Finance ministers from the 15-strong euro area have agreed to drop the goal of balancing the budgetary deficits by 2010, while concluding that the bloc does not need an extra package similar to the bank rescue plan but aimed instead at kick-starting the faltering economy.
Meeting in Brussels on Monday (3 November) on the eve of a full EU ministerial session on finance, the ministers decided that their previous medium-term objective of zero deficits by the end of this decade - agreed in April 2007 - "should be revised".
Instead, the goal will be replaced by individual plans for member states "on a case-by-case basis at dates that will pushed back," Eurozone chair, Luxembourg's premier and finance minister, Jean-Claude Juncker, told journalists.
The debate took place just after the European Commission presented a grim economic forecast for 2008 and next two years, warning that in 2009, the EU's economy will reach a "stand still."
EU economy commissioner Joaquin Almunia pressed governments to approach the problem, which threatens to severely affect jobs across the continent, in a similar, co-ordinated way as they did when they moved to save the bloc's banking sector.
"Looking at the need to accelerate as much as possible the decisions that can promote a recovery based on a sound basis, this co-ordination, this European action, and in particular this euro area action is essential and I am very happy to see the positive reaction of the members of the Eurogroup to these ideas," he said after the meeting.
However, Mr Juncker pointed out that this co-ordination should not come in form of a new package of measures similar to the bank rescue plans that involved emergency steps such as boosting deposit guarantees or pumping state capital into weakened financial institutions.
"We do not believe that in the euro area we need a general revival package, a sort of classical or traditional programme to stimulate the short-term economy," he said, adding that the existing rules are sufficient.
"It is simply a question of adopting targeted temporary and consistent measures designed to help us in the short-term," noted Luxembourg's leader.
On Monday, eurozone chiefs of finance gathered for the first time after several remarks by the French President Nicolas Sarkozy - whose country currently holds the six-month rotating presidency of the 27-strong club - about the future governance of the monetary union.
The French leader had suggested that there should be regular meetings of heads of state and government of members of the eurozone - similar to those that had been hosted by him under the extraordinary circumstances of the financial crisis that had pushed Europe's banking sector on the verge of total collapse.
This new forum could serve as a form of eurozone "economic government," Mr Sarkozy had said in his speech to the European Parliament last month.
But his Luxembourg counterpart, Mr Juncker, told journalists on Monday that while the idea is not new and the French president had argued in favour of it "on a number of occasions" before, "most member states did not agree with that idea."
"In my view, I do not think it is a good idea to institutionalise a meeting at such a high level, but it seems to me that whenever it is necessary, it is not a bad idea to be able to convene the heads of the Eurogroup," he said.
"As to who might chair, this is of secondary significance. Unlike the French president, I am both minister of finance and prime minister. So I have a particular advantage in the sense that I have all the skills to be able to fulfill both positions," he added.