On 1st January 1999 the Euro first became an official currency to join the currency member states had to qualify by meeting the terms of the treaty in terms of budget deficits, inflation, interest rates and other monetary requirements. In December 2008, EU leaders agree on a 200bn-euro stimulus plan to help boost European growth following the global financial crisis in the hope that the euro will recover. However by 2011 the EU were forced to bail out Greece, Ireland and Portugal and growing concerns over a possible bail out for Spain 2012. Greece faced the highest deficit of 13.6% of GDP which resulted in Greece being given a 110 billion euro bail out package to recue their economy which has forced the country to take on extreme austerity measures to improve the situation. Then the EU are forced to bail the Republic of Ireland out with a bailout package of 85 billion euros forcing them to pass the toughest budget in their history. Finally in 2011 Portugal admits it can no longer deal with its finances and asks the EU for assistance resulting in 78 billion euro bailout package. Spain and Italy seem to be the next euro zone countries inline for a bail out but have been trying to put measures in place to stop this from happening. During September 2011, Spain passes a constitutional amendment to add in a “golden rule” keeping future budget deficits to a strict limit. Italy then passes a 50bn-euro austerity budget to balance the budget by 2013 after weeks of haggling in parliament. There is fierce public opposition to the measures – and several key measures were watered down. The European Commission predicts that the eurozone economy will contract by 0.3% in 2012 however official figures showing that the eurozone’s retail sales increased unexpectedly in January by 0.3%, and the OECD reports its view that the region is showing tentative signs of recovery.