The eurozone's weakest states on Friday pleaded for more help from their richer neighbors at a summit in Brussels, where leaders worked to thrash out a "comprehensive response" to the crippling debt crisis by the end of the month.
Markets remain unconvinced that countries like Greece, the crisis' first victim, will become financially self-sufficient anytime soon, despite a long series of brutal austerity measures.
"We are on track with our program, we have taken the pain to make our economy more viable," said George Papandreou, the prime minister of Greece, as he arrived in Brussels. "But now we need European decisions, strong European decisions to calm the market."
In his call for more assistance and understanding Papandreou was joined by newly elected Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny. "I've come here with two days in government with a very strong mandate from the Irish people for an improvement in the terms of the EU-IMF deal," Kenny told journalists, referring to the country's €67.5 billion ($93 billion) bailout funded by the International Monetary Fund and other EU countries.
Meanwhile, Portugal — seen by many as the next most likely candidate for an international rescue — announced additional tax increases and moneysaving measures to convince other eurozonestates that it is doing its part to survive the crisis.
The pleas by now have a familiar ring. More than a year into the debt crisis, Europe still faces much the same problems as a year ago — except that after endless promises, negotiations, and two bailouts, jittery markets now appear at the end of their tether.
Greece and Ireland are reeling from the effects of steep budget cuts, while Portugal and much larger Spain are scrambling to avoid a similar fate. The governments of fiscally strong states like Germany, the Netherlands and Finland, meanwhile, are reluctant to put up more money as pressure from their taxpayers grows.
While the negotiations go on, anxious investors have been driving funding costs for weak eurozonestates to new record highs and are questioning how the eurozone'sstragglers will ever garner the necessary economic growth to pay off their massive bills.
Data released Friday showed that Greece's budget deficit increased 9% in the first two months of the year as the country struggled to raise revenue amid painful austerity measures. The state budget figures are not the same as the general government deficit, which the EU uses to assess whether Greece is meeting its fiscal targets, but they nevertheless underline the challenge faced by Greece and Ireland to pay back debts as their economies shrink.