Spain told euro zone finance ministers on Friday it will set clear deadlines for structural reforms by the end of the month, in a move European diplomats said would pave the way for an aid request before long to help it tackle its debt pile.

Madrid's borrowing costs have fallen sharply since the European Central Bank said it was ready to buy Spanish bonds but big borrowing needs before the year-end and a deepening recession mean most analysts and policymakers believe it is only a matter of time before it will require help.