Mario Draghi, eurozone saviour, now called to Italy's side

Brigitte HAGEMANN
·3-min read
Under Maario Draghi's leadership, the ECB took measures unthinkable when the euro single currency was launched in 2000

Mario Draghi, the man credited with saving the eurozone in 2012 at the height of the debt crisis, may now be tapped to help one of its weakest links, Italy.

The former head of the European Central Bank was called in by Italy's president on Tuesday to help resolve a political crisis that has threatened the ability of the eurozone's third-largest economy to confront two concurrent crises -- the ongoing coronavirus emergency, and a punishing recession.

On Wednesday, Draghi is to meet with President Sergio Mattarella, where he is expected to be asked to take over as prime minister, leading a technocratic government.

The economist dubbed "Super Mario" may be the man for the moment.

"Whatever it takes," is the famous phrase defining his turbulent period at the ECB, calming markets in 2012 with his pledge to do the maximum to save the euro.

Seven years later, he handed the reins of the ECB to Christine Lagarde, telling France's ex-finance minister to "never give up."

Questioned then whether politics might be in his future, he responded cryptically: "I really don't know, I've said it several times. Ask my wife, she knows more".

For weeks, political watchers had cited Draghi as a top choice for leading Italy out of its current problems, sparked when a small party pulled out of the ruling coalition, depriving it of its majority and leading to the resignation of Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte.

"Mario Draghi is an extremely well-prepared and determined person," Giuliano Noci, professor of strategy at Milan's Polytechnic business school, told AFP.

"He would certainly be able to lead Italy out of the crisis, with the support of the country and the parliament."

Draghi was named to head the ECB in November 2011, succeeding Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet in a eurozone shaken by the debt crisis.

The threat of the bloc's implosion hung over his tenure, alongside worries that the sovereign debt crisis in Greece would spread to other countries.

But under Draghi's leadership, the ECB took measures unthinkable when the euro single currency was launched in 2000: cutting interest rates to negative territory, and injecting liquidity into the markets through massive asset repurchases.

- Banker to PM -

Draghi was born in Rome on September 3, 1947, and is married with two children.

He holds a degree in economics and a doctorate from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and is an economics professor at several Italian universities.

After spending six years at the World Bank from 1984 to 1990, he became director general of the Italian treasury in 1991, a position he held for 10 years under nine separate governments, masterminding a number of privatisations during that period.

In 2002, he joined the management of Goldman Sachs before being tapped three years later to lead the Bank of Italy after a scandal involving its former head, Antonio Fazio.

News of Draghi's expected appointment was well-received by the market on Wednesday, with the Milan stock exchange rising 2.3 percent after opening.

Over a photo of a masked Draghi, La Repubblica daily's headline proclaimed it as "Draghi's moment."

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