Summary

  1. MEPs discussed lending from the European Investment Bank, whether to sign off on EU spending during 2014.
  2. MEPs then debated what the EU is doing to promote accountability for attacks on hospitals and schools during conflicts, and the extent of public access to EU documents.
  3. In the evening, they debated how the EU could best protect the interests of children in cross-border parental custody disputes, and the labour rights of carers.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

European Parliament

Brussels

And with the one-minute speeches having come to an end, tonight's plenary sitting comes to an end. 

MEPs will be back in the chamber tomorrow morning from 07.30 BST, when they will debate the EU's controversial migration deal with Turkey.

After this, they will discuss measures to change EU law relating to management of the railways.

At the voting session, they will vote on measures to give final approval to new EU rules to increase regulation of so-called financial benchmarks, following the 2013 Libor scandal.   

MEPs to make short speeches

European Parliament

Brussels

Finally this evening, there will be a round of short one-minute speeches from backbench MEPs.

This item of business, traditionally also held on Mondays during full plenary sittings, is normally used by MEPs to make points about topical issues or stories of interest to their country or region. 

MEP: 'Stupid stereotypes' hinder women in ICT sector

'Own initiative' resolutions

European Parliament

Brussels

Another motion from the Women’s Rights Committee, prepared by German Green MEP Terry Reintke, calls for the EU to tackle the “severe gender gap” within the ICT sector.

Ms Reintke, the youngest member of the Parliament, says that women "very often face obstacles" in ICT, sometimes due to "stupid stereotypes" that they lack interest in the sector. 

She adds that her motion calls for better co-operation between police forces on online stalking and more funding for schemes to support female entrepreneurship. 

She says that she hopes her motion will provide a "starting point" for further Commissioner policies in this area. 

Terry Reintke
BBC

Commissioner 'shares concerns' in motion

'Own initiative' resolutions

European Parliament

Brussels

Replying for the Commission, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says she shares "several concerns" highlighted in the motions, particularly the need to reduce undeclared work. 

She adds that "several Commission studies" have shown the value of greater professionalising this sector, in which 83% of employees are women. 

She says that some EU states have already put in place their own measures to support people in the sector. 

Vera Jourova
BBC

MEP outlines motion on rights for carers

'Own initiative' resolutions

European Parliament

Brussels

Greek Syriza MEP Kostadinka Kuneva has prepared a motion on behalf of the Women’s Rights Committee calling for EU and national regulation of domestic workers and carers.

This group – most of whom are women – is made up of those working (sometimes temporarily) in jobs such as au pairs, household cleaners, live-in carers and gardeners.

The motion states that “illicit employment and exploitation” is widespread among those groups, with little regulation of hours, employment benefits and pay.

It also urges national governments to develop professional qualifications for “some types of domestic work (care for the elderly, children and disabled persons) which call for specific skills”. 

Kostadinka Kuneva
BBC

MEPs to debate 'own initiative' resolutions

Next this evening, there will be short presentations of two “own initiative” resolutions from the Parliament’s committees that will be put to the vote tomorrow.

These non-binding motions are used by MEPs and their committees to state their position on policy areas where legislation may emerge from the Commission.

They are not binding on the Commission or indeed on any EU national governments, and effectively serve as policy ideas. 

MEPs begin debate on child custody disputes

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on public access to documents produced and used by EU institutions finished – MEPs will be voting on their motion tomorrow.

MEPs are now going to be debating how the EU could best protect the interests of children in cross-border parental custody disputes.

Current EU legislation in this area – known as the Dublin IIa regulation – has been the subject of hundreds of petitions received by the Parliament's Petitions Committee and is due to be reviewed.

Tomorrow, MEPs will vote on a motion prepared by the committee which calls on member states to designate specialised chambers within family courts or cross-border mediation bodies to handle transnational cases involving children in the EU. 

Parent holding hands of children
AFP/Getty Images

UKIP MEP: UK has 'servile relationship' with the US

Debate on public access to EU documents

European Parliament

Brussels

UKIP's Gerard Batten says that the negotiations for TTIP, the proposed EU trade deal with the United States, are taking place "in secret" and that MEPs "cannot influence" their outcome.

MEPs will get a vote on whether to ratify the final negotiated text - although negotiations themselves are being conducted by representatives from the US and the EU Commission.  

He criticises US President Obama's declaration during his visit to London last week that the UK would find itself "at the back of the queue" for a trade deal with the US if it left the EU. 

He says this "overlooked the fact" that the UK is a "major trading partner" of the United States. 

