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  1. The February plenary session of the European Parliament began at 16.00 GMT.
  2. MEPs first debated a decision by the European Commission last September to set up an additional expert group on intellectual property rights.
  3. After that, there was a debate on renewing the mandate of the UN's Internet Governance Forum - a body that encourages open debate about how the internet should be regulated.
  4. In the evening, MEPs debated whether the Commission should come up with new EU-wide laws to make the labelling of the origin of meat compulsory in processed meals.
  5. The sitting closed with a round of one-minute speeches.
  6. 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


With that, the one-minute speeches are finished and this evening's sitting comes to a close.

The plenary session will continue tomorrow morning from 08.00 GMT, when MEPs will be debating proposed funding changes to the European Youth Initiative and ways to promote greater employee share ownership across the EU.

The highlight of the afternoon's session will see MEPs debate the situation in Ukraine with the EU's foreign affairs chief, Federica Mogherini. We hope you can join us then.

'Troika' criticism

Spaish liberal Maite Pagazaurtundua Ruiz says that the troika are acting "outside the limits of the treaties" in the way in which they are dealing with the issue of Greece.

Last week, the ECB

said it would no longer accept Greek government bonds as collateral for lending money to commercial banks, saying it could not assume a "successful" deal on Greece's €240bn (£179bn) bailout.

The move makes access to cash more expensive for Greece's banks - in Athens, the stock market fell more than 6%, while bank stocks tumbled as much as 16%.

Syriza intervention

Unsurprisingly, Greek Syriza MEP Sofia Sakorafa brings up the issue of her country's

current attempts to renegotiate its massive bailout with the "troika" of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), European Commission and European Central Bank (ECB).

She says that Greece's problems are not unique, but reflect a problem "for all of Europe" - and asks MEPs to support a Europe not built on current economic policies, but on "solidarity and democracy".

One-minute speeches

Today's sitting will now close with a round of one-minute speeches - a session traditionally held at the end of each Monday sitting that allows backbench MEPs to speak briefly about a topic of interest to them.

Normally this part of the session is used by members to bring up issues relevant to their constituency or country, or to make comments on recent news stories.

Meat labelling debate closes

Closing tonight's debate, Jyrki Katainen, the Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, says that the estimated increase of costs of 20%-50% that he quoted earlier was for operational costs, and not necessarily for the final price of products - for which he says an accurate estimate would be "very difficult" to establish.

Nevertheless, he pledges to pass on the comments of MEPs to Vytenis Andriukaitis - the Health and Food Safety Commissioner - who he says will be in charge of proposing any further regulation in this area.

Jyrki Katainen

"Catch the eye"

We're now on to the "catch the eye" procedure - allowing MEPs not on the list to speak to make short interventions.

To do so, MEPs have to get the attention of Ryszard Czarnecki, one of Parliament's 14 vice-presidents, who is chairing this evening's debate.

Supplier relationships

Irish centre-right MEP Mairead McGuinness - also one of the Parliament's 14 vice-presidents- says it is "no surprise" that consumers, when asked, say they would like more information - in the same way that it is unsurprising that they say they are unprepared to pay more for their food if costs are raised.

Adding that she is "torn" by the competing positions on the need for new legislation, she says a more important consideration should be the relationship that producers have with their suppliers.

She adds that encouraging producers to establish longer-term relationships with their suppliers - without the need to "switch and swap" - would make it easier to increase the traceability of meat.

She notes, however, that the issue of food fraud itself "will only solved by monitoring and controlling the food supply chain".

Mairead McGuinness

Voluntary labelling

German centre-right MEP Norbert Lins says that supporting voluntary, rather than mandatory, labelling might be a way forward - allowing for the administration costs to be kept "under more reasonable control".

Despite this, he underlines his support for the idea that trust in agricultural product must be the "number one priority".

Support for information

Croatian liberal Ivan Jakovcic says he supports the idea of "maximum information" being made available on food labels, noting in particular that much meat sold in Europe originates outside the EU, something consumers might like to know.

