Austria moved into the driver’s seat of the European Union on Sunday pledging to give it new momentum after what Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel called “a terrible year” that eroded public trust in the 25-nation bloc.
As EU president for the next six months, Austria will aim mainly to help restore growth in western Europe, get a sceptical European Parliament to ratify the bloc’s hard-won 2007-13 budget and try to salvage its moribund draft constitution.
Russia has taken over the chairmanship of the G8 group of nations for the first time.
It will provide President Vladimir Putin with an opportunity to emphasise Russia’s role in international affairs.
But some critics have said Russia is not a fit country to head the group, which brings together the world’s leading industrialised democracies.
Global energy supply is set to be a big issue, with Russia seeking to show the importance of its oil and gas reserves.
Mr Putin will want to emphasise to G8 members like the US, Japan and Germany, that their economies may be far bigger than Russia’s, but they need his country because it has enough oil and gas to keep them supplied for years to come.