Top of the list of 2012 risks for many analysts is the unresolved sovereign debt crisis in the euro zone.
If the 17-nation European single currency is to survive in its current form, its members will have to confront harsh economic adjustments and seismic political reform.
The Brussels summit on December 8 and 9, the 16th since the start of the two-year-old crisis, was billed by some as the last chance to save the euro.
While euro zone leaders and some non-euro states agreed to forge a closer fiscal union with stricter budget discipline, the outcome fell short of guaranteeing the euro's ultimate survival.
At worst, 2012 could still see a disorderly breakup bringing with it a chain of defaults, bank runs and civil unrest, not to mention a savage global economic shock worse than that of 2008.
Ultimately, however, many believe the euro will endure - although not without colossal strains as it tries to reconcile very different economies such as Germany and Greece.
"The greatest single risk is obviously the euro zone but it might also be the risk that is sorted out the quickest," says Alastair Newton, a former British government official who is chief political analyst at Japanese bank Nomura.
"But even if that happens then you're still going to have very low growth and a rise in social unrest in the southern euro zone in particular and across Europe in general. Even in the best case scenario, 2012 looks pretty rough."
Image: French President Nicolas Sarkozy, left, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel seen during a round table session at an EU summit in Brussels in December 2011.