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Anti-euro sentiment jumps in Italy, 40% want lira back: poll

[ROME] After years of grinding recession Italians are getting fed up with Europe's common currency, a poll showed on Friday, with 40 per cent saying the country should now ditch the euro and return to the lira.

That is a jump from 25.7 per cent in the same poll last year, Eurispes research institute said in its annual report.

The change is especially surprising for Italy, where people have traditionally been strongly pro-European and have harboured greater trust in EU institutions than in their own, which have long been dogged by political instability and corruption.

"Only last year we underscored the fact that Italians continued to support the euro despite their distrust of our institutions," Eurispes President Gian Maria Fara said in the report, blaming the prolonged economic slump for the rise in anti-euro sentiment.

"The number of people living in poverty is growing. Poor economic expectations have reached discouraging levels." Tensions in the eurozone are on the rise again after Greeks, weary of austerity and recession, elected a government last Sunday that wants to renegotiate its debt bailout.

Greece's 2011 crisis threatened to tip Italy, with its 2-trillion-euro debt mountain, into default.

Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi has cut taxes for low earners and is pressing the European Union to focus more on rebooting economic growth, but Italy's reforms are progressing only slowly.

Several Italian opposition parties are outspoken critics of the euro, including the anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, which wants a referendum on Italy's membership, and the Northern League which has seen a surge in its support over the last year.

Italy's economy, the eurozone's third largest, has not posted a single quarter of growth since mid-2011 and unemployment remains close to all-time records, though data on Friday showed it unexpectedly fell below 13 per cent in December.

The economic slump has also produced a steady rise in the number of Italians leaving the country to look for work elsewhere, and Friday's poll showed 45.4 per cent said they were now considering emigrating.

That is up from 40.6 per cent who were considering leaving in 2012, the last time Eurispes asked the same question.

REUTERS