TIMELINE: How the 2-year eurozone crisis unfolded

Agence France-Presse
These are the key dates in Europe's debt crisis

BRUSSELS, Belgium – Key dates in Europe’s debt crisis:

2009

– December: The three main credit ratings agencies, Fitch, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s, downgrade Greece’s debt. Prime Minister George Papandreou outlines massive public spending cuts.

2010

– January: Spain announces a three-year austerity plan in a bid to cut its public debt.

– May: Greece becomes the first eurozone country to receive a bailout as the EU and IMF announce a 110-billion-euro ($145-billion) package in exchange for further harsh austerity measures.

Creation of a 440-billion-euro rescue fund, the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF), to help indebted nations.

– July: Italy announces an unpopular austerity package.

– November: The EU and IMF grant Ireland an 85-billion-euro bailout in exchange for slashing public sector pay and pensions.

2011

– May: Portugal agrees with the EU and IMF a 78-billion-euro bailout in exchange for an austerity programme.

– June: Further austerity and privatisation measures in Greece.

– July: Eurozone finance ministers agree to beef up their rescue fund.

– August: Italy and Spain come under pressure from speculators. The French government announces an austerity programme.

– October: European leaders agree on a new 130-billion-euro bailout for Greece, with private investors agreeing to write off 100 billion euros of debt.

– November: During a political crisis, Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou first announces a referendum on the support programme, then resigns. He is replaced by Lucas Papademos, a former European Central Bank executive.

– The crisis also costs the job of Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi, who is replaced by Mario Monti, a former European commissioner.

– December 9: EU governments, all except Britain, band together to back tighter budget policing after a heated summit.

– December 21: The European Central Bank makes a record volume of cheap loans available to eurozone banks.

– December 30: Spain’s new right-leaning government unveils spending cuts and tax increases to claw back 15.1 billion euros in 2012.

2012

– January 13: Big banks in Greece say they have failed to reach an agreement to slash the country’s debt burden.

– Standard & Poor’s decides to downgrade nine eurozone countries, with France and Austria losing their top-notch triple-A credit rating.

– January 24: The eurozone piles pressure on Greece, conditioning new loans on an economic overhaul and demanding banks accept far lower interest rates on replacement bonds under a debt write-down. It sets a deadline of February 13 for a deal.

– January 27: Fitch Ratings downgrades five eurozone states, including Italy and Spain.

Germany raises the prospect of a push for Greece to surrender temporary budgetary sovereignty.

– January 30: EU leaders hold their first summit of 2012 to finalise a pact tightening budget discipline and focus on ways to spur growth amid fears of a new recession.

– February 21: Eurozone countries approve a second rescue package for Greece worth 230 billion euros, including 100 billion euros from a private creditor debt write-off and up to 130 billion euros in fresh loans.

– March 2: EU leaders sign the Treaty for Stability, Coordination and Governance designed to force governments to adopt balanced budgets through a “golden rule” or face fines.

– March 2: Spain’s prime minister says Madrid cannot hope to close a huge gap to meet an EU-agreed deficit target for 2012.

– March 21: The worst is over in the eurozone debt crisis, European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi says in a newspaper interview.

– March 30: Eurozone ministers strike a landmark deal to raise their protective debt firewall to more than one trillion dollars.

– April 26: Standard & Poor’s cuts Spain’s sovereign debt rating by two notches to BBB-plus, warning that Madrid is likely to have to prop up its banks.

– May 2: Standard & Poor’s raises Greece from selective default status to “CCC” after the country completes a bond swap cancelling debt worth about 105 billion euros

– May 6: The two main Greek parties, the socialist Pasok and the conservative New Democracy, both of which back austerity deals, suffer major losses in a general election.

– May 10: Spain nationalises its fourth-largest listed bank, Bankia.

– May 11: European Commission president Jose Manuel Barroso warns Greece it should leave the euro if it fails to respect the strict rules agreed to in exchange for a bailout.

– May 15: Greek political leaders meet President Carolos Papoulias in a bid to form a “technocratic” government but the talks fail and Pasok leader Evangelos Venizelos says the country will have to hold new elections.

They are scheduled for June 17.

– May 17: Rating firm Fitch downgrades Greece’s credit a notch to CCC from B-, citing political uncertainty over the country’s commitment to a crucial bailout and possible exit of the eurozone.

– May 22: Europe comes under mounting pressure as the OECD warns the eurozone crisis has worsened and poses the most serious risk to a recovery for the global economy.

– June 7: Fitch Ratings slashed Spain’s sovereign credit rating by three notches to BBB, citing ballooning estimates of the cost of a banking crisis, mushrooming debt and a deepening recession.

– June 9: Spain formally requests a European lifeline of up to 100 billion euros ($125 billion) to save its stricken banks and avert a broader financial catastrophe. – Agence France-Presse