Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the European Union address and the closing stages of the race to succeed Angela Merkel as German chancellor are our two big topics this week.

POLITICO’s Andrew Gray, Rym Momtaz and Matthew Karnitschnig bring us up to speed on the German election, which is now just over a week away. It’s turning into a two-man race between Olaf Scholz, the candidate for the Social Democrats (SPD) who is now in the lead, and conservative Armin Laschet. But will talk of the SPD teaming up with more radical left-wing forces give Germans pause when considering their vote for the center-left party?

We also take an early look at next spring’s French presidential election, with a number of candidates already throwing their hats into the ring.

Then we turn to European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s State of the Union address to the European Parliament in Strasbourg on Wednesday. The annual set-piece moment gives Commission chiefs the chance to tout their successes and set out priorities for the next year. How did von der Leyen’s speech stack up?

POLITICO’s team has the full analysis, starting with a dispatch from Strasbourg from Maïa de La Baume and Suzanne Lynch. Then David M. Herszenhorn addresses von der Leyen’s remarks on Afghanistan and her push for greater European defense capabilities. Sarah Wheaton clarifies where the Commission president rightfully has bragging rights when it comes to the pandemic response and where she fell short. Paola Tamma takes stock of Europe’s economic recovery efforts. And Karl Mathiesen and Clothilde Goujard take on two of von der Leyen’s biggest legislative priorities: climate and digitization.





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