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Summary

  1. The second day of the December plenary session began at 08.00 GMT.
  2. The morning session saw a debate to review EU economic legislation introduced after the 2008 financial crisis to give the Commission greater oversight over member states' budgets.
  3. At the morning voting session, MEPs re-elected Emily O'Reilly as European Ombudsman, and approved six nominees to senior positions in a new EU banking regulator.
  4. After lunch, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker presented the EU executive's legislative programme for next year.
  5. The afternoon session saw a debate on the EU budget for next year, as well as amendments to the 2014 budget.
  6. After that, MEPs heard a Commission statement on additional funding to a UN food aid scheme in Syria, and debated plans to waive EU import duties on fruit from Moldova.
  7. The evening's business concluded with debates on extending duty-free trading with Ecuador and the EU's security strategy for 2015-2019.
  8. Text can be slow to load on these pages. Please hit refresh (F5) if live text does not appear below.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

That's the final debate finished, and the evening's business draws to a close.

The plenary sitting will resume tomorrow morning at 08.00 GMT.

A 'fundamental right'

Closing the debate on behalf of the Commission, home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that various threats, including organised crime, people trafficking and terrorism are increasingly linked, requiring a comprehensive approach in the new strategy.

He adds that a robust EU security strategy is "one of our fundamental rights" which will help to protect "what Europe has achieved in the past".

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

New threats

Bulgarian Socialist Iliana Iotova says that "no one could have predicted" the scale of so-called foreign fighters from Europe leaving the continent to fight for Islamic State (IS) in the Middle East, and the security threat they might pose on their eventual return.

Indeed, the Commission's

report itself on the success of the current strategy notes "significant progress" in the key areas, but also points out that the strategy has been held back by a lack of funding (chiefly due to the financial crisis), the rapid growth and development of cybercrime and the emergence of new terrorist threats outside the EU, such as ISIS in the Middle East.

Security strategy background

The Commission has committed to asking MEPs for their opinion - as well as seeking the opinion of member states and the private sector - before it publishes it proposals for the updated strategy.

The

current security strategy has five main priorities:

  • Disrupting international criminal networks
  • Preventing terrorism and stopping radicalisation
  • Increasing online security for people and companies
  • Making borders more secure
  • Making Europe better equipped to sustain natural disasters and crises

Commission response

Home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos begins the debate on behalf of the Commission by paying tribute to the victims of this morning's terrorist attacks in Pakistan, which he calls an "insult to humanity".

He says that the current strategy must be "adapted" in order that the EU can respond to new threats, and calls for a an "intelligence-led approach" to developing the new approach.

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

What's LIBE?

The "LIBE committee" Mr Moraes is referring to is parliamentary jargon for the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee.

Final debate begins

That's the debate on trading terms with Ecuador finished - the vote will take place tomorrow.

We now move to the final item on tonight's agenda: two oral questions to the Council of Ministers and the European Council on the EU's Internal Security Strategy for 2015-2019.

The Commission is due to adopt the new four-year strategy sometime next year.

Scottish Labour MEP Claude Moraes is asking the Commission, on behalf of the civil liberties committee, what its main priorities will be in the new strategy, and when it is likely to be implemented.

Claude Moraes
BBC

Trading context

Ecuador currently only represents a small proportion of EU trade - 0.2% of imports, and 0.1% of exports as of last year.

Ecuador's biggest exports to EU countries are food and live animals, which account for 84% of the total value of products it sells to countries in the Union. After that, the second biggest seller is beverages and tobacco at 6.9%.

EU countries' biggest export sector in trade with Ecuador is chemical products (29%) and manufactured goods (28%).

'Bridging solution'

Scottish Labour MEP David Martin calls the plans to prolong duty-free trading "a good deal for both parties", and should be seen as a "bridging solution" that will continue free trade with Ecuador whilst the terms of the new deal await enforcement in the law, preventing EU trade with the country from disappearing elsewhere in the meantime.

David Martin
BBC

GSP arrangements

At the moment, Ecuador benefits from preferential trading arrangements with the EU under a scheme called the "Generalised Scheme of Preferences", or GSP.

The terms of this arrangement are due to expire at the start of next month - so the text being voted on tomorrow will allow the terms of the trade agreement negotiated in July to be extended until the agreement is fully ratified and the new terms replace it.

