DAVOS, Switzerland (AFP) - The world's political and business elite gathered for their annual meeting in the glitzy Swiss ski resort of Davos on Wednesday, with the shadow of the Paris attacks and ongoing global conflicts looming large.
French President Francois Hollande and US Secretary of State John Kerry will be among the 2,500 movers and shakers thrashing out the burning issues of the day next to the frozen slopes, exactly two weeks after the deadly attacks on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo.
The bloodshed in France, which left 17 people dead, and efforts by Western countries to prevent returning extremists planning attacks on home soil will be high on the agenda of the four-day Davos meeting.
Alongside top European and US leaders such as German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel - whose country foiled an attack plot last week - the topic will be broached at a global level with Iraqi leaders including Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi and Kurdish leader Massud Barzani.
The raging Ukraine conflict will also to feature high on the agenda, but President Petro Poroshenko looked under pressure to leave the alpine resort early as events in Eastern Ukraine turned sharply for the worse.
"Both terrorism and geopolitics are likely to cast their shadows on this year's meeting. Both are serious threats to political stability in Europe and in the Middle East and North Africa," Nariman Behravesh, chief economist at the IHS consultancy group, told AFP.
The deadly Ebola epidemic in west Africa is also under the spotlight, with top experts firing off harsh criticism of the World Health Organisation at a breakfast talk.
"Sending people without experience in the region does not help. We need highly specialists in epidemiology with a lot of experience," Hans Rosling, an influential professor of infectious diseases, told the panel.
- Champagne... caviar, not cheap -
The "World Economic Forum" meeting comes as storm clouds gather over the global economy, with the International Monetary Fund slashing its world growth forecasts.
A gloomy survey by consulting group PwC released Tuesday showed global business leaders are downbeat on the potential for economic growth in 2015.
The European Central Bank's much-awaited likely decision on Thursday to introduce a form of quantitative easing - a huge buy-up of government debt in the euro area - also focused attention among the assembled financial elite.
Former Bundesbank chief Axel Weber warned the ECB against taking too much action, saying governments are the ones that should be doing the heavy lifting to get the economy back into shape.
"The ECB can only be part of a fix in Europe. In my view they shouldn't go too far because the more they do, there is the incentive for governments to do less.
"And the problem is if you continue to buy time and the time is not used for reforms, you have to ask yourself if more of the same is the best recipe." Greek election where anti-austerity leftists may come out on top will also be a top topic, as will the recent plunge in the price of oil.
China's Li Keqiang, the country's first premier to attend the forum since 2009, will on Wednesday seek to shore up international confidence in the Chinese economy and allay fears over slowing growth.
Ahead of the meeting, a report by charity Oxfam that wealth accumulated by the richest one percent will exceed that of the rest of the world in 2016, made headlines around the world.
Opening the event, organiser Klaus Schwab said: "We are here to be passionate and to show our compassion. Sharing and caring should be the motto of this meeting." This being Davos, there will be no shortage of glamorous parties as CEOs and presidents rub shoulders with celebrities and journalists in the picture-perfect, snow-covered idyll.
Among the royalty in the ski resort is Jordan's King Abdullah II, Prince Albert of Monaco and Britain's Prince Andrew - the subject of lurid headlines this month that forced him to deny allegations that he had sex with a minor.
However, this year, the consumption of caviar and champagne might be restrained as even the deep-pocketed elite blanche at the prices.
Davos, already one of the most expensive places on the planet, became 30-percent dearer overnight last week after the Swiss central bank decided to scrap a 1.20 franc-to-the-euro cap that sent the unit sky-rocketing against the European single currency.