Ivan Jakovcic

Background on the Commission's report

In 2013 the European Commission produced a

report evaluating the impact of making origin labelling mandatory.

It found that there was "considerably strong" interest among consumers for having meat origin indicated, although it also noted that making this mandatory would cause some "operational challenges" for producers and require "radical changes" in the food chain.

It also said that labelling would be likely to place extra operating costs on food businesses, which may in turn be passed on to consumers.

Existing regulations for unprocessed meat

As of this April, fresh or frozen unprocessed meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry will also have to bear information on the origin of the meat under the terms of an EU regulation passed in 2011.

The label has to indicate where the animal was reared and slaughtered, but not where it was born.

Since it may come from different sources, the regulations for minced meat are slightly different - labels only have to indicate whether the animals were reared and slaughtered in the EU or in non-EU countries. A mix of both can be labelled as such, indicating both origins.

Sinn Fein MEP Lynn Boylan - who sits in the Parliament's left-wing GUE group - says the horsemeat scandal demonstrated the "extremely poor level of traceability" of meat the European food chain.

Accusing the Commission of being "apologists" for the corporate food industry, she argues that consumer groups have been calling for mandatory labelling "for years".

Horsemeat scandal background

The scandal began in January of 2013, when food inspectors announced that they had found horsemeat in frozen beefburgers made by firms in the Irish Republic and the UK, and sold by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland, Aldi and Lidl.

Mislabelled processed meat products were then discovered in 16 European countries, including France, Norway, Norway, Austria, Switzerland, Sweden and Germany.

In France, where seven supermarket chains withdrew all frozen beef meals made by two companies called Findus and Comigel, an initial investigation found that horsemeat sold as beef originated from Romanian slaughterhouses before being sold to a Dutch food trader, then on to a Cypriot trader and on again to a French firm.

Meat testing

Labour's Glenis Willmott counters, however, with her own claim that research in France showed that mandatory labelling would not be "that expensive".

Outlining her support for new laws, she says that more information on the origin of meat is "clearly what consumers want".

"This week, we must send a strong message to the Commission", she says.

Glenis Willmott

'No link' with horsemeat scandal

Speaking first, German centre-right MEP Renate Sommer says there is "no link at all" between mandatory labelling and the 2013

horsemeat scandal - something MEPs in other groups have said shows the need for compulsory labelling because it revealed the complex nature of supply chains in Europe, and the difficulties of keeping track of where meat had originated from.

She also predicts that making origin labelling required by law would increase administrative costs for producers by 30%.

"Consumers don't really want it, and it will make products more expensive", she adds.

Undecided Commission

Commissioner Katainen says the EU executive "has not yet decided" on any follow-up actions to its

2013 report evaluating the impact of making origin labelling mandatory, and says the report itself did not commit the Commission to doing so.

He says that it would be "difficult to establish" the final product price of processed meat products that had mandatory labelling - and that any estimate could only ever be "general" and "varied".

However, he notes that it is possible mandatory labelling could increase costs for producers, and "may negatively affect" the consumption of meat-based processed products.

Commissioner Katainen

Mandatory labelling

The question is being asked by Italian MEP Giovanni La Via, who chairs the Parliament's Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee.

The committee backed Wednesday's resolution at committee stage two weeks ago, by 48 votes to 15 with 4 abstentions.

He outlines his support for mandatory labelling, adding that it will improve the transparency of food chains across the continent.

He says, however, he would like the Commission to come up with more information and impact assessments on how such labelling might affect the price of processed meat products.

Giovanni La Via

Meat labelling

The next item on the agenda is an oral question to the Commission on the labelling of the origin of meat in processed foods.

Jyrki Katainen, Commissioner for Jobs, Growth, Investment and Competitiveness, will speak on behalf of the European Commission.

MEPs are due to vote on a

resolution on Wednesday that will call on the Commission to come up with new EU-wide laws that would make it mandatory to state the country of origin of meat used in processed meals.

The labelling of origin is already compulsory for unprocessed beef and beef products such as mince, but not for all meat used in prepared meals.

