This week, we take you on a journey — a virtual train trip to guide you through Germany's (unexpectedly exciting) "super election year," which kicks off in earnest this weekend and culminates in a national vote in September marking the end of the Merkel era.
Our Trans-Germany Express stops first in Stuttgart to speak with POLITICO's Laurenz Gehrke about Sunday's regional elections. Then we head to Düsseldorf, where Matthew Karnitschnig picks out national candidates and parties to keep your eye on. In Magdeburg, capital of the state of Saxony-Anhalt, we talk to climate reporter Kalina Oroschakoff about some of the big campaign issues. Matt returns to Berlin, where we discuss what to expect on the big day — September 26 — and afterward as a new government is formed. Finally, in Brussels, politics reporter Hans von der Burchard assesses the election's potential impact on the EU.
The last part of the podcast turns the spotlight on the European Economic and Social Committee (EESC) — an EU institution that's not so well known but has generated more than its share of controversy lately. New EESC President Christa Schweng talks to Hans about the criticism leveled at her institution — over its relevance, its cost and its policy of paying allowances for attending virtual meetings. Schweng explains why she thinks EESC still has a useful role to play in EU lawmaking. She also talks about the organization's new code of conduct, adopted after one of its senior members was accused of (and denied) psychological harassment.