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Draghi’s most memorable moments

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi.
Emmanuel Dunand | AFP | Getty Images

"Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough."

November 2015 marks the halfway point for Mario Draghi's time leading the European Central Bank (ECB). His four years at the helm have been eventful, with highlights including his2012 promise to do "whatever it takes" to preserve the single currency. Then this year saw the long-awaited launch of the central bank's 1 trillion euro ($1.1 trillion) asset-buying program.

To mark his anniversary, CNBC takes a look at Draghi's most memorable moment leading the ECB, from his appointment in 2011 to the time he was "confetti bombed" at his regular media conference.

By's Katy Barnato, updated on November 6, 2015.

Draghi made ECB president

Mario Draghi

Draghi, an Italian banker and economist, succeeded Frenchman Jean-Claude Trichet as head of the ECB in November 2011. Dubbed "Super Mario" by the Italian press, Draghi had previously led the Bank of Italy, and been a director at both Goldman Sachs and the World Bank.

His appointment met approval in the German press, despite earlier hopes for the installation of Axel Weber, then the president of the German Bundesbank. Draghi quickly acted to make his mark at the ECB, cutting base rates by 25 basis points to 1.25 percent, two days into his tenure. This was followed up by another cut the following month, taking rates to the then-record low of 1.00 percent.

Speaking at his first news conference in November, Draghi told reporters that the euro zone's economic outlook was subject to "high uncertainty and intensified downside risks".

Draghi offers ‘free money’ to banks

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Draghi triggered a 3-month relief rally with his first major market-boosting measure — the mass issue of cheap loans to Europe's cash-strapped banks.

Viewed by some as Europe's answer to the Federal Reserve's quantitative easing program, the ECB issued 489 billion euros ($532 billion) worth of three-year loans in December 2011, repayable at a rate of only 1 percent. The loans were issued under the auspices of the ECB's LTRO (long-term refinancing operation) program.

A second round of loans, worth 530 billion euros, was released two months later.

Draghi pledges to do ‘whatever it takes’

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Draghi memorably promised to do "whatever it takes" to hold the single currency together on July 26, 2012. His words came after a spike in Spain's borrowing costs sparked fears the country would be forced to seek a sovereign bailout.

Speaking at London's annual Global Investment Conference, Draghi said those who worried about the euro's "fragility" underestimated the level of political will.

"Within our mandate, the ECB is ready to do whatever it takes to preserve the euro. And believe me, it will be enough," Draghi said.

His pledge brought relief to the financial markets; the euro strengthened above $1.23 for the first time in two weeks, yields on Spanish and Italian bonds fell sharply and stock markets moved higher.

Draghi launches OMT bond-buying program

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Draghi proved again that words can speak louder than deeds when he launched the ECB's OMT program or "Outright Monetary Transactions" in September 2012.

The OMT, which allows the ECB to aid struggling countries by purchasing government bonds in unlimited quantities, is credited with helping to soothe fears of a euro zone break-up. It can only be activated if a country asks the ECB for aid, and is conditional on the acceptance of aid from the European Financial Stability Fund.

But the OMT program faced heavy opposition in Germany and some analysts think the safety net provided by it has discouraged governments from carrying out much needed reforms.

OMT likened to work of the devil


Only one member of the ECB's then-22-strong governing council opposed the launch of the OMT, but he made his voice heard when he compared it to the work of the devil in September 2012.

Jens Weidmann, the head of the German Bundesbank and a member of the ECB's council, likened the program to a scene in Goethe's classic play, Faust, in which the devil persuades the indebted Holy Roman Emperor to print money.

Speaking in Frankfurt, Goethe's birthplace, Weidmann said: "The state in Faust Part Two is able at first to rid itself of its debts, while consumer demand grows strongly and fuels a strong recovery. But this later develops into inflation and the monetary system is destroyed by rapid currency depreciation."

Draghi backs Cyprus Bailout

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The ECB endorsed the bailout of Cyprus in March 2013, which led to a major sell-off in markets. News that private investors and bank depositors would have to contribute towards bailing out Cyprus's banks provoked panic, with investors fearful of the precedent set for other troubled euro zone countries.

