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Europeans dislike the euro — but don't want to abandon it

By Pan Pylas

Associated Press

Published: Tuesday, May 29 2012 11:26 p.m. MDT

A statue of the ancient Greek philosopher Socrates is pictured with the headquarter of the central Bank of Greece in the background in Athens on Tuesday May 29, 2012. The four biggest Greek banks received 18 billion euros (22.6 billion USD) in rescue funds on May 28, 2012 to help reinforce their capital bases, a Hellenic financial stability fund source said. National Bank, the biggest Greek lender, has received 7.43 billion euros, Piraeus bank 4.7 billion, Eurobank 3.97 billion and Alpha 1.9 billion, the official said.(AP Photo/Dimitri Messinis)

Associated Press

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LONDON — The debt crisis that has ravaged Europe for the best part of three years has exposed a dislike of the single currency but little desire to abandon it, a wide-ranging survey of public opinion found Tuesday.

Pew Research Center's survey across eight European Union countries, including five members of the 17-country eurozone, indicated that the region's financial problems have triggered full-blown fears about the future of Europe as a political project.

"This crisis of confidence is evident in the economy, in the future, in the benefits of European economic integration, in EU membership, in the euro and in the free market system," Pew said in a statement accompanying its survey.

Despite those concerns, Pew found there was no desire for those countries that use the euro to return to their former currencies, such as the French franc or the Spanish peseta. The euro launched in 1999 and is now used by 17 countries.

In Greece, the epicenter of the debt crisis, 71 percent of those polled want to keep the euro, as against to 23 percent that want to return to the drachma. More people in Greece, which is now in its fifth year of a savage recession, think the euro has been good for them than bad — 46 percent of those surveyed compared to 26 percent who thought it was a bad thing.

These findings may be crucial as Greece heads to the polls on June 17 in a general election many see as a referendum on the country's euro membership.

Though Pew found little appetite for abandoning the euro, the survey revealed a prevailing skepticism over Europe's single currency.

More people in France, Italy and Spain think the euro has been more damaging than beneficial. In Italy, which has the second-highest debt burden in the eurozone after Greece, 44 percent of those people surveyed said the euro has been a bad thing, as opposed to 30 percent who think it has done good. Italy is also home to the biggest anti-euro constituency, with 40 percent of those polled wanting to return to the lira as against to 52 percent backing the euro.

Among the five euro countries surveyed there wasn't one where a majority — over 50 percent — of those polled thought the currency has been beneficial.

In Germany, Europe's biggest economy, more people thought it was beneficial than damaging.

"It's got a lot of advantages," said Andreas Schwanekamp, an office worker in Frankfurt, Germany. "We don't have to exchange currency when we leave the country."

Germany's exporters have benefited from the relatively low value of the euro against other key currencies such as the dollar when compared to what the deutschemark would likely be trading at.

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