BRUSSELS, April 24 (UPI) -- The European Commission said Tuesday that government finances in Europe remain in dire straights with debt growing despite some deficit improvements.
In the 27-member European Union, the deficit for 2011 was 4.5 percent of the gross domestic product for the region, the EUobserver reported. In 2010, the deficit for the region stood at 6.5 percent.
In the eurozone, which is the 17-nation region that uses the euro as currency, the deficit -- the amount of spending that exceeded government revenues -- fell from 6.2 percent in 2010 to 4.1 percent in 2011.
Ireland, Greece and Spain posted the highest percentages of overspending with deficits compared to GDP of 13.1 percent, 9.1 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.
Government debt, the total of what governments owe, rose in the EU from 80 percent of GDP in 2010 to 82.5 percent in 2011. In the eurozone, debt rose from 85.3 percent of GDP in 2010 to 87.2 percent in 2011.
Last year, 14 EU states had debt ratios above 60 percent of GDP, including Greece, which topped all EU nations with debt that was 165.3 percent of its GDP. In Italy, the ratio as 120.1 percent. In Ireland it was 108.2 percent.
EU guidelines advocate for member states to keep debt below 60 percent of the country's GDP.