The international ratings agency Standard & Poor's said Thursday that it expected borrowing by European countries to decline slightly this year for the first time since 2007 but added that the amount of total debt outstanding would reach an all-time high.

An S&P statement said that the 46 sovereign European issuers that it rates were expected to borrow 1.268 trillion euros ($1.655 trillion) from commercial sources, which would be 17.4 billion euros less than last year.

Despite the decline however, the agency estimated that the overall level of outstanding public debt would rise by 782 million euros to a total of 9.6 trillion.

S&P noted that its initial borrowing estimate for 2012 of 1.249 trillion euros had been exceeded by 26 billion, with most of the additional borrowing coming from larger western European countries which had to raise capital for the European Stability Mechanism.