News / Europe

Europe's Debt Crisis: The Key Milestones

A statue shows the Euro symbol flipped, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 7, 2012. A statue shows the Euro symbol flipped, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 7, 2012.
A statue shows the Euro symbol flipped, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 7, 2012.
A statue shows the Euro symbol flipped, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels, Belgium, March 7, 2012.
Ken BredemeierJeff Seldin
Here are some important touchpoints for the protracted governmental debt crisis in Europe's 17-nation euro currency bloc:

February 2, 2010: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou proposes new measures to freeze civil service salaries and raise fuel taxes and retirement ages. He urges Greek lawmakers to support the plan, saying it is needed to pull the country back from the edge of a financial cliff.  Some investors believe Athens may need a bailout from other European Union nations or the International Monetary Fund to avoid a default. EU officials dismiss the need for a Greek bailout, saying Athens is capable of solving the crisis by itself.

February 15, 2010: European finance ministers warn Greece it may need to take drastic action and that pledges to cut government spending and raise money do not go far enough.  EU ministers give Greece until mid-March to show it can make substantial progress.  

March 3, 2010: The Greek Cabinet approves broad new spending cuts designed to save an extra $6.5 billion.  The measures include a sales tax increase, a freeze in pensions and additional salary cuts for government workers.

March 7, 2010: French President Nicolas Sarkozy promises eurozone nations will not let Greece fail. Sarkozy says the 16 countries then using the euro as their currency are working on specific steps to help Greece.

March 8, 2010: Portugal announces a series of austerity measures intended to cut the nation's budget deficit by 2013.  The plan includes delaying a high-speed rail project, cutting military spending, paring social spending and raising some taxes.  It also calls for limits on public sector wage increases.

March 11, 2010: About 30,000 people march through Athens in a new wave of protests against civil service pay cuts and a freeze on pensions.  Near Athens University, some of the clashes turn violent as protesters hurl rocks and petrol bombs.

March 24, 2010: EU ministers fail to agree on how to help the struggling Greek economy as the value of the euro plunges to a 10-month low against the dollar. Meanwhile, the Fitch ratings agency lowers its credit rating for another eurozone nation, Portugal, because of worries that county will be unable to pay back its loans.

April 26-27, 2010:  Ratings agency Standard and Poor's cuts Greek long-term government bonds three levels to speculative or "junk" status.  It also downgrades Portugal's sovereign debt by two notches.  S&P says it has growing concerns about the ability of the Greek and Portuguese governments to repay debts.

May 2, 2010: EU finance ministers unveil a $146 billion EU-International Monetary Fund rescue package for Greece.  German Chancellor Angela Merkel says it is the only way to ensure the stability of the euro.  The announcement comes the day after thousands of protesters rally in Athens against the government's plan to make deep budget cuts.  

May 7, 2010: The IMF gives final approval to a $40 billion bailout for Greece, part of the larger $146 billion rescue package that has already been approved.  IMF managing Director Dominique Strauss-Kahn says the Greek government should be commended for "well-balanced" efforts to bring the country out of its financial crisis.

May 27, 2010: Spain's parliament approves an $18 billion package in spending cuts, including wage cuts for civil servants, by a one-vote margin. Two days later, Fitch cuts Spain's credit rating one notch, warning that a strict austerity plan intended to cut debt could also slow economic growth.

June 14, 2010: Moody's Investors Service downgrades Greece's bond ratings to "junk" status because of concerns the country could fail to cut its deficit and pay down its debt.

November 27, 2010: Tens of thousands of protesters mass in Dublin to protest the Irish government's plan to cut social welfare programs and raise taxes.  The cuts are needed to secure a $113 billion international bailout for the debt-plagued nation. European Union governments approve the bailout package the following day.  

March 23, 2011: Portuguese Prime Minister Jose Socrates resigns after parliament rejects plans for more spending cuts.

March 24, 2011: Thousands of demonstrators confront police in Brussels, where a European Union summit tries to deal with the debt crisis.  Belgian police fire tear gas and water cannons at nearly 20,000 protesters.

May 3, 2011: Portugal becomes the third European Union nation to take a bailout, accepting a $116 billion package from the EU and the IMF.

May, 12, 2011: The IMF warns debt problems in Greece, Ireland and Portugal could spread to other eurozone nations and to the emerging economies in eastern Europe.   

