The defining stories of 2015

Death and despair in the Mediterranean 


A tumultuous year for Greece amid economic and political upheavals 


  • Greeks went to the polls for a general election in January and again in September as the country's Syriza led government took it to the brink of default and an exit from the euro area.

  • Parliament approved a new bail out package on September 13th but only after the old bail out package expired at the end of June and the country defaulted on €2 billion in payments to the IMF - banks were shut and capital controls imposed. 

  • Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, who came to power in January and was re-elected in September, initially took a hardline in negotiations with Greece's creditors and shocked his EU partners when he called a referendum on proposed bail out conditions in July. 

  • Greek voters rejected the bail out terms (61% no to 39% yes) but just over a week later the outline of a new bail out deal was reached without creditors making any major concessions to Athens.  

greece in 2015 at a glance

The emissions scandal made it a year to forget for Volkswagen


  • On September 22nd, Volkswagen admitted that some 11 million of its diesel vehicles had been fitted with defeat devices that allowed them to falsify emissions tests - the cheat allowed VW cars to perform better in test conditions than in regular road conditions. 

  • The Environmental Protection Agency in the United States issued two violation notices against VW, affecting Volkswagen, Audi and Porsche branded vehicles. 

  • Volkswagen, which suffered a fall in sales and its share price, said in December an initial investigation had found that the scandal was the result of a 'chain of errors that were allowed to happen'. 

  • It said the deception began when it became clear that the company's EA189 diesel engine could not meet strict U.S nitrogen oxide requirements within the budget and timeframe of a planned large scale promotional offer in 2005. 

€, hundreds of millions

ISIS continued its terror campaign in Syria, Iraq and beyond


  • In 2015, the global coalition fighting ISIS grew, while Russia carried out its own unilateral strikes against both ISIS and rebel groups in Syria in support of President Assad. 

  • However at the year's end the terror group continues to control vast swathes of land in Syria and Iraq, as well as having offshoots and affiliates in Egypt and Libya. 

  • Outside of Iraq and Syria, ISIS directed or was linked to a host of terror attacks in 2015. 

  • They included a horrific series of attacks in Paris in November that killed 130 people, a double suicide bombing in southern Beirut also in November that killed 43 people, explosions at a peace rally in Istanbul in October that killed 102 people and a mass shooting at a resort in Tunisia in June that killed 38 people. 

  • Russia entered the Syrian conflict in a forceful manner after Sinai Peninsula, an ISIS affiliate, claimed it placed a bomb on a Russian passenger plane that exploded over Egypt killing all 224 people on board. 

Supporting the Assad regime/bombing ISIS

International coalition bombing ISIS in Syria

   *Canada's new government has said it will stop participating in the airstrikes


*Canada's new government has said it will stop participating in the airstrikes

International coalition bombing ISIS in Iraq

Anti-ISIS coalition (2).png

China's economic influence grew as its economy slowed


  • In 2015, data from China painted the picture of an economy still growing faster than most economies in the world but at a slower pace than the country has enjoyed in recent years - GDP in Q3 came in at 6.9%, the slowest quarterly annual growth since 2009.
  • China's slowdown had an impact far and wide, most notably on commodity prices - on December 30th the Bloomberg Commodity Index was down 25.15% since the start of the year. 

  • In June and August, a dramatic collapse in share prices on the Shanghai Composite Index sent shockwaves around global markets and led to a host of interventions from the authorities in Beijing to calm the alarming volatility and to prop up stocks.

  • Also in August, the People's Bank of China took steps to devalue the country's currency against the U.S dollar in a bid to boost exports, which fell 6.8% in dollar terms in November - the fifth month of declines. 

  • In a symbolically important move, the IMF added the renminbi to its elite basket of global reserve currencies in late November. 

% change in U.S dollar terms versus same month in 2014