and liberty, and calling upon the other peoples of Europe who share their ideal to join in their efforts,
Have decided to create a European Economic Community.--Rome, 1957.
The quoted preamble to the treaty establishing the European Economic Community offers the best (and just about only) articulation of the vision that animates the European Union (EU). The EU exists to offer a closer union among the peoples of Europe. This wording explicitly recognizes the reality (then and now) that in Europe peoples and the borders of sovereign states do not overlap neatly. To note this is not to ignore that a union of peoples may generate problems and tensions for other politically and morally significant entities -- e.g., regions, which are at least mentioned, individuals, families, clans, churches, etc. In addition, the wording 'peoples' can be explained, even defended, if we remind ourselves that the animating principle of the EU is to prevent another war between Germans (then unwillingly divided) and French.
From the vantage point of the last few centuries (and possibly stretching back to time immemorial), the ever closer union of the EEC (and its successor treaties/institutions) has been an astounding success. A century ago Flanders's fields were killing fields. Whenever I hear Irish friends despair of 'the troubles,' or whenever I am told, by people in the know, that no peace is possible between Israelis and Palestinians, I remind myself that the border between Germany and France is as open and flourishing as the borders between the USA and Canada or the Benelux countries.
From this vantage point it has always been axiomatic that when Germans and French cooperate (the so-called engine of European integration) peace and liberty will follow. But there has always been a tacit assumption--they would cooperate in a rules based fashion. But in 2002 the Germans and French cooperated in doing away with their commitments under the Maastricht Treaty. (Don't trust me: read Der Spiegel in 2011.) This taught all Europeans that within Europe might makes right, again. Since then the ECB's operations have had an extremely tenuous legal base during the last half decade. The state of exception has become so routine that it is the new normal. Again, don't trust my word: about half a decade ago the leading, public spirited civil servants of the German Bundesbank resigned their positions (see also).
The governments of Europe's creditor peoples (Germany, France, Holland) have known that previous Greek governments cheated to join the Euro and lied about its subsequent budget commitments for quite a while. It is, moreover, undeniable that in addition to massive tax evasion, the Greek people took a long time to rid themselves of the politicians who were responsible for this mess, scandalously voting for the same scoundrels who had been responsible for the problems in the series of 2012 elections. (We ought not forget that the Greek electorate treated George Papandreou's attempt to create a more honest political culture with contempt.)
But while there is plenty of blame to go around, since 2011 the actions of the EU/Troika/ECB (etc.) have been completely at odds with the essential objective...the constant improvement of the living and working conditions of their peoples," and "the unity of their economies and to ensure their harmonious development by reducing the differences existing between the various regions and the backwardness of the less favoured regions. On any objective measure the imposed policy consequences have been the opposite of the stated aims for the Union. It is irrational to stay the course.
The foundations of a rules-based EU have been nearly destroyed without the benefit of ending the Euro crisis (arguably rule-violations have hindered the process--we are now in a situation that nearly every member government aims to cut corners somewhere). This crisis is not limited to Greek debts or the ongoing banking crisis; several member countries (e.g. Hungary) pursue policies deeply at odds with liberty; too many young Muslim citizens are not buying into European ideals and leave to fight in foreign wars or become local threats. At Europe's borders the governments of Russia and Turkey are openly and dangerously showing contempt for the political-legal framework that has governed European affairs during the last few generations. While there are diverse and complex causes that govern each element of these crises, the common core is a growing cynicism about the very idea of a rule-governed, ever closer union. Without peoples acting in accord with that ideal it is unlikely that the EU can survive over the medium term.