by Ray Fleming

The most overworked phrase in international politics today is probably the undertaking “to do whatever needs to be done” to solve the crisis of the moment. There are variations with subtle changes of emphasis but the broad meaning is the same. My impression is that the first person to use the phrase in a European context was Germany's Chancellor Merkel when she was first committing Germany to a eurozone rescue package for Greece three years ago.

So when Mario Draghi, the new President of the European Central Bank, spoke recently about doing “whatever it takes to preserve the euro, and, believe me, it will be enough” his words led to an almost immediate easing of bond yields in Italy and Spain whose leaders have been waiting for a firm statement of that kind from Mr Draghi. Had he at last persuaded Angela Merkel and her advisors that the European Central Bank (ECB) should be able to make bond purchases when to do so would aid market stability? Alas, the answer was No.

His statement on Thursday fell some way short of what most experts think “needs to be done” and seemed to be designed to meet Germany's continuing reservations about the ECB and bonds. There were some hints of compromise and of “doors remaining open” but the hopes that Mr Draghi would adopt a bolder approach than his cautious predecessor were dashed.