At yesterday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers, Portuguese TV channel TVI24 caught an exchange between a seemingly unaware German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble and his equally unaware Portuguese counterpart Vítor Gaspar. Schäuble said,
"If in the end we need to make an adjustment to the [Portuguese bailout] programme, having taken large decisions about Greece...This is key. But then, if necessary, an adjustment of the Portuguese programme, we will be prepared."Clearly code for extra bailout cash for Portugal. "That's much appreciated" replied a thankful Gaspar, prompting Schäuble to flag up an important caveat,
"Members of the German parliament and public opinion in Germany do not believe that our decisions are serious, because they don’t believe in our decisions on Greece.Speaking after the meeting, Gaspar tried to play down speculation that Portugal will need a second bailout, and told reporters,
"When [Schäuble] mentioned the possibility to make Portugal’s [bailout] programme more flexible, he meant nothing more than what was repeated several times by eurozone heads of state and government: countries under a [bailout] programme, which are complying with their programmes, but due to reasons beyond their control may face difficulties in returning to the markets, can count on the willingness of their European partners to extend financial assistance if necessary under those conditions."Not that convincing. If anything, Gaspar seemed to confirm what Goldman Sachs and BBVA have recently predicted: Portugal may not be able to return to the markets in 2013, and will therefore need an additional cash injection (€30-50 billion to cover its financing needs until 2015, according to Goldman Sachs).
And Schäuble wasn't the only one caught on camera yesterday. Expansión reports that Spanish Economy Minister Luis De Guindos was yesterday caught telling EU Economic and Monetary Affairs Commissioner, Olli Rehn, that Spain's planned labour market reforms will be “extremely aggressive, with great flexibility in collective negotiation and reduced compensation for dismissal.” Spanish unions aren't overwhelmed with joy today.
Looking at it from the bright side, there's now at least some transparency in the eurozone crisis...