The defining stories of 2015
Death and despair in the Mediterranean
- 2015 saw record numbers of refugees and migrants trying to reach the EU.
1,004,216 people arrived to Europe via the Mediterranean in 2015 according to the latest numbers from the UN Refugee Agency.
3,735 people died or are missing at sea.
UNHCR estimates that 49% of arrivals by sea were from war-torn Syria.
The EU scrambled throughout the year to try and find a solution to the crisis - to stop the death in the Mediterranean and to better manage the flow of migrants arriving both by sea and land.
In September, an image of a young boy, reportedly just three years old, lying face down on a beach in Turkey after drowning in the Aegean Sea was published on the front pages of newspapers around the world.
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.
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.
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
International coalition bombing ISIS in Iraq
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.