Commissioner comments

Commissioner Ansip winds up the debate by noting that the work of the IGF has proved "very helpful and valuable" - and notes that the Commission has remained one of the biggest donors to the body.

He adds that "multi-stakeholder governance" of the internet needs to be strengthened, and says this is an area in which EU countries - with a long tradition of upholding the rule of law - can make a particularly big contribution.

Commissioner Ansip

Internet control

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge says it is "no surprise" that politicians around the world have sought to restrict access to the internet, given the enormous access to information that it provides - and calls for the internet to be kept free of any political control.

He adds that controlling knowledge is a sure-fire way to guarantee that "the status quo is maintained".

Bill Etheridge

Catch the eye

With the scheduled speakers now having spoken, we move on to another few minutes of "catch the eye", during which MEPs not on the speaker's list can get a chance to intervene.

Czech liberal Dita Charanzova says that the single market in digital services will be "at the heart" of Europe's economic future - quoting research predicting that the internet economy's contribution to GDP is expected to jump from 3.8 % in 2010 to 5.7 % in 2016.

She warns, however, that international governance of the internet is a "double edged sword" - for although it allows EU countries a greater voice in how the web is regulated, she says it also opens the door to the involvement of countries "no respect for human rights" to influence governance too.

Dita Charanzova

Single digital market

Euractiv .com

News website

The new European Commission has said it will unveil its proposals for a single digital market in Europe this May.

Commissioner Andrus Ansip, representing the Commission in the chamber today, gave

this interview last month to Euractiv's Jeremy Fleming to outline the executive's hopes in the area.

Trust at heart of innovation

British Conservative Vicky Ford opens her intervention by noting that, according to recent figures, the top three best-prepared countries to flourish in the internet age are all in Europe.

She adds, however, that unleashing the potential of the internet will depend on protecting the intellectual property rights of inventors, as well as earning the trust of consumers by letting them know how their data is used and making sure regulation does not place "unworkable burdens" on small businesses.

Commission supporting resolution

Commissioner Ansip says the Commission supports the Parliament's resolution, adding that he feels it is "another step" in the promotion of an internet based on the "respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms".

He adds that he welcomes the MEPs' insistence that 2015 will be a "critical year for internet governance" - and says that the Commission supports an IGF that is stronger in its finances and its "substance".

Commissioner Ansip

Internet freedom

That's the debate on the intellectual property expert group finished.

The next item on the agenda is a debate with digital markets commissioner Andrus Ansip about internet freedom and "net neutrality" - the principle that all internet data and service providers are treated equally by all governments.

On Wednesday, MEPs are going to be voting on a resolution strongly supporting the work of the UN's

Internet Governance Forum (IGF), and asking for its mandate to be renewed at the end of this year.

The current mandate - granted by the UN's General Assembly - was granted in 2010 and is up for review later this year.

'No new money'

Wrapping up this opening debate on behalf of the European Commission, internal market commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska reiterated that the current expert group - OHIM - is not mandated to advise the Commission, a role the new group will fulfil.

She adds that "no new money" has been dedicated to the group - in response to Ms Reda's question about publishing the minutes of the group, she says that the reason why this hasn't been done is because the minutes of the latest group have not yet been adopted.

Elżbieta Bieńkowska


That's the end of the scheduled speeches for this debate. MEPs who were not on the list to speak now have the chance to do so, during the five-minute 'catch-the-eye' procedure.

MEPs can make a brief contribution if they can get the attention of Vice-president Lambsdorff, who is chairing the debate.

These short free-for-alls contrast with the regimented bulk of the Parliament's debates, when speakers representing each political grouping take part according to pre-arranged lists.

Protecting IPR

Italian Socialist Alessia Maria Mosca says the new group must help bring about "ever more cohesive action" in strategies in this area - something she says should be practiced both inside and outside the EU.

Outlining Parliament's plans for an "own initiative report" on the subject, she challenges the Commission to spell out what mechanisms it intends to use to protect IPR - intellectual property rights.

