BRUSSELS, Belgium - European finance ministers met Monday to discuss the economic plans of Italy's new government and take a closer look at Slovenia's precarious financial situation - and whether it could become the bloc's sixth nation to require a bailout.
The ministers from the 17 countries using the euro currency were also discussing the outlook for Portugal, Greece, and Cyprus, which have already received emergency loan programs and must meet tough conditions.
The group's finance ministers approved the next batch of 7.5 billion euros ($10 billion) in bailout loans for Greece, an EU diplomat said. He would speak only on condition of anonymity because the details of the meeting were confidential.
The ministers were not, however, likely to release more aid for Portugal because they were still waiting for Lisbon's latest austerity measures to be cleared by the country's parliament.
The ministers in Brussels met their new Italian counterpart, Fabrizio Saccomanni, who was expected to brief them on his government's economic and financial policies. Italy has the eurozone's third-largest economy, and markets have greeted the new centrist administration with relief after February's inconclusive elections.
Nonetheless, Italy is saddled with a huge debt - about 127 percent of its annual economic output, second only to Greece. While its economy was growing, the country was able to manage its debt. However, a leading international economic body forecasts Italy's economy will shrink by 1.5 percent this year and grow only 0.5 percent in 2014. That will push the country's debt up to 131.5 percent of annual GDP, according to a forecast by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
The new Italian coalition government has pledged to continue overhauling its budget and introducing economic reforms to help bring this debt load down.
The meeting came amid a relative lull in the bloc's three-year-old debt crisis, but was overshadowed by fears that Slovenia could become the group's next problem member. Officials, however, sought to dispel fears the country might join the bailout club of Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Cyprus.
"The Slovenian government has said it doesn't want a rescue loan package, wants to pull it off without one," said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble.