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Summary

  1. The sitting began at 8am with a debate on the meeting of EU leaders set to take place later this month (see 'Key Video').
  2. MEPs then debated changes to the "European Semester" - the annual process by which the Commission issues guidance to member states on how they should be reforming their economies.
  3. In the afternoon, MEPs will be joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to debate the killing of Russian opposition politician Boris Nemtsov and the future of the bloc's foreign policy.
  4. There were also debates on the human rights situation internationally, the current sitting of the UN's Human Rights Council, and recent signing of a new peace deal in Mali.
  5. The evening session saw debates on EU co-operation with the Arab League to combat terrorism, and anti-semitism and islamophobia in the EU.
  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

Goodnight

That's it for tonight, as the debate on Anti-Semitism, Islamophobia and extremism draws to a close.

MEPs will be back in the chamber tomorrow, when - as is tradition on a Thursday morning - they will be debating three topical human rights cases, which will all be wound up with resolutions. The sitting begins at 08.30 GMT.

There will also be votes on resolutions on the recent killing of Russian opposition figure Boris Nemtsov, the future of EU foreign policy and relations with the Arab League nations.

Anti-Semitism in the UK

BBC Radio 4

In a recent episode of the Report on BBC Radio 4, Simon Cox investigated the changing face of prejudice against Jewish people in the UK.

You can listen to the episode

here.

This late, late hour

British Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, has some criticism for the Parliament's schedulers, adding that he cannot believe that tonight's debate on radicalisation - which he calls the "issue of the moment" - has been scheduled for such an "intolerably late hour".

Remember of course that Strasbourg is an hour ahead of GMT - meaning MEPs are currently speaking at 11 o'clock in the evening local time.

Claude Moraes
BBC

Final debate underway

That's the debate on EU-Arab League relations finished, and we move on to the last of tonight's debates of what has turned out to be a marathon evening session, which is on "the rise of anti-Semitism, islamophobia and extremism in the EU".

The Commission will be represented by Austrian Johannes Hahn, below, the European Neighbourhood Policy & Enlargement Negotiations Commissioner.

Johannes Hahn
BBC

Arab League debate ends

Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica sums up this debate on behalf of the Council of Ministers by pointing to areas other than counter-terrorism where the EU co-operates with the Arab League, including in supporting the observation of elections and cultural activities.

She adds that combined efforts to tackle radicalisation need to concentrate on interfaith dialogue and involving civil society.

Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica
BBC

Catch the eye

We're now onto the "catch the eye" procedure - and one last time for unscheduled speakers to have their say in this debate.

No need to 'reinvent the wheel'

British Labour MEP Afzal Khan says there is no need to completely "reinvent the wheel" with counter-terror strategies, and highlights a project in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) as an example of work being undertaken within an Arab nation already to combat extremism.

Afzal Khan
BBC

'Returning wave' of Islamist militants

British Conservative David Campbell Bannerman highlights the dangers posed by a "returning wave" of Islamist militants from the Middle East, which he says show the need for a counter-terror operation with Arab League states.

He adds that co-operation with Arab countries is vital if such efforts are not to be "greatly undermined".

Background on the League

The Arab League is a voluntary association of countries whose peoples are mainly Arabic speaking or where Arabic is an official language.

It aims to strengthen ties among its member states, coordinate their policies and direct them towards a common good.

Its members include Palestine, which the League regards as an independent state.

Call for co-operation

Nabil al-Arabi, who has headed the Arab League since his election in 2011, made an appearance in front of the European Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee just under two months ago - during which he called for EU co-operation in confronting the problem of religious radicalisation.

You can watch the hearing

here.

Nabil al-Arabi
BBC

'Essential' relationship

Ms. Kalnina-Lukasevica starts tonight's debate by stating that the EU relationship with

Arab League states is "essential" to address shared regional challenges, including terrorism as well as transnational crime.

She says the EU can help address "social and economic challenges" in the 22 countries that are part of the League, and that the bloc has strengthened its ties with Arab nations in a number of areas, although there remain areas where potential in the relationship remains "untapped".

Arab League debate

That's the short debate on Mali finished - Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica now rises again for her penultimate debate with MEPs today, which is on the relationship between the EU and the Arab League, and what can be done to increase co-operation between the two to counter the threat of terrorism.

'Terrible blows' to peace

Portuguese Socialist Ana Gomes says the peace process has suffered "terrible blows" recently, and that EU efforts in Mali should look to bolster "institution building" and reinforcing the participation of northern Malians in those institutions, as well as helping to fight international crime.

Ana Gomes
BBC

Change of acting president

Adina-Ioana Valean
BBC

There's been a change in the plenary's acting president, as Romanian MEP Adina-Ioana Valean takes control of proceedings.

What's going on in Mali?

The landlocked West African country of Mali - one of the poorest in the world - has struggled for stability since a military coup in 2012.

The country has struggled to contain ethnic rivalries in the north and an insurgency from Islamist fighters.

