Debt Quicksand: Europe Fights the Growing Currency Crisis

By Carlo Angerer, and

For a while, Europe's common currency crisis seemed to be cooling down. But this week Italy joined other debt-ridden euro-zone countries in the crosshairs of the financial markets. Europe's indebted nations are fighting to get their houses in order -- with some success.

A protester carrying a banner that reads "No home, no job, no pension, no fear" withdraws money from an ATM machine of a bank next to graffiti sprayed by other protesters during a demonstration in Madrid. The graffiti reads, "Responsible for the crisis." Zoom
REUTERS

A protester carrying a banner that reads "No home, no job, no pension, no fear" withdraws money from an ATM machine of a bank next to graffiti sprayed by other protesters during a demonstration in Madrid. The graffiti reads, "Responsible for the crisis."

In spite of massive cash transfusions and bailout packages, the euro-zone has started trembling again over its weakest members. The future of the common currency is, again, at stake. Ireland and Portugal will receive billions of euros in support, and a second bailout for Greece is in the works. And just as European politicians were starting to think about their summer vacations, Italy's public debt has slipped into focus.

It looks almost as if speculators are working slowly through a list of European governments, namely the indebted ones known under the notorious acronym PIIGS -- Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain (which may be up next). What's certain, though, is that all five governments will be under close observation by financial markets as long as the EU comes up with nothing but short-term fixes.

The common impression of a single big debt crisis in Europe, though, is deceptive. The euro zone's problems are wildly different from one indebted nation to another, so the dangers vary. Governments have also fought for some time against financial collapse, and in some ways they've started to win.

How did debt problems start in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain? How will the countries dig themselves out, and how well? This overview breaks down the debt crisis from nation to nation.

The Crisis Countries Compared


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