If this is now one “homeland”, as Mr Sarkozy would have it, who are its enfranchised electors? Where does the power lie to overthrow or replace its rulers? What are the mechanisms for recalling the governing elite? Apparently, they will have to be foregone in the present emergency. (But where is the promise that they will ever return?) The future of the euro – that grand ideological folly which was supposed to remove any possibility of national self-aggrandisement – must take precedence now. All those quaint assumptions about the legitimacy of government coming from the consent of the governed must be cashed in for the “economic stability” that the rules of euro membership will provide…

The Greeks have been given a brutal lesson and the Italians a firm warning. Welcome to post-democratic Europe. What an irony that the rise of freedom in the Middle East – the Arab Spring – should coincide with the acceptance of its decline in the West. (The European Autumn?) Is this going to be the big story of the 21st century? Not just the West’s loss of economic dominance to the East, but the wilful dismantling of its political inheritance?

Thus far it has been politicians bending the knee. Whatever their governing classes decide, will Europe’s populations be prepared to sacrifice electoral self-determination? In peacetime, the voluntary renunciation of democratic rights is, so far as I know, unprecedented. But modern standards of prosperity have become so addictive – and Europeans so dependent on “social protection” (another favourite Barroso phrase) – that even the temporary loss of them may be too great a price to pay for an abstraction like political liberty.