The eurozone's new year heralds a debt crisis that has alarm bells ringing and markets tracking government plans to tame the growing shortfall.
Officials have borrowed heavily to pull the 16-nation zone out of its first recession, and debt levels are set to smash a huge hole in the ceiling set by the European Union in its Stability and Growth Pact.
Soaring budget deficits, low growth and banking sector support "are feeding into significantly higher public debt levels," the European Commission has warned.
Average eurozone "public debt could reach 84 per cent of GDP (gross domestic product) by 2010, an increase of 18 percentage points from 2007," it said, far above the pact's limit of 60 per cent
Government debt ratings have been downgraded in Greece by all three major international agencies, and by some of them in Ireland and Spain as well.
The Fitch agency has urged all governments with top ratings to tame debt, mentioning in particular Britain, which is not a eurozone member, along with France and Spain, which are.........