EU leaders are meeting in Brussels today amid concerns that the fate of the single currency may be in the balance and that Europe may be slipping into the sidelines of globalised affairs.
"We're at a critical point in the most serious crisis since the Second World War," warned Olli Rehn, the European commissioner for monetary affairs.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the most influential figure in the crisis, has expressed confidence that Europe will rise to the challenge.
The situation in Portugal will be discussed in Brussels informally today but the focus will be more on Greece. To secure a second bailout of more than €100 billion and an immediate €12 billion lifeline to avoid insolvency, the Greek government must approve a package of severe spending cuts and national assets sales in the face of fierce public opposition in Athens. Failure could have immense implications for Portugal and other countries within the EU – and perhaps for the euro itself. Today, however, is not decision day on this.
Prime Minister Pedro Passos Coelho yesterday ordered that the tickets for himself and four staff members flying from Lisbon to Brussels today be changed from executive to economy class. Another measure of just how serious the new Portuguese government is taking the crisis is that ministers in the new cabinet have been told their summer break in August will be limited to one week. Members of parliament can only take a fortnight off.