Islamists continue to have a foothold in the country, despite a French intervention to drive them out of the country called Operation Serval.

The militant Tuareg movement has launched four uprisings since 1962 to fight Mali's army over the territory they claim as their homeland and call Azawad.

Mali
Getty Images

Debate on Mali

That's the debate on Libya over, and Ms Mogherini leaves the chamber. She will be replaced this evening by Latvian State Secretary for European Affairs Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica, who will read out statements on her behalf.

Latvia took over the EU's six-month rotating presidency in January, and will hold it until June.

The next of this evening's foreign affairs debates is on a peace agreement signed at the start of this month between the Malian government and an alliance of six armed rebel groups in the north of the country.

The UN-brokered document has not, however, been signed by the main group of Tuareg separatists, who have asked for more time to consider whether to sign up to the deal.

Who wants what in Libya?

World Service

Amid the political crisis in the country, the BBC World Service's Inquiry programme has been asking: Who wants what in Libya?

You can listen to the programme

here.

Background on Libya

Libya has been plagued by factional infighting and instability since the Western-backed toppling of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, and violence has been steadily increasing in recent months.

An internationally-recognised government is based in Tobruk, near the Egyptian border, having been expelled from the capital, Tripoli, by militias last year.

However, numerous militias are in control of their own patches of territory, with successive governments struggling to exercise any kind of political control in the country.

A rival militia-backed administration now controls the capital Tripoli, while Benghazi is largely in the hands of Islamist fighters.

A member of the Libyan army stands on a tank
AFP/Getty Images

'Top priority'

Ms Mogherini tells MEPs that, along with dealing with the situation in Ukraine, Libya has been her "top priority".

She says that her work has focused on keeping "all actors" in the political crisis talking to each other - adding that the recent resumption of UN-brokered dialogue between sides is the result of "silent but constant diplomatic work".

She says establishing a "national unity government" has to be the ultimate aim of talks, and the country's potential will only be reached with the establishment of a government that is capable of representing "all the territory and all the people of Libya".

Federica Mogherini
BBC

Libya debate

That's the debate on the EU's human rights report finished. The resolution will be voted on tomorrow lunchtime.

We now move on to another foreign policy debate with Ms Mogherini - this time on the situation in Libya.

This debate was requested at the opening of the session by the centre-right EPP group following the

reported kidnapping of nine foreign oil workers in the country by Islamic State (IS).

It followed the claimed

beheading of 21 Egyptian Coptic Christians last month.

Human rights commitment

Federica Mogherini closes this debate on human rights by committing to making the promotion of human rights a part of both the EU's "internal and external actions" (i.e. within member states and with the bloc's relationships with outside countries), and to "mainstreaming" human rights across all policy areas.

Catch the eye

We're now onto the final round of MEP interventions during this debate, made during the "catch the eye" procedure.

This procedure gives a chance to speak to members who did not make in onto the official speaker's list.

Objection to referendum criticism

Croatian Conservative Ruža Tomasic says she objects to clause 165 in tomorrow's resolution, which considers "regrettable" the outcome of a 2013 referendum in her country, which

endorsed a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage.

'Internal strategy for human rights'

Laura Ferrara, an Italian MEP from the Eurosceptic Five Star party, proposes her own review - an "internal strategy for human rights" - which she says needs to ensure the "scrupulous" respect for human rights not just among new members of the EU (already present in the so-called "Copenhagen criteria") but among existing members too.

Laura Ferrara
BBC

'Practice what we preach'

"We cannot be two-faced when it comes to human rights," says Spanish Socialist Elena Valenciano, who says it is vital that recommendations made to "third countries" - Brussels jargon for countries outside the EU - are respected within the bloc's borders so that "we can practice what we preach".

She adds that the EU should also have a duty to ensure European companies operating outside the EU are respecting human rights obligations.

Elena Valenciano
BBC

Human rights

Ms Mogherini kicks off the debate by telling MEPs that promoting respect for human rights is "the overarching priority" of the EU's external action.

She adds the impact of the EU's internal and external policies on human rights must be fully assessed so that the EU can guarantee it can act with "credibility".

She says in particular she wishes to step up the Commission's work to protect the human rights of children, lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, and the freedom of religious thought.

Human rights report

That's the debate on EU foreign policy strategy finished - remember, the vote on the resolution will take place tomorrow.

Shortly, MEPs are going to be debating the EU's

2013 report on human rights and democracy.

Tomorrow, MEPs will vote on a

resolution which, among other things, will repeat a call MEPs have made in the past for binding human rights clauses to be included in all EU international agreements.

Co-ordinated approach

Federica Mogherini wraps up the debate by telling MEPs of some administrative and structural changes that have been made within the Commission, which she says will improve co-ordination within the EU executive itself on foreign policy matters.

She says an EU foreign policy can indeed have an "added value", and points to co-ordinated action over Ukraine as an example of this.

