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Europe

Merkel to Open Davos Economy Summit

German Chancellor Angela Merkel will give the opening speech, on the topic of European integration, at the World Economic Forum in Davos Wednesday.

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The World Economic Forum is getting underway again in Davos

The Swiss Alpine ski resort of Davos is hosting the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, one of the globe’s most high-profile economic events and usually a prime target for anti-globalization campaigners.

There won’t be as many state and government leaders present at the forum this year, but one of the highlights of the five-day event will be the opening address by Germany's recently elected chancellor. Merkel will speak to well over 2,000 business leaders and politicians from around the globe.

Focus on economic reform

A spokesman for the German government in Berlin said the chancellor would be focussing her speech on issues related to European integration. Merkel will be the only government leader to attend the event from the G8 group of most-developed industrialized nations

Angela Merkel in Russland Moskau

Merkel is the only G8 leader to attend this year's summit

Merkel will also explain in detail the economic reform policy of Germany's new "grand coalition" government, of center-right Christian Democrats and the more left-wing Social Democrats. The Davos meeting coincides with the first release by the Berlin government of its economic forecast for 2006 and beyond.

A spokesman for the chancellor's office said Merkel is likely to stress that her country is on its way to higher growth rates than expected in autumn of last year, but she will also be unable to avoid the topic of entrenched, record-high unemployment.

Putting politics aside

This year's World Economic Forum will largely steer clear of political issues, putting business concerns center stage, organizers said. The discussions will focus on the increasing global problems of matching economic growth, particularly in threshold countries, and depleting energy resources.

“Oil supplies are getting scarcer with each passing year," said Friedmann Mueller, an economist from the German Science and Politics Foundation. "This is not primarily because reserves are running out, but because the major oil-supplying countries are investing far too little in technology to adapt to global demands. The west can’t really change this decisively, because the major oil producing nations are Russia and those in the Middle East, and their willingness to let in foreign investors is extremely limited.”

Mueller said he doubted whether the Davos meeting can really sketch out solutions to a looming large-scale energy crisis, particularly as far as oil supplies are concerned.

"China’s oil hunger is increasing rapidly, and the situation in India will be similar in 5 to 10 years," he said. "Other Southeast Asian countries have also embarked on a course of rapid economic growth. All of them will develop such an enormous need for oil that classical large oil-supply recipients in the industrialised west will soon have major difficulties getting enough oil for their needs."

Meeting attracts the famous

Like every year, Swiss locals in Davos are hoping to catch a glimpse of the many prominent guests at the meeting. Among them are actress Angelina Jolie, a UN goodwill ambassador for refugees, anti-poverty campaigner Bono and Bill Gates.

Some 5,000 members of the Swiss armed forces are on the ground to protect the economic and political makers and shakers against expected anti-globalisation protests.

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