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Summary

  1. The sitting began at 07.30 BST with a debate on a motion setting out MEPs' view of how the migration crisis should be tackled.
  2. The non-binding motion was put to the vote at lunchtime, following a debate on how the EU can help farmers coping with falling prices.
  3. After lunch, MEPs debated last month's terror attacks in Brussels, the Panama Papers leaks and the Commission's latest plans to boost the tax transparency of multinationals.
  4. They also debated the future of the EU's common defence policy, the resurgence of violence in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, and the EU's political and cooperation agreement with Cuba.
  5. The evening also saw a debate on a motion from the Foreign Affairs Committee about the EU’s Central Asia Strategy.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Good night

Thanks for joining us for today's events in the European Parliament, and our apologies once again for the interrupted commentary.

Do join us tomorrow for more from the European Parliament. 

Our apologies

We're going to have to cut short our live commentary on today's events in the European Parliament.

You can still watch events unfold, by clicking on the live stream in the tab above.

Our apologies for this interruption to the service.

Votes finish

That’s the voting session finished – MEPs will now have the opportunity to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

Following a short break after this, the sitting will resume at 14.00 GMT, when MEPs are due to be joined by Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to debate what should be done in the wake of last month’s terror attacks in Brussels.

MEPs pass motion on migration crisis

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEP pass their motion debated this morning suggesting ways in which the EU can tackle the migration crisis - scroll down the page to read more. 

The motion also repeats a call that MEPs have made since 2009 to set up a permanent and binding system for distributing asylum seekers.

An amendment tabled by the anti-EU ENF group calling for EU states to “close their borders” was defeated.

An amendment tabled by the left-wing GUE group stating that Turkey “cannot be considered to be a safe country for all people in need of international protection” also falls.  

The motion is not binding on either the Commission or on national governments. 

MEPs back simplification of breeding rules

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs give their final backing to proposals aiming to simplify existing EU legislation relating to the trade in animal products and the breeding of animals.

Under the plans, current EU rules applying to cattle, pigs, horses, sheep and goats will be consolidated into a single EU regulation that will apply across the whole bloc.

MEPs reached a provisional deal on the changes with national ministers last December, which included demands for special provisions for endangered breeds and for the horse-breeding sector. 

Sheep
AFP/Getty Images

MEPs approve EU-Greenland fishing deal

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs overwhelmingly give their approval to a five-year EU fishing agreement with Greenland, which would allow EU vessels to continue to fish in the waters of the country’s Exclusive Economic Zone.

In return, the EU will pay Greenland €17.8m per year. The agreement will replace a previous deal which expired last year.

Voting graphic
BBC
The voting graphic shows only a small number of MEPs (in red) opposed the plans

Votes to begin soon

With the second of this morning's debates finished, MEPs are now taking their seats before today's voting session.

Commissioner: EU giving 'significant' sums of money to farmers

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Summing up for the Commission, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan again repeats that the crisis in the EU is taking place in the context of falling prices worldwide. 

He adds that Russia's embargo on food imports from the EU "has not helped", resulting in €5.2bn in lost trade.

He says that the EU funding for farmers does not just come in the form of emergency funding, but in €56bn each year paid to farmers under the Common Agricultural Policy, which he describes as a "significant amount of money".

In response to criticism from some of the left-leaning MEPs, he maintains that opening new export markets for producers is "part of the solution" in boosting farm profits. 

Phil Hogan
BBC

MEP calls for 'fair playing field' for farmers

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch Christian Democrat Annie Schreijer-Pierik highlights the difficulties faced by farmers in the Netherlands, where she says 60% pig farmers "are not managing" and half of milk producers are in difficulty. 

She says that the market alone will not save farmers - and that a "fair playing field" for farmers needs to be endured through judicious application of EU state aid rules. 

MEP: EU executive 'failing to address' crisis

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Sinn Fein MEP Matt Carthy accuses the Commission of "failing to address the crisis", and being slow to even discuss the issue. 

In response to the Commissioner's call for more time to be given to existing measures to work, he says that "many of the farmers simply don't have the luxury of time". 

He adds that intervention to stop the fall in prices is inevitable at some stage, so might as well be done as soon as possible. 

Matt Carthy
BBC

EU 'should help those who are struggling'

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Herbert Dorfmann
BBC

Herbert Dorfmann says that although some producers capable of exporting at low cost could benefit from the end of milk quotas, smaller producers - particularly in mountain areas - may not. 

He says that the EU has a duty to "help those people who are struggling". 

Conservative agriculture spokesman Richard Ashworth says that the Commission's powers are "limited" in relation to the size of the prices crisis.

He urges the Commissioner to enact measures to help the sector become more competitive.  