"Think about where we could be today [in Ukraine] if we didn't have that," she adds.

Federica Mogherini
BBC

Further militarisation of the EU?

Cypriot left-wing MEP Takis Hadjigeorgiou pours scorn on tomorrow's resolution, which he says promotes further militarisation of the EU, in conjunction with Nato.

"That is not the Europe we want to see," he continues, before adding that he rejects the funding of any military operations from the EU budget.

His political group, the GUE/NGL, has tabled a

series of amendments to tomorrow's resolution, which condemns the
recent deployment of Nato troops in eastern Europe widely seen as a move to deter a perceived Russian threat to the Baltic states as an "aggressive military strategy" that has the aim of "encircling Russia".

'Unworkable, dangerous'

Ukip MEP James Carver takes a less equivocal view of the CFSP, condemning it as "unworkable at best, and dangerous at worst".

James Carver
BBC

Threat

British Conservative and regular speaker on foreign affairs issues Charles Tannock says that the breakdown in the global geopolitical status quo is both a "foreign and domestic threat".

He says he supports clauses in tomorrow's resolution underlining the importance of Nato, and welcomes calls for more efficiency in the activities of the

European External Actions Service, as well efforts to improve language skills, particularly Arabic.

He says he does foresee a role for the EU's Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP), but that it must respect the outlooks of different member states and be used "only when appropriate".

Charles Tannock
BBC

Friendly neighbours?

Ms Mogherini mentions a recent "relaunch" of the EU's European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP), which was introduced in 2003 to encourage the EU to develop better relations with the countries that surround it, including former Soviet republics and North African and Middle Eastern states.

She says that, over a decade since it was launched, "reality has tested this aspiration".

Her comments are in line with last week's

consultation paper published alongside the ENP relaunch, which noted that "the ENP has not always been able to offer adequate responses to these recent developments, nor to the changing aspirations of our partners".

Ms Mogherini
BBC

What's in tomorrow's resolution?

The Parliament's

resolution, which was backed by 47 votes to eight, with six abstentions, calls for the EU to forge a more ambitious and proactive foreign policy presence.

It urges the need to support countries that want to draw closer to the EU, and for countries in the bloc to reduce their energy dependence on Russia.

It also asks for increased sharing of intelligence information between EU member states, and for greater co-operation with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries to fight the threat of terrorism.

In the news

Today's debate, of course, comes after Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker repeated a call over the weekend for the establishment of a EU army.

In

an interview with German newspaper Die Welt, he said such an army would restore the EU's foreign policy standing and help it combat a growing threat from Russia.

Juncker
Getty Images

New debate

That's the debate on Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov finished - MEPs will state their views on the matter with a resolution at the voting session tomorrow.

Ms Mogherini is going to remain in the chamber, however, to debate an annual report on the EU's foreign and security policy.

It comes before MEPs will vote tomorrow on a resolution to set out Parliament's position on foreign policy matters, which has been compiled by German MEP and chair of the Foreign Affairs Committee Elmar Brok, below.

Elmar Brok
BBC

Summing up

Summing up for the Commission, EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini urges the need for a "strategic patience" with Russia.

She says the "unifying line" between MEPs in the chamber is the need to work with Russian society, and says that, alongside the "strong" current policy on sanctions, there is a need to think collectively about "positive tools" that can be used to engage the Russian population.

He tells MEPs that the Commission has started work on a communication strategy to counter "propaganda" being disseminated by media outlets.

She adds it should not be about providing "counter-propaganda", but ensuring the supply of correct information to Russian speakers and promoting media freedom.

Federica Mogherini
BBC

Confidence in murder investigation?

Labour MEP Richard Howitt, a regular speaker on foreign affairs matters and member of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, says the fact that some international visitors have been barred from entering Russia gives "little confidence" that the investigation into his murder will be truly transparent or meet international standards.

Isolated Russia?

Slovakian Socialist Boris Zala says Mr Nemsov was the victim of a climate of "paranoia and nationalist hatred" that has been created in Russia.

He adds, however, that he feels the EU's external policies towards the country show the hallmarks of being "completely unprepared", and says the bloc should start thinking seriously about a strategy for a "stable co-existence" with an increasingly isolated Russia.

What next?

After the killing, Kommersant radio commentator Konstantin von Eggert wrote

this piece for the BBC News website, which asked: what next for Russia's opposition?

Opposition Supporters
Getty Images
Opposition supporters marched in Moscow at the start of the month to honour opposition politician Boris Nemtsov

'Political act'

Belgian Conservative Mark Demesmaeker openly denounces Mr Netmsov's shooting as a political act, adding that it was "a warning to all political dissidents in the country".

His comments effectively echo the Conservative ECR group's

submission for tomorrow's resolution, which says the murder is:

"yet another case of politically motivated murder in Russia, directed at silencing the critics of President Vladimir Putin and other prominent political figures of the Russian opposition"

Mark Demesmaeker
BBC