Trade with Ecuador

That's the debate on duty-free tariffs for Moldova finished. MEPs will vote on a resolution tomorrow.

The penultimate item on this evening's agenda is a debate about the EU's trading status with Ecuador.

MEPs will vote tomorrow on a proposal by the Commission to prolong duty-free trading arrangements with the country until the terms of a new trade agreement come into force.

In July, Ecuador acceded to a trade agreement that the EU had negotiated with Colombia and Peru.

Debate closes

Trade commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom closes the debate by urging MEPs to back the report at the vote tomorrow, telling members that approving the measures would show "that solidarity is not just a word for us, but something that we are willing to practise with our Eastern European partners".

Cecilia Malmstrom
BBC

In response to some criticism from MEPs that continuing economic co-operation is a back-door entry route for Moldova to gain eventual entry to the EU, rapporteur Sorin Moisa says that there is "no chance" that the specific proposals being voted on tomorrow could do such a thing.

EU trade with Moldova

Trade with Moldova accounts for 0.1% of the EU's overall trade. Moldova ranks 71st among the EU's trading partners, with a total turnover of €3.24bn in 2013.

EU exports to Moldova amounted in 2013 to €2.28bn. Key exports are machinery and appliances, mineral products, transport equipment, and chemical products.

In 2013, the EU imported goods to the value of €962m from Moldova. These were mainly textiles and textile articles, machinery and appliances, vegetable products and other foodstuffs and beverages.

'Strong political message' to Russia

Croatian Socialist Tonino Picula says voting through the plans tomorrow would only represent a "small financial concession" for the EU, but would send a "strong political message" to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In October, Mr Putin said he wanted Moldova to postpone implementation of the free trade deal until 2016, as Ukraine has also agreed to do.

He has warned that economic integration between some ex-Soviet republics and the EU could undermine their preferential trade ties with Russia. He is pushing for a Russian-led Eurasian economic union.

Moldova background

One of Europe's poorest countries, Moldova has been badly hit by the Russian food ban. After the EU, Russia is the country's biggest trading partner, accounting for just over 25% of its trade.

The

report on the matter notes that horticultural trade has been falling in the country for a number of years already, and that any significant further decline would have a "disproportionately adverse effect both on the economy and the society as a whole".

'Act of solidarity'

This idea was put forward as an "act of solidarity" with the ex-Soviet bloc country, which has been banned from exporting food and drink to Russia since July and has asked the EU for support.

Russia imposed the ban a month after the country, along with Georgia and Ukraine,

signed far-reaching trade deals with the EU. The trade deal with Moldova was formally ratified by the European Parliament in November.

'Real success story'

The report on this matter, has been compiled by Romanian Socialist MEP Sorin Moisă, who tells MEPs that he hopes the initiative can be a "real success story".

Sorin Moisă
BBC

Duty-free fruit debate

That's the debate on humanitarian aid to Syria finished.

MEPs are now debating a proposal tabled by the European Commission in September to grant Moldova duty-free tariffs on its exports of apples, plums and table grapes, which they will vote on tomorrow.

Under the proposoals, Moldova will be able to export up to 40,000 tonnes of fresh apples, 10,000 tonnes of fresh table grapes and 10,000 tonnes of fresh plums to the EU duty-free.

'Disgraceful' suspension

Spanish Socialist Javi Lopez says that it is a "disgrace" that the WFP had to be suspended due to lack of funds, adding that support for the UN's special envoy mission in the country would help find a long-term solution to the political crisis that has caused the humanitarian burden.

Javi Lopez
BBC

Humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides closes the debate on behalf of the Commission by saying the consequences of under-investment in the region will "definitely" be found outside it - and pledges that the EU will remain the biggest single donor in the region.

Syrian refugees

The number of Syrian refugees in neighbouring countries has reached 3.3m, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which has already declared its Syria operation the largest in its history.

Countries bordering Syria have seen huge numbers of refugee arrivals. Over 1.1m refugees have arrived in Lebanon.

Food programme to restart

As Croatian centre-right MEP Davor Ivo Stier mentions, the WFP recently stopped supplying food aid due to a lack of money.

However, following a fundraising campaign that raised over $88m, the programme says that it will be able to

start supplying food again to the neediest refugees who have been displaced by conflict, for a certain amount of time.

For its part, the Commission pledged a further €5.5m in humanitarian funding, bringing total funding for the WFP to €18m in 2014.

