The EU’s leaders are hoping that financial markets will react positively to a wide range of measures to strengthen the eurozone scheduled for agreement at a summit in Brussels today and tomorrow (24-25 March). Leaders are this evening expected to approve measures designed to boost confidence in the euro. These include setting up a permanent eurozone rescue fund, the European Stability Mechanism, from 2013, and increasing the effective lending capacity of a temporary scheme, the European Financial Stability Facility. But agreement on the deal could be overshadowed if, as widely expected, Portugal needs to seek financial assistance from the eurozone and the International Monetary Fund. The Portuguese parliament was scheduled to vote on a new round of austerity measures as European Voice went to press. Failure to agree would mean Portugal would rapidly need help to refinance its debts. Portuguese debt Investors have shunned Portuguese government debt over recent weeks amid fears that political instability will prevent the country from cutting its deficit to sustainable levels. This has sent the cost to the government of financing its debt above 7%, a level widely seen by economists as unsustainable. While investors seem to have priced in the inevitability of Portugal needing financial help, they are concerned by other issues on which eurozone countries have not yet reached a final agreement. These include the precise mechanisms with which eurozone countries will increase the effective lending capacity of the temporary rescue fund, the EFSF, to €440 billion. The Finnish government, which faces elections on 17 April, cannot get parliamentary approval for increasing its contribution to the EFSF until a new government is formed. EU leaders will also discuss the situation in Libya, north Africa and the Middle East at the summit, focusing on ways to provide humanitarian relief and to provide incentives to countries making the transition to greater democracy. Leaders will also discuss the situation in Japan and the lessons to be drawn from the events for safety at nuclear plants in the EU.