Countries agree on transaction tax
The agreement was a victory for German chancellor Angela Merkel on the day she travelled to Athens, epicentre of Europe's debt crisis, to express her support for near-bankrupt Greece staying in the euro zone.
Greek police fired teargas and stun grenades to hold back tens of thousands of protesters who accused Dr Merkel of imposing devastating austerity on their country in exchange for two EU/IMF bailouts that have so far failed to turn the shattered economy around.
"I have come here today in full knowledge that the period Greece is living through right now is an extremely difficult one for the Greeks and many people are suffering," Dr Merkel said at a joint news conference with prime minister Antonis Samaras not far from the mayhem on Syntagma Square, outside parliament.
"Precisely for that reason I want to say that much of the path is already behind us," she added, offering a public display of support to fellow conservative Samaras and his three-month-old government on her first visit to Greece since 2007.
In another step towards closer euro zone integration, the French parliament voted for a law to ratify a German-driven European budget discipline treaty which Socialist president Francois Hollande had opposed while in opposition.
Despite a revolt by a handful of anti-austerity left-wingers, Mr Hollande secured a majority of his own Socialist party and allies without having to rely on conservative lawmakers to ratify a text he says has been softened by the adoption of European measures to promote growth.
The 17 euro zone ministers finally inaugurated their 500 billion euro permanent rescue fund on Monday, but danced around the question of how soon it might have to be used.
Ministers insisted Spain was taking the right actions to restore its public finances and did not need a bailout for now, even though many in the financial markets are convinced Madrid will need help within weeks rather than months.
The International Monetary Fund doused several euro zone countries' budget plans, including those of Spain and France, by revising down its 2013 growth forecasts for their economies.
Euro zone peers told Spanish Economy Minister Luis de Guindos that his country's budget cuts should take into account the weakness in the economy as regional policymakers debated whether to let Madrid slacken the pace of its austerity drive.
Of the IMF's forecasts for Spain, Mr de Guindos said: "The only thing I can say is to try to avoid that they happen.
"Logically, we are working on the basis that such negative forecasts are not met," he said.
The ministers also had a "robust" discussion with the IMF about the long-term sustainability of Greece's debt mountain - a key factor in whether international lenders release an urgently needed next tranche of aid to Athens.
An IMF director told a Dutch newspaper that European countries should consider restructuring the Greek debt they hold if the country's financial burden proves unsustainable.
Diplomats say euro zone governments would prefer to find ways to give Athens more time to meet its fiscal targets and postpone any consideration of official debt restructuring until after next September's German parliamentary election.
European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi told the European Parliament the euro zone economy faced a long, uphill road to recovery and the bloc was still suffering a crisis of confidence.
But he said there was no alternative to continued budget cuts.