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Increasing stereotypes threaten European unity
Fissures » The rift between northern and southern countries threatens the euro as much as interest rates and deficits.

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He says that Merkel is punishing Spain unfairly.

"I am not sure if she has something against Spain or Spaniards," he said. "But I think she is tightening the screws too much on the government and against the Spanish people."

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For all the stridency, there are people in Europe trying to act as conciliators.

French President Francois Hollande, whose country stretches from the English Channel to the Mediterranean, is pressing for some relaxation of the austerity being forced on countries receiving bailout loans.

And Luxembourg Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, who is also president of the Eurogroup of finance ministers warned Monday in an interview on German TV of the dangers of the current tone of conversation.

"That means what was history, and what we thought we had definitely buried, it resurges fast," he said. "European integration remains a highly fragile undertaking. One has to deal carefully with European sentiments and not think history is history. No, no — history is present and we have to treat each other carefully."

Cinzia Alcidi, a research fellow at the Brussels-based Center for European Policy Studies, said national politicians had an obligation not to inflame passions.

"I think there is a sort of division emerging between the creditors and the debtors," Alcidi said. "I think that this element should not be underestimated. I perceive this as the biggest threat to the European project, and the E.U. as a whole."

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