Page last updated at 00:00 GMT, Tuesday, 16 March 2010

European finance ministers agree Greece rescue plan

By Nigel Cassidy
BBC Europe business correspondent

EU president Herman Van Rompuy (L) and Luxembourg Prime Minister and Eurogroup president Jean-Claude Juncker
Jean-Claude Juncker (r) refused to give details on the potential bailout

Europe's finance ministers have agreed how to help Greece in its battle to control its finances.

After a meeting in Brussels, they revealed few details, except that they had ruled out any loan guarantees.

For weeks, the financial markets had wondered if the EU's promised support for Greece would ever be forthcoming.

After four hours of talks, the finance ministers of the 16 eurozone countries said they had agreed how they would help Greece should it prove necessary.

Their leader, Luxembourg's Prime Minister Jean-Claude Juncker, said the plan was to plug gaps that might emerge in Greece's battle to control its finances.

Short on detail

EU leaders will decide on the detail of the mooted financial lifeline during a meeting on the 25 and 26 March. But it is all far from cut and dried.

Deficit: 12.7% of output, four times higher than EU limit
Debt: 300bn euros (£275bn; $410bn)
Unemployment: 10%
Inflation: 2.8%

The announcement, on the eve of the full financial ministers' meeting in Brussels, was distinctly short on detail.

Asked if the help would take the form of loan guarantees, Mr Juncker said it would not.

He repeated that he believed Greece would not now need a bail-out.

The financial markets might beg to disagree on this point, having raised the country's borrowing costs because of fears Greece might default.

So one of the biggest questions still remains - how much money is being set aside, and are the largest euro members, Germany or France, now prepared to lead the pack and write cheques for Greece should the country be unable to meet its commitments.

European debt and deficit figures

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