"Undoubtedly depositors across the area, particularly the periphery, are going to take note," warned Callum Henderson, the global head of forex research at Standard Chartered Bank, at the time.

"Will we see a bank run? No, but we could see a slow bleeding of deposits out of Southern Europe."

The bailout was a low point for Draghi and it threatened to derail his hard work in reassuring financial markets.

Draghi confesses to Pope: We are frustrated, too

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What do you say when the pope tweets about rising unemployment in Europe, but the trillions of euros you have pumped into the financial system are yet to get the economy going again?

That was the question CNBC's Geoff Cutmore posed to Draghi at the end of the ECB news conference in May 2013.

Only hours before, the pope had written on his official Twitter account: "My thoughts turn to all who are unemployed, often as a result of a self-centered mindset bent on profit at any cost."

Draghi, usually quite circumspect in his answers, wondered for a second if he should speak his mind, before confessing:

"We are ... frustrated, yes certainly. We view improvements in the financial markets. We think financial markets are the only and the necessary channel through which monetary policy is transmitted."

ECB U-turns with forward guidance

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Draghi reneged on previous ECB policy and gave "forward guidance" in July 2013, offering insight for the first time into what policy the central bank might pursue in the future.

Speaking at the ECB's monthly news conference early in July, Draghi pledged to keep interest rates at current or lower levels for an "extended period of time".

The explicit guidance came as a welcome surprise to European markets, which just two hours earlier had rallied when the Bank of England's Governor Mark Carney also offered forward guidance for the first time. The pan-European FTSEurofirst 300 Index closed nearly 2.5 percent higher, clocking its biggest rise since April, and the U.K.'s FTSE surged 3.1 percent.

But Draghi denied he was following in the footsteps of the Federal Reserve or the Bank of England on "forward guidance". In an altercation with CNBC's Geoff Cutmore, Draghi retorted that the television anchor "hadn't listened" to his statement.

ECB opts for negative interest rates

Ralph Orlowski, Getty Images News

The ECB took the unprecedented step of introducing negative interest rates in June 2014. It cut the rate on its deposit facility for banks to minus 0.1 percent from 0 percent, effectively charging financial institutions to park money with it.

The central bank also cut its main interest rate to 0.15 percent from 0.25 percent and sliced the rate on its marginal lending facility by 35 basis points to 0.4 percent.

The rate cuts were one of several measures announced in June to combat disinflation and accelerate the euro zone's recovery. Others included offering loans with low interest rates to banks in a bid to encourage them to lend to households and non-financial corporations.

Draghi announces European QE

European Central Bank President Mario Draghi pauses while addressing an ECB news conference in Frankfurt January 22, 2015.
Kai Pfaffenbach | Reuters

It finally happened... Draghi announced an open-ended 1 trillion euro program of private and public bond buying in January 2015.

The program was bigger than anticipated, with monthly purchases worth 60 billion euros, rather than the anticipated 50 billion euros.

"The euro zone was in need of shock-and-awe tactics from the ECB, to combat the prospect of a prolonged period of deflation, and Draghi has finally delivered on his promise to do 'whatever it takes,'" Nancy Curtin, CIO of Close Brothers Asset Management, said after the announcement.

Protester confetti bombs Draghi

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Draghi's televised media conferences to discuss ECB policy aren't usually the stuff of Twitter trends. But the April 2015 meeting proved an exception, when Draghi was interrupted mid-speech by a young woman jumping up on the desk in front of him.

She began shouting, "End the ECB dictatorship," doused Draghi with confetti and a threw a pile of papers in the air, as security guards leaped to restrain her.

The protester, later identified as 21-year-old German activist, Josephine Witt, was swiftly restrained by security and carried out horizontally from the room. Draghi was visibly surprised by the outburst, but quickly returned to his speech.

The interruption sent attending journalists into a social media frenzy, with #confettigate trending on the Twitter.