Brussels (AFP) - Eurozone government debt levels eased in the third quarter of last year for the first time since 2007 but still remained way above the EU limit, official data showed on Wednesday.
Total accumulated debt in the then 17-nation eurozone was equal to 92.7 percent of gross domestic product in 2013 third quarter, down from 93.4 percent in the three months to June, the Eurostat statistics agency said.
The European Union ceiling for public debt is 60 percent of GDP but most member states have breached this level, a situation made worse as governments borrowed to fund economic stimulus or make up for shortfalls in tax revenue during the debt crisis.
Eurostat said the downturn was the first in absolute terms since the fourth quarter 2007, at the beginning of the global financial crash which was followed by the eurozone debt crisis.
In third quarter of 2012, eurozone public debt stood at 90 percent and increased over the following year.
The countries with the worst debt levels at the end of third quarter 2013 were twice-bailed out Greece on 171.8 percent and Italy 132.9 percent while Portugal and Ireland, who also had to be rescued, were on 128.7 percent and 124.8 percent respectively.
Estonia boasted the lowest level at just 10 percent.
In the 28-member European Union, third quarter 2013 public debt edged up to 86.8 percent from 86.7 percent.