Worries over future of euro, says think tank

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The euro currency area has only a one-in-five chance of surviving in its present form over the next 10 years because of competitive imbalances between its members, a think tank said yesterday.

The Centre for Economics and Business Research said Spain and Italy would have to refinance more than e400bn (341bn) of bonds in the spring, potentially starting a fresh crisis within the 16-nation euro area.

"The euro might break up at this point, though European politicians are normally able to respond to a crisis," said CEBR chief executive Douglas McWilliams in a list of 10 forecasts for 2011.

Sovereign debt crises in Greece and Ireland have rocked euro nations this year, leading some commentators to speculate that Germany could eventually lose patience with bailing out its more profligate neighbours, triggering a split in the currency bloc.

Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly stressed Berlin's commitment to the euro. She highlighted this commitment again in her New Year message.

"Germany needs Europe and our common currency," she said. "For our own well-being and in order to overcome great worldwide challenges.

"We Germans assume our responsibility, even when it is sometimes very hard."