Syrian crisis 'unprecedented'

"There is no question that the Syrian crisis is unprecedented," says humanitarian aid commissioner Christos Stylianides, who tells MEPs that the EU has "led the international response" to the humanitarian problems caused by the wide displacement of refugees in the country.

Many refugees fled following the spread of Islamic State (IS) militants this year and subsequent military campaigns, backed by Western governments, to oust them from power in those regions they control.

Mr Stylianides says the World Food Program is, unfortunately, only "one of many" international aid projects that are short of money - and says that humanitarian partners must operate more "cost effective" programmes in the light of the shortage of funds.

"My efforts alone are not enough", he continues, telling members that effectively managing the Syrian crisis next year will require €7.2bn in total from the international community.

Christos Stylianides
BBC

Debate over

That's the debate on amendments to the 2014 budget and the proposed 2015 budget finished. The vote will take place tomorrow.

MEPs are now going to be hearing statements from the European Commission and the Council of Ministers about a humanitarian aid scheme being run in Syria by the World Food Program (WFP), which is run by the United Nations.

The programme recently announced that it would be recommencing food aid, after it had to stop the supply of food due to lack of funding.

Budget of responsibility

"This is not a budget of joy," admits Budgets Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who nevertheless says that the budget for next year is a "budget of responsibility".

In response to those MEPs who mooted the idea of allowing the emergency "provisional twelfths" procedure to kick in, she says that the payments, coming from the "already low base" of the 2014 budget, would have left the EU institutions in a "worse position".

She also seeks to reassure farmers that extra money to pay unpaid bills will not come from the emergency fund that the Commission recently established to help agricultural producers who have been hit by the Russian trade embargo on fruit and vegetables.

She finishes by pledging that next year, negotiations on the budget will begin earlier and be built on more "trust" between the EU's institutions.

Kristalina Georgieva
BBC

Budget agreement

The process of agreeing a budget for the EU in any single year is often long and always complicated.

An initial proposal is tabled by the European Commission, which is then submitted to the two arms of the "budgetary authority" - the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers, which represents the member states, who then have to agree on a proposal.

The draft budget proposals are usually tabled in around July, with the formal negotiating procedure beginning in September and a final deal - like this year - often going well into the final month of the year (unlike in the UK, financial years are based on the calendar year).

British public opinion and the EU

UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott says a "chasm" in opinion has opened up between British public opinion and what is generally seen as acceptable in the EU's institutions.

He adds that the recent demand from the European Commission that the UK pays an extra £1.2bn into the EU budget "plays into the same feeling" that accompanies the budget - that taxpayers are being asked to stump up too much money during a time of crisis.

Jonathan Arnott
BBC

Emergency procedure

Estonian Green MEP Indrek Tarand says his fellow parliamentarians should not "fear" the so-called provisional twelfths system - the emergency budget procedure which kicks in if the Council and Parliament cannot agree on a budget before the end of the year.

The system rolls over the amount for each month spent last year, on a monthly basis, until agreement on a new budget can be reached.

He tells MEPs that allowing this procedure to come into effect would force member states to "understand the depth of the problem" caused by unpaid bills, and show that Parliament was serious about getting a bigger settlement on the top-up budgets.

To this end, he asks his colleagues to "consider" voting against the current deal at the vote tomorrow.

Indrek Tarand
BBC

Late engagement

Belgian MEP Jean Artuis - who chairs the Parliament's budgets committee - says it took the Council until the final day of the 25-day conciliation committee before it came up with an acceptable proposals.

Criticising EU finance ministers for not engaging earlier and more enthusiastically with MEPs, he says the extra payment for projects this year was needed, and simply a consequence of "pending decisions taken by them" in the past.

What's the MFF?

Budgets Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva mentions the "MFF" - that's the "Multiannual Financial Framework", or long-term budget for the EU, that sets out what can be spent in different policy areas each year in seven consecutive years.

Reflecting concern about excessive government spending, EU leaders agreed last year to cut the current long-term budget, for 2014-2020, by about 3%.

Kristalina Georgieva
BBC

Timetable

Italian Undersecretary of State for Foreign Affairs Benedetto Della Vedova is speaking on behalf of the Council of Minsters, which houses the national ministers of the EU member states in different policy "configurations".

This is because Italy currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council, which will transfer to Latvia at the beginning of next month.