MEP calls for 'voluntary limit' on production

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Martin Hausling
BBC

German Green Martin Hausling says that "the problem of volume" needs to be tackled, and calls for the Commissioner to look at "voluntary limits" on production. 

UKIP agricultural spokesman John Stuart Agnew uses his speech to state his opposition to a planned vote tomorrow on a motion calling on the Commission not to renew the authorisation for the glyphosate pesticide. 

A number of MEPs have called for a ban, citing a dispute among scientists about whether it might have carcinogenic effects. 

Mr Agnew says the evidence shows the use of the pesticide poses no greater danger than a number of common daily activities, and that the  "absolutely ludicrous" proposal to ban the chemical would be "disastrous" for farmers. 

It has been reported that a number of MEPs are planning to give urine samples today to see if they contain traces of the chemical - and have called on Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to do the same. 

Helpful guide

Parliamentary service

Commissioner: Existing measures must have 'opportunity to work'

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan says that although EU producers are "continuing to trade very successfully", this has "not been translated as yet" into further profits for farmers.

He adds that he is hopeful that new markets in places such as China, Japan and Mexico can provide a means for EU exporters to boost their profits. 

He calls on MEPs to give existing Commission emergency measures "an opportunity to work", noting that only some of the money in last September's €500m aid package has been spent. 

Phil Hogan
BBC

MEP calls for further emergency measures

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Polish centre-right MEP Czeslaw Adam Siekierski says that European farmers have been operating in the context of falling prices global, which he says fell by 19% last year.

He adds that farmers have also been hit by reduced demand for food from India and China, as well as last year's end to EU milk quotas, which he says has "spurred producers to increase output".

The system, set up in 1984, was brought to an end to allow EU dairy businesses to compete with international rivals in supplying fast-growing markets in Asia and Africa.  

However, some have blamed the scrapping of quotas for a further fall in milk prices. 

He says the Commission should urgently put in place short-term measures to help farmers on top of the previous aid packages announced last year, and additional measures announced a few weeks ago. 

Czeslaw Adam Siekierski
BBC

Debate on agricultural prices begins

Debate on agricultural produce prices

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate about EU asylum policy finished – MEPs will hold a final vote on their non-binding motion at lunchtime.

MEPs are now debating falling prices in the agricultural sector with EU Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan.

Members of the Agriculture Committee want to know what the Commission intends to do to help farmers hit by falling prices.

Producers have also been hit by a Russian ban on food imports from the EU, imposed in 2014 in response to Western sanctions over Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Protests in Brussels
AFP/Getty Image
Farmers took to the streets of Brussels to protest against falling prices last month

Commissioner vows 'comprehensive' asylum plan

Debate on migration crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Summing up the debate for the Commission, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that EU politicians need to avoid "playing on stereotypes" during the crisis. 

He adds that the number of people relocated under the EU's emergency scheme approved last year is "unacceptable" and needs to be increased. 

Nevertheless, he maintains that "important progress" at an EU level has been made. 

He says the Commission does not want a "cosmetic reform" of current procedures, but will propose a "comprehensive" plan to overhaul current asylum rules.  

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

Crisis 'chipping away' at moral authority of EU

Debate on migration crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Spanish Socialist Enrique Guerrero Salom says that the polices of EU states are "chipping away" at the moral authority accrued in the past. 

He says that the EU needs to find a solution to the crisis that will properly respect the rights of asylum seekers and refugees, and says the recommendations in the resolution would "take the EU in the right direction".  

Enrique Guerrero Salom
BBC

EU risks 'catastrophic' after-effects of mass migration

Debate on migration

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jussi Halla-Aho, from the Eurosceptic Finns Party, says that the EU's current approach seems to be to turn illegal and irregular migration into legal, regular flows of people to Europe. 

He says this approach does not tackle the "core problem" that there are "more people coming than Europe can absorb". 

He predicts that legalising the passageway to Europe will not lower the number of people attempting to get to the EU. 

He adds that European countries have "miserably failed" in the past to integrate people from Third World countries, which now risks becoming "catastrophic" in economic and social terms. 

Jussi Halla-Aho
BBC

The end of the Dublin system?

Today’s debate comes after the EU Commission last week unveiled options to replace the current Dublin system, which says refugees should claim asylum in the country they arrive in.

The current rules have proved unworkable since Germany opened the door to Syrian refugees last August.

The Commission has said there are two main options for replacing the system:

  • Amending the first-country rule with a "corrective fairness mechanism" to provide help to a struggling country
  • Scrapping the the first-country rule altogether and moving to a system based on redistributing refugees more evenly

Several countries do not want to see wholesale changes to the asylum system.

While Italy wants to see it abolished, Germany and the UK are keen to keep the existing first-country system, which enabled the British government to deport almost 2,000 asylum seekers in 2015.

It has been reported that a final proposal will be announced in the summer, possibly in June or July.  

EU states should 'follow the rulebook'

Debate on migration

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Conservative MEP and former Home Office minister Timothy Kirkhope says that although there are elements of the motion his group can support, the text overall is a "missed opportunity".

In particular, he describes the proposed options for replacing the Dublin system as "radical and impractical".

He adds that there is a need to make national governments "follow the rulebook" rather than "tearing it up". 

Timothy Kirkhope
BBC

MEP calls for 'concrete legislation' on a common asylum system

Debate on migration crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Cecilia Wikstrom
BBC

Swedish Liberal Cecilia Wikstrom, Parliament's lead negotiator on the changes to the Dublin rules, says she is "especially proud" of the support shown for a centralised EU asylum system. 

She adds that, under such a system, asylum seekers should be "distributed fairly among member states" - and that today's motion should be followed up with "concrete legislation" from the Commission. 

German Green Ska Keller picks up on events over the weekend, saying it is unacceptable that Macedonian police used tear gas to disperse migrants at its border with Greece. 

She says the time has come for EU countries to provide "legal and safe passage" to Europe for those intending to make asylum claims. 

Ska Keller
BBC

Migrants 'should be relocalised' to find work - MEP

Debate on migration crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

French centre-right MEP Elisabeth Morin-Chartier says the migration crisis will "test the values we claim we have".

In particular, she says it will be a challenge to integrate migrants into the world of work at a time of high unemployment.

She adds that EU member states should put in place a system where migrants are "relocalised to areas where there are jobs available", and suggests that EU social funds could also be put to such an end. 

Italian social democrat Andrea Cozzolino says that EU social policy should be put at the service of a new asylum system. 

He also suggests that derogations should be introduced into the bloc's debt and deficit rules to help states struggling financially with the consequences of the crisis. 

Andrea Cozzolino
BBC

Dublin rules 'need to be overhauled'

Debate on migration crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

On behalf of the European Commission, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that the time has come to replace the "chaotic" system of "irregular" migration with "organised safe legal pathways to Europe". 

He adds that the Commission is "working tirelessly" to put in place the administrative support necessary to make the EU's controversial migration with deal with Turkey a reality. 

He says that the EU's current asylum rules - which say asylum seekers should make their claim in their country of arrival - is "neither fair nor sustainable", and needs to be "overhauled". 

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

What else is in the draft motion?

Debate on migration crisis

The text also says that a system for relocating asylum seekers between EU states should take into account both the territorial size of the country as well as its population density.

At the moment, the criteria for relocating people under the emergency scheme agreed last year only includes GDP, population, unemployment rate and past number of asylum claims.

It also says that the preferences of asylum seekers as to where they wish to be sent should be taken into account “as much as practically possible”.

The motion also says that “adequate financial and technical support” should be given to frontline states, and again calls for governments to give more money for search and rescue operations. 

Migrants arrive in Greece
PA
MEPs have called in the past for more funding for rescue agencies

Solidarity 'should be starting point' of EU policies

Debate on migration crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

And we're underway, with Maltese centre-right MEP Roberta Metsola telling the chamber "if one thing is clear, it is that there is no quick fix to the problems of migration". 

As one of two MEPs that has drawn up today's motion, she says that "solidarity should be the starting point" of the EU's actions. 

She adds that the motion draws a distinction between those who are seeking asylum and those who have "come to Europe for work". 

Citing widespread public concerns about scrutiny, she says that if freedom of movement within the Schengen zone is to survive, it must go "hand in hand" with strengthened external borders. 

She adds that deportation for those whose asylum applications fail "must be carried out" - pointing out that this only happened in 36% of cases in 2014. 

Roberta Metsola
BBC

Good Morning

Hello and welcome to coverage of this plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The session will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be discussing the latest attempts at an EU level to ease Europe’s migration crisis.

At lunchtime, they will vote on a draft motion which again calls for EU states to set up a permanent and binding system for distributing asylum seekers – a policy MEPs have advocated since 2009.

The text also says that “one option” for replacing the current Dublin system could be to set up a centralised EU asylum system to which migrants arriving in Europe could make a claim.

The draft motion suggests that, under such a system, asylum seekers could then be allocated between different EU countries on the basis of thresholds “relative to the number of arrivals”.

MEPs will vote on the final motion at lunchtime. It is not binding on the European Commission or on national governments. 

Migrant on Greece-Macedonia border
EPA
More than 1.2m people claimed asylum in the EU last year