Chairing session

Alexander Graf Lambsdorff
Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a German liberal MEP and one of the Parliament's 14 vice-presidents, is chairing this afternoon's sitting.

Another committee?

More opposition in the chamber to the new group from groups on the right - German Conservative Beatrix von Storch says she can bet no one in the chamber can explain the precise role of the new group.

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge chimes in using the Parliament's blue card procedure, asking Ms von Storch whether she agrees with him that "the main thing this place is really good creating new committees".

Record keeping

German Green MEP Julia Reda says that the previous digital market commissioner, Gunter Oettinger, had gone on record promising that the minutes of the new group would be published and that its members from the different member states would be listed.

However, she says that the members of 13 out of the 28 EU countries remain unlisted - and that the minutes of the group's first and only meeting so far remain to be published.

She urges the Commission to "get serious" about improving the record keeping of the group.

Julia Reda

New group?

Bulgarian Conservative Angel Dzhambazki questions the need for a new group, saying that although it is important intellectual property (IP) rights are protected, this should be done without "wasting public funds".

He notes that the Observatory already has its observers in the Parliament - of which he is one.

His reference to the "JURI" committee is an abbreviation used frequently in the Parliament to refer to the Legal Affairs Committee.

'Advice' mission

Internal market commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska says the new group will have a "strict mission" to advise the Commission on new policy - and not gather data itself.

She adds that the Commission feels this role is "completely different" from the role of the current group, the OHIM, set up under the auspices of the

European Observatory on Infringements of Intellectual Property Rights.

Highlighting the need to keep up with "constantly changing" IP situation in Europe, she says that group will play a leading role in supporting policy development in this area but will draw on previously-established data in the field.

Intellectual property rights

A request for a debate on the situation in Greece, made by 92-year-old veteran MEP Emmanouil Glezos, is rejected by Parliament's President Schulz on the grounds that it has been made too late.

We now move on to the first item on today's agenda: a debate with internal market commissioner Elżbieta Bieńkowska about a decision the Commission made last September to set up a group of experts on the enforcement of intellectual property rights.

MEPs on the Parliament's legal affairs committee have questioned this decision, given that a body called the

Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) had already been given the task of gathering experts on this subject.

The oral question being asked in this debate notes that some of the tasks to be carried out by the two expert groups "seem similar", and requests that the Commission explain why this doesn't amount to a duplication of resources.

Debate on internet control

German centre-right MEP Monika Hohlmeier proposes - on behalf of the EPP group - to hold a vote on a resolution at next month's sitting to follow on from this Thursday's debate, about clamping down on internet child abuse.

The request is approved.

Monika Hohlmeier

Request rejected

There has been another request made, this time by a group of individual MEPs, to hold a debate this Wednesday on the 70th anniversary of the

Yalta Conference.

Green co-leader Philippe Lamberts, speaking against the motion, says the Parliament is not the appropriate chamber for such a debate, adding that the chamber is not "an assembly of historians".

Following an electronic vote, the request is rejected.

Debate request

The centre-right EPP group asks to add a debate on "energy interconnections", with a resolution vote, to Wednesday's agenda.

However the request, tabled by French MEP Françoise Grossetete, is rejected.

Procedural matters

Martin Schulz

Mr Schulz goes through some procedural matters - announcing the resignation of Italian MEP Alessandra Moretti, and a vote this Thursday on the creation of a special parliamentary committee to look into tax rulings in EU countries.

Following a lack of opposition from MEPs, he also says that a request to extend today's sitting by one hour - to 10pm Strasbourg time - is approved.

Good afternoon

Hello and welcome to BBC Democracy Live's coverage of this month's plenary session of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The session will shortly be officially opened by Martin Schulz, the President of the Parliament, after which MEPs will have the chance to request additions or changes to this week's agenda.

Proposals to add something to the agenda have to be made to the President at least one hour before the sitting opens, and can be tabled by one of the Parliament's committees, one of its

political groups, or a group of 40 MEPs.

A simple majority of votes is required to add an item to the agenda.