Benedetto Della Vedova
BBC

He says the deal the member states reached with MEPs should be viewed in the light of the "very tight timetable" for coming up with next year's budget.

The budget was, in fact, meant to have gained approval at the plenary session last month - but it was postponed after negotiating talks collapsed.

A formality?

Polish centre-right MEP Janusz Lewandowski has been preparing a report on a deal struck by EU finance ministers earlier this month that would give certain countries - including the UK - more time to pay extra contributions into the EU budget.

Janusz Lewandowski
BBC

The Parliament does not have the right to amend the agreement that was reached, but it must give its opinion on it.

As Mr Lewandowski says, MEPs voted not to do so at the last plenary session, arguing that it would be inappropriate to do so whilst they were still negotiating a budget for next year with the member states.

He says the vote to approve the mechanism to allow the delay to payments to got through should be a "formality" tomorrow.

'Broadly acceptable'

Belgian liberal Gerard Deprez - who acted as the Parliament's main negotiator on amendments to the 2014 budget - says that the agreement reached between the Parliament and Council is broadly "acceptable", event though MEPs fell short getting the €7.2bn they had wanted to pay.

Parliament's rapporteur

Eider Gardiazabal Rubial
BBC
Spanish Socialist Eider Gardiazabal Rubial acted as Parliament's "rapporteur" - or lead negotiator - on the 2015 budget

Budget debate

That's the presentation of the Commission's work programme for next year finished. MEPs are now going to be debating the EU budget for next year, as well as amendments to the 2014 budget.

Following months of stalled negotiations between Parliament, the European Commission and EU member states, a

deal on a draft budget for next year was reached at the beginning of last week.

Parliament agreed a limit of €141.2bn for spending next year, with a €145.3bn cap on money allocated to future projects during the period.

Despite the initial opposition of member states, MEPs also managed to negotiate an extra €4.8bn in payments for projects this year, which they insisted were necessary to reduce the problem of unpaid bills for EU contractors.

The 2015 budget and amending 2014 budget will be put to the vote tomorrow.

Defiant speech

Closing the debate, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker says that he wants to have a meeting with the group presidents when it comes to how the executive goes about presenting its work programme at the moment, saying the current way in which it is done is "frustrating" at the moment.

Jean-Claude Juncker
BBC

In response to criticism during the debate, he tells MEPs that he doesn't understand why in the Parliament, MEPs from the "extreme left" seek to defend the "extreme right" - which he says he "hates".

He finishes his speech defiantly, telling MEPs that he has just as much of a right to be heard in the chamber in Strasbourg as anywhere else.

Burden on small businesses

Back on his feet again, Mr Timmermans tells MEPs that he has "little experience of working in the European Parliament", and thus is not used to the idea that someone who has put questions to him - in this case, Nigel Farage - has left the chamber before listening to his response.

He says, however, that the UKIP leader was right to say there is too much of a legislative burden on small businesses - and pledges that the new Commission team will take measures to remedy this.

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Calling on MEPs to listen "what he has said" rather than simply responding to documents that were leaked to the press last week, he pledges not to lower the ambitions of the Commission on clean air when it re-submits legislation on the matter later this year.

Interventions

The scheduled speeches for this debate have now finished.

MEPs who were not on the speaker's list will now have five minutes to make short interventions under the "catch the eye procedure", after which Mr Timmermans and Mr Juncker will make closing speeches on behalf of the Commission.

Tweet

Evidently Mr Timmermans and Mr Juncker have not given enough details today on their plans to please Belgian Socialist MEP Marc Tarabella, who

tweets that "This legal simplification by the European Commission makes everything complicated and opaque".

Patience...

"Patience, dear commissioners, is running thin" says Swedish liberal MEP Fredrick Federley, who adds that the plans to withdraw and then re-submit legislation on waste and air quality risks stretching the goodwill of those members of Parliament who wish to see proposals in this area introduced sooner rather than later.

Tax avoidance and clean air

Labour leader in the Parliament Glenis Willmott says her group raised the issue of EU tax avoidance last year, and they have seen "little action" since, and calls on the Commission to bring forward measures to tackle the problem as soon as possible.

She says the plans to abandon a clean air directive in favour of reintroducing a revised proposal is "totally irresponsible", and she urges him to reconsider the idea.

Glenis Willmott
BBC