After months of speculation, denials, and hoping for something – anything – to turn up, Spain has formally requested a bailout, by far the largest economy to do so. After an emergency telephone conference of eurozone finance ministers yesterday, an official statement was issued saying that the sum involved could be as large as €100bn.
Spain, whose banks are struggling with toxic property loans and assets, becomes the fourth member of the 17-nation eurozone to get a bailout since the continent's debt crisis erupted two years ago. In announcing the request, Luis de Guindos, economy minister, said the final figure was still in question and would remain so pending results of two independent audits of the banking sector, due by 21 June. But he insisted it would fully cover the needs of the country's banks, and not be followed by a request for further funds.
If I were a European finance minister, I rather think that - before signing up to a bail-out - I would want to know precisely how much it would cost and what were the terms and conditions attached. But euro ministers don't seem to think like that. We are therefore left with an open-ended unspecified commitment to be resolved (maybe) at some point in the future.