Europe has claimed the scalps of two leaders in almost as many days. First George Papandreou, the Greek prime minister, promised to resign, and then Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi did the same. Both leaders have been in trouble for some time, but the immediate cause of their downfall is plain: the ultimatum they received from eurozone leaders at the G20 summit in Cannes to reform their economies—or else.

Two taboos were broken in Cannes. It was the first time eurozone leaders accepted that a member could default and leave the euro. (And once the unthinkable is possible, why stop at Greece?) It was also the first time leaders intruded so deliberately into the internal politics of other countries.

True, the European Union has long influenced national politics. Think of how Conservative divisions over Europe contributed to the resignation of Britain’s Margaret Thatcher in 1990, or how new members have transformed themselves to join the EU, or how Italy reformed its public finances to qualify for the euro in 1999. In the past year the crisis has brought down the prime ministers of Ireland and Portugal after they needed to be bailed out.

Yet something has changed. Europeans see themselves as a family; they have rows, but nobody questions a member’s right to be part of the clan. But at Cannes eurozone leaders made plain that family members could be forsaken, even disinherited. Some see this as an assault on national democracies by the European elite, be it unelected or self-appointed (as in the case of the German-French duo of “Merkozy”, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy). Much has been written about the subjugation of Greece, the cradle of democracy, under a second German occupation. Read full article in The Economist...