May 19, 2011: Thousands of protestors frustrated with Spain's high unemployment rate gather in major Spanish cities to demand that Madrid provide them with jobs.  Spain's jobless rate is more than 21 percent.

June 29, 2011: The Greek parliament approves sweeping new austerity measures - voting for $40 billion in tax hikes and spending cuts.  The plan also calls for the sale of state-owned assets.   Lawmakers vote for the plan as thousands of rock-throwing protesters clash with police in central Athens.

July 22, 2011: The EU and the IMF agree to give Greece another bailout worth about $155 billion. Greece will also get voluntary loans from the private sector to help cover the financial gap.

August 12, 2011: Italy unveils sharp budget cuts - about $28 billion in 2012 and $35 billion in 2013.  The European Central Bank had demanded the cuts in exchange for supporting Italy's bonds. Interest rates on those bonds soared a week earlier, increasing investor fears that Italy also could be forced to seek a bailout.

October 19, 2011: An estimated 70,000 people march on the Greek parliament, some clashing with police while a massive protest and general strike paralyzes Athens. Public and private sector unions slam the government's plans to slash the salaries of public workers and raise taxes.

November 1, 2011: World stock markets plummet after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou says he will call for a referendum on further austerity measures needed to secure additional bailout funds.  One Greek survey shows 60 percent of those questioned took a negative view of the Brussels debt-relief agreement.  Some European leaders and financial analysts say a Greek vote against the debt-relief agreement would amount to Greece's departure from the eurozone and could lead to new turmoil on world financial markets.

November 2, 2011: French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel say Greece will receive no more European bailout aid until it fulfills its commitments to the eurozone.

November 3, 2011: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou scraps a possible referendum on acceptance of the European bailout package.  Meanwhile, the European Central Bank unexpectedly cuts its key interest rate by a quarter percentage point to 1.25 percent. Still later, it cuts the rate to 1 percent as the eurozone economy contracts further.

November 6, 2011: Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou agrees to step down in favor of a short-term coalition government whose primary task will be reaching agreement on a new EU bailout deal.

November 8, 2011: Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi says he will resign as soon as parliament passes crucial economic reforms.  He makes the announcement after he loses his parliamentary majority during a vote on a routine budget measure in the lower house. Italy is the third largest economy in the eurozone and the seventh largest in the world.  But it faces potential economic crisis caused by its ballooning public debt.

December 9, 2011: Eurozone leaders decide to adopt new budget restraints for spending by individual governments.

January 2012: Credit rating agency Standard & Poor's downgrades France and eight other eurozone governments, and a few days later the currency bloc's rescue fund, for their failure to resolve the debt crisis.

January 2012: Of the 27 EU countries, all but Britain and the Czech Republic agree to the new rules tightening budget controls.

February 10, 2012: Greece agrees to new austerity measures demanded by its international creditors.

March 13, 2012: Eurozone officials agree to a new $162 billion bailout for Greece.

May 6, 2012: Greeks vote for parties opposed to the bailout and the austerity demanded by the country's lenders. But within days, new elections are called for June 17 after the country's fractious political parties are unable to form a new coalition government.

June 9, 2012: Spain says it will seek a $125 billion rescue deal from the eurozone for its ailing banks burdened with defaulted real estate loans. Meanwhile, in the ensuing days, the Spanish government's borrowing costs reach new heights, pushed to the level at which Greece, Ireland and Portugal were forced to secure international bailouts.

June 17, 2012: In the second round of parliamentary voting, Greek voters favor the pro-bailout, conservative New Democracy party led by Antonis Samaras. A few days later, he forms a new coalition government.

June 28-29, 2012: European Union leaders, meeting in Brussels, are scheduled to hold their 20th summit on the debt crisis.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters and is national security correspondent. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Video Americans, Tourists, Reflect on Meaning of Thanksgiving

VOA garnered opinions from several people soon after November 13 Paris attacks, which colored many of their thoughts

Video Thais Send Security Concerns Down the River

In northern Thailand, the annual tradition of constructing floating baskets to carry away the year’s bad spirits highlights the Loy Krathong festival

Video Tree Houses - A Branch of American Dream

Workshops aimed at teaching people how to build tree houses have become widely popular in America in recent years

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs