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Summary

  1. The sitting began with a debate a motion on how EU countries can help fight poverty, and ways to encourage private sector firms to participate in development projects.
  2. Ahead of a lunchtime vote, MEPs also debated human rights motions relating to Nigeria, Honduras and last month's bomb attack in Lahore.
  3. At the voting session, they gave final approval to new data protection rules, and an EU-wide system to share airline passenger data.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

And with that, today's business at the European Parliament comes to an end. 

Remember you can recap events at this week's plenary on the Parlaiments section of the BBC News website. 

MEPs' next plenary sitting will take place in Brussels on April 27-28. 

Commissioner: driverless cars bring 'great opportunities'

Debate on impact of driverless cars

European Parliament

Strasbourg

In reply, Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen says the arrival of driverless cars brings "great opportunities" to improve the efficiency and environmental impact of the EU car sector. 

She says the Commission is analysing developments in the sector as part of its research into competitiveness and its plans to create an energy union between EU countries. 

She adds that it is expected that driverless cars will be able to comply with existing car testing procedures, and that "discussions are ongoing" as to changes that might be necessary. 

Marianne Thyssen
BBC

EU needs 'secure investment'

Debate on impact of driverless cars

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German social democrat Ismail Ertug says that the car industry has already "made considerable headway" when it comes to driverless cars.

He adds say the arrival of "autonomous driving" will have an impact for transport polices and urban planning, but that "no attempts" have so far been made to look into its impact at an EU level. 

He says that the EU also needs a "secure investment environment" in this area in order to compete with the United States. 

Ismail Ertug
BBC

MEPs begin debate on driverless cars

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the impact of the migration crisis on Europe’s transport systems finished.

Finally today, Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen will stay to debate what legal work the European Commission is undertaking to prepare for the eventual arrival of driverless cars.

In an oral question to the Commission, a number of MEPs have asked the Commission to clarify how existing liability law might have to be changed if cars themselves control their own steering.

It also asks whether the EU executive is intending to change existing testing laws for the new vehicles, or make any “additional strategic investments” in the area. 

Driverless car
Getty Images/AFP

EU 'should stop mass migration' - MEP

Debate on migration crisis and the transport sector

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Hungarian MEP Krisztina Morvai, from the nationalist Jobbik party, says that she "fully agrees" that the permanent reintroduction of border controls would incur "enormous costs". 

However, she says that the "answer should be to stop mass migration".

However, she says that debates in the chamber are just a "preparation" for a forthcoming announcement that the EU wants to "make all migration legal". 

Krisztina Morvai
BBC

EU states 'paying high price' for border controls

Debate on migration crisis and the transport sector

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Stanislav Polcak
BBC

Centre-right Czech MEP Stanislav Polcak says that the permanent reintroduction of border controls would be "colossal" and have a "negative impact on trade".

Dutch Liberal Matthijs van Miltenburg says that "various think tanks" support the Commission's analysis of the potential economic impact of permanently restoring border controls.  

He adds that Europe is "currently paying a high price" for the fragmentation of the Schengen zone. 

Commissioner: 'substantial negative effects' from border controls

Debate on migration crisis and the transport sector

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Marianne Thyssen tells MEPs that the transport sector is "particularly sensitive" to the effects of temporary border controls introduced by several EU countries in response to the migration crisis.

She repeats analysis recently produced by the Commission which she says shows "substantial negative effects" on the European economy if border controls became permanent. 

She says the Commission would like to see controls lifted "as soon as possible", and has produced guidance under which a "normally functioning Schengen area" would return by the end of this year.  

Marianne Thyssen
BBC

Welcome back

Welcome back to coverage of this final afternoon session of this week’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The short session will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be joined by Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to debate the impact of the migration crisis on the EU’s transport sector.

MEPs finish final votes

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also pass motions they debated this morning on how EU countries can help fight poverty, and how to encourage private firms to commit funds to development policies. 

And with that, today's voting session comes to an end. MEPs will now have the opportunity to make short speeches to explain how they voted. 

The session is due to resume at 14.00, when MEPs are due to be joined by Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen to debate the impact of the migration crisis on Europe's transport system. 

In other news

Head of European Parliament Press Service tweets:

But no delight for the Greens...

Green MEP tweets:

Lead MEP 'delighted' with vote on passenger scheme

Delighted that EP has just approved with final vote and a big majority, my EU- PNR proposals. 5 years work, but really worth it!

MEPs pass trade secrets law

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Having rejected a last-ditch attempt from some MEPs to delay the vote, Parliament also gives final approval to new EU legislation aimed at strengthening the protection of companies’ trade secrets. 

The measure was announced by the previous European Commission in 2013, which said cross-border business research was being hampered by differences in national trade secrets laws.

The new proposals would introduce an EU-wide legal definition of what counts as a trade secret, and oblige member states to introduce new laws to beef up protection for commercial information.

Some MEPs and campaigners have criticised the new law for not putting in place adequate provisions to protect journalists and whistle-blowers.

Critics have said the new law could make it easier to prosecute journalists for publishing information that companies deem to be secret. 

Top secret documents
BBC

MEPs back EU-wide passenger data sharing scheme

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

By 461 votes to 179 with nine abstentions, MEPs give final approval to EU legislation which would require airlines to hand over certain passenger data to national security authorities for the purposes of tracking potential terrorists.

MEPs finally agreed a provisional deal with national ministers on the law back in December, following years of opposition on civil liberties and effectiveness grounds.

MEPs have come under renewed pressure to pass the deal following recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels. 

However, centre-left and liberal MEPs had blocked a final vote until a vote could also be held on the new data protection rules.

An amendment from a Liberal MEP to force authorities to “automatically” share the results of processing data (instead of “where necessary”) is defeated by 457 to 163.

You can read more about the proposed scheme here.  

Brussels airplines
Reuters

MEPs pass new data rules for police

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

In a separate vote, MEPs also give final approval to new EU rules governing how personal data is to be used by national police forces and crime agencies. 

MEPs back data protection overhaul

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs give their final approval to a wide-ranging regulation they debated yesterday to overhaul EU data protection rules.

It follows agreement on the legislation between MEPs and national ministers at a meeting last Friday, which was endorsed by the Civil Liberties Committee on Tuesday.

The new law, which has been under negotiation for years, aims to replace current rules – which date from 1995 – with an updated EU-wide framework for protecting consumer data.

The legislation is aiming to give clarity and legal certainty for businesses, as well as giving people more control over how their internet data is used.

It will also introduce the possibility of large fines for companies that breach the law and offer some complex problems about how they store, delete and return data to citizens.

Once the new rules have come into effect, EU member states will have two years to comply – you can read more about changes here

Mobile phone
Getty Images

Voting to begin shortly

That's the debate on the human rights motions finished - all three motions will be put to a vote during today's voting session, which will get underway in a few minutes. 

MEPs begin debate on attacks in Nigeria

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on threats to activists and journalists in Honduras finished – MEPs will vote on their motion at lunchtime.

MEPs are now debating their third and final human rights motion, which condemns recent terror attacks in Nigeria by Boko Haram.

The group is believed responsible for thousands of killings, mostly in north-eastern Nigeria, and hundreds of abductions, including over 200 schoolgirls in May 2014. 

A draft motion agreed between seven of Parliament’s political groups urges the Nigerian government to launch “comprehensive, independent and effective investigations” into the attacks. 

Protest
AFP/Getty Images
Parents have demanded more government action in Nigeria to find girls abducted by Boko Haram

MEPs begin debate on Honduras

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s debate on the Lahore attacks finished – MEPs will vote on their motion at lunchtime.

The second of today’s human rights motions expresses concern about “abuses, violence, arbitrary detention, threats and killings” against human rights activists and journalists in Honduras.

The draft text – backed by seven of Parliament’s political groups – also condemns the recent killing of three human rights activists in the country.

It adds that the Honduran authorities “failed to provide adequate protection” to one of the activists – and calls for independent investigations into their deaths.  

It also notes that the country has become “one of the most dangerous countries in the region” for human rights defenders and environmental activists.

Journalist mourns colleagues
Reuters
Reporters Without Borders said last year that 28 journalists have been killed int he country since 2000

MEPs 'delivering lecture' to Pakistan

Debate on topical human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Labour MEP Afzal Khan, who was born in Pakistan, says it is time for EU nations to help clamp down on terrorist financing, and help Pakistan tackle the problem of religious radicalisation. 

However, another Pakistan-born UK MEP, the ex-UKIP and now Conservative Amjad Bashir, criticises the motion for using the attacks as an opportunity to  "to deliver a lengthy lecture" to Pakistan on a number of issues. 

EU countries, he says "would not" take kindly to criticism of its social exclusion or migration policies in the aftermath of a terrorism attack. 

MEP condemns Pakistan blasphemy laws

Debate on topical human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jean Lamberts
BBC

UK Green MEP Jean Lamberts, who chairs Parliament's South Asia delegation, says that there has been a "more co-ordinated" effort from Pakistan to fight terrorism, which has been resulting in an overall decrease in such attacks. 

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock says the country shows an "apparent inability" to confront "deeply troubling" blasphemy laws. 

Such laws, he says, should be repealed "as a matter of priority". 

MEPs begin debate on Lahore attacks

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The first of today’s motions condemns last month’s suicide attack in Lahore, Pakistan, which killed more than 70 people.

Taliban splinter group Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was designed to target Christians celebrating Easter.

The draft motion, backed by six of Parliament’s eight political groups, adds that Christians and other minority groups in Pakistan “face not only persecution by extremists, but also legal discrimination”.

It also notes, however, that whilst the attack nominally targeted Christians, “most of those wounded and killed were Muslims”.

The motion also expresses concern at the use of blasphemy laws in Pakistan, which it says are “heightening the climate of religious intolerance” in the country. 

Christians in Pakistan
AP
Christians are estimated to make up about 1.6% of Pakistan's population

Funding gap 'can only be met' by private money - MEP

Debate on private funding for development projects

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Conservative MEP Nirj Deva says that many of the "lofty claims" for development projects come with a "huge price tag" that a "struggling taxpayer" will find it increasingly difficult to meet. 

In particular, he says research has suggested that the recently-agreed UN sustainable development goals face a "staggering" €2.5tn funding gap. 

This amount of money, he adds, "can only be adequately met" by greater involvement of private countries. 

Nirj Deva
BBC

MEPs begin debate on development funding

That’s the debate on household poverty finished – a vote on the non-binding motion will take place at lunchtime.

Next, MEPs are debating a motion on how to encourage private sector companies to participate in development projects. 

Commissioner signals support for 'triple A' scheme

Debate on poverty in the EU

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager replies that the Commission acknowledges that EU states have "drifted further away" from poverty targets in recent years.  

However, she says the current EU executive has put social fairness "at the core of our agenda", and is an area where "we can make real progress". 

He also signals her support for a passage in the motion backing the mooted idea of a "triple social triple A” scheme to measure socio-economic standards in the 28 member states.

The idea would be similar to the “triple A” system used by credit ratings agencies to measure the creditworthiness of national governments.

She says that the Commission launched a consultation on the possibility of drawing up such a system last month, to which she hopes MEPs will contribute. 

Margrethe Vestager
BBC

EU 'further way' from meeting poverty targets

Debate on poverty in the EU

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Hungarian Green Tamas Meszerics, who has compiled the motion on behalf of the Employment Committee, says he hopes his text will get a "fairly large consensus" at the vote this lunchtime. 

He says that, "partly due" to financial crisis, the EU is actually "further away" from meeting its 2020 anti-poverty targets than when they were set. 

He adds, however, that rising energy prices over last decade or so is "more serious" than originally thought. 

Tamas Meszerics
BBC

Good Morning

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

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be debating a motion on how EU countries can help fight poverty and rising household bills in some area.

The non-binding text – which will be put to a vote at lunchtime – calls for EU member states to impose a moratorium heating disconnections during winter months.

It also calls on the EU Commission to examine whether minimum income policies in the EU enable households to meet basic needs.