The euro must not become a "break-up factor" that pits northern Europe against crisis-choked nations in the south of the continent, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti says.
"The biggest tragedy for Italy and for Europe would be to see the euro become, because of our failures, a break-up factor which awakens the prejudices of the north against the south, and vice-versa," Monti told an audience of young people in Rimini on the Adriatic coast on Sunday.
"The risk exists," he said.
The European Union and eurozone countries are split over how to solve the financial crisis convulsing various nations, especially in Europe's south.
Former eurocrat Monti has previously warned the rest of the eurozone that Italy must be allowed breathing space on the markets to have any chance of pulling away from the debt crisis brink and resisting contagion from other weaker members such as Spain.
Italy, eurozone's third largest economy, is wallowing in deep recession and Italians have seen a series of austerity packages, tax hikes and reforms to try to tackle the country's debt.