He is often called 'savior of the euro', but there are also other nicknames. Mario Draghi, president of the European Central Bank (ECB), made himself immortal during the height of the debt crisis in Europe. This Thursday he is holding his last press conference and at the end of this month he will pass on the baton to Christine Lagarde.
" There is another message that I want to tell you today. Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro and believe me, it will be enough. "
Draghi makes this statement in the summer of 2012 at a critical moment. While the debt crisis has been raging through Europe for some time, financial markets have doubts about the ability of the European Union to solve the problems.
Greece received a second aid package six months earlier and Cyprus also called for financial support. But in the summer the Spanish banks and Spain also run into problems. There is no quick clarity about a solution and the interest rates on sovereign debt from Southern Europe are increasing rapidly.
With his speech, Draghi calms the financial markets at a crucial moment, but it does not mean the end of the debt crisis. In the end, the ECB took measures several times to safeguard financial stability in the euro zone and to keep inflation up.
Historically low interest rates
Draghi, born in 1947 in Rome, studied economics at MIT in the United States. In the 1990s, he was Director General at the Italian Ministry of Finance before joining Goldman Sachs. From 2006 to 2011 he was head of the Italian central bank. Then he already joined the ECB where he will become president in 2011.
During his term in office, interest rates fell to historically low levels and last month the deposit rate, the interest that banks pay, was lowered again. Banks have been able to raise financing from the ECB for a few years at low interest rates. And as the icing on the cake, the central bank set up a huge program to buy government and corporate bonds and thus encourage investors to put their money in other parts of the economy.
Draghi felt put to the test by the Lower House in 2017
Four years later, around 2,500 billion euros in bonds were purchased by the ECB, savings and mortgage interest rates have fallen to a historic low and, for example, Dutch pension funds are struggling with the consequences for the discount rate.
And especially in Northern Europe, this policy has led to criticism. "This is how Count Draghila sucks our savings account", headlined the German newspaper Bild in September after the last reduction in deposit rates. In 2017, the Lower House of the Dutch Parliament was already testing Draghi and in September the Dutch parliament sent a letter about the bank's intention to calculate the negative deposit rate to banks in a different way. This would be unfair for pension savers.
Goals still not achieved
In the meantime, more and more economists are worried about the consequences of low interest rates. Does this not cause bubbles in some markets? Investors must make more and more effort to get a little return.
The circumstances mean that Draghi has to say goodbye while the ECB is still not achieving the inflation targets. A year ago it seemed that the Italian could raise interest rates at least once in his career as President of the ECB, but it is now clear that his successor Lagarde will continue its predecessor's policy for the foreseeable future.