He adds that the UK no longer has a "special relationship" with the US, but a "servile relationship", before adding: 

the American political establishment is not our friend"

Gerard Batten
BBC

Liberal MEP calls for 'transparency officers'

Debate on public access to EU documents

European Parliament

Brussels

Dutch Liberal Sophia in't Veld says that there is a need for a transparency officer in "all institutions" of the EU - including in the European Parliament.

She adds that there should also be common rules governing when EU documents should be classified, as well as an easier way to challenge decisions. 

Sophia in't Veld
BBC

Commissioner: 'High transparency standards' already applied

Debate on public access to EU documents

European Parliament

Brussels

Replying for the EU Commission, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says that the body "already applies high transparency standards", and puts a "paramount" importance on transparency. 

On the recommendation from MEPs for an EU 'transparency commissioner', she says that this role is already covered in the portfolio of Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans.

She adds that the Commission has published details of "more than 10,000" meetings held by its officials. 

She tells MEPs that the Commission launched a public consultation on the setting up of an EU-wide transparency register in March, and hopes to put forward proposals "in the second half of this year".  

Vera Jourova
BBC

Transparency promises 'not always followed by deeds'

Debate on public access to EU documents

European Parliament

Brussels

Italian Five Star MEP Laura Ferrara, who has compiled the motion on behalf of the committee, says that similar motions in the past have "not always been followed by deeds". 

She says there is a need for more transparency in 'trilogue' meetings - the name given to meetings between Commission officials, MEPs and national ministers on EU legislation, which occur behind closed doors and are not minuted. 

She adds that there should be a "one stop shop" for access to information on all EU institutions, and greater protection for whistleblowers. 

Laura Ferrara
BBC

MEPs begin debate on public access to EU documents

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate about breaches of international law due to attacks on hospitals and schools finished.

MEPs have now been joined by Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to debate a motion about public access to documents produced and used by the EU institutions.

Access to documents has proved a politically sensitive topic, particularly when it comes to the activity of lobbyists, scientific decisions and the negotiation of EU trade deals.

Tomorrow, MEPs will vote on a draft motion prepared by the Civil Liberties Committee which says EU institutions are “still failing” to comply with transparency provisions in the Lisbon Treaty. 

It also calls on the Commission to bring forward its proposals for setting up a mandatory inter-institutional register of interest groups “without any further delay”. 

Magnifying Glass
BBC

Minister: EU countries 'have explicitly condemned' attacks

Debate on hospital and school attacks

European Parliament

Brussels

Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert says that attacks on schools and hospitals are indeed "intolerable", and have been "explicitly condemned" by the EU's Council of Ministers. 

She adds that promoting compliance with international humanitarian law is an EU obligation, and that EU countries continue to "call on all parties" end the practice. 

She tells MEPs that the Council of Ministers has already called for an independent investigation into alleged violations of humanitarian law in Yemen. 

Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert
BBC

EU 'not doing enough' on war crime recognition

Debate on hospital and school attacks

European Parliament

Brussels

Spanish Socialist Elena Valenciano says the EU is "not doing enough" to prevent the "upsurge in attacks" on schools and hospitals in conflicts. 

She say the attacks constitute war crimes in international law, but that they are going unpunished. 

Elena Valenciano
BBC

MEPs begin debate on attacks during conflicts

Debate on hospital and school attacks

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on whether to sign off on spending at several EU institutions finished – MEPs will vote on the Budget Committee’s recommendations tomorrow lunchtime.

MEPs have now been joined by Dutch defence minister Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert to debate what the EU is doing to promote accountability for attacks on hospitals and schools during wars – an act which breaches international law.

The Foreign Affairs and Development Committees have tabled an oral question asking how EU working groups are monitoring the situation in current conflicts in Yemen and Syria.

The MEPs have also asked how the EU has used its “political influence” to prevent such acts and ensure investigations into attacks are carried out. 

Legislators 'must address root causes' of errors

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

Vítor Caldeira, who is the President of the European Court of Auditors, says he takes notes of the calls from MEPs for more information about the spending of the EU's 'joint undertakings'.

He says there is a need to address the "root causes" of spending errors - and that this task can only be completed by those who make laws. 

Vítor Caldeira
BBC

Transparency begins at home?

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

Hungarian Green Benedek Javor says that MEPs are not currently "truly transparent" with their own expenses - a situation he says needs to improve if they are to "earn the credibility of voters".

He says this transparency is particularly important at a time when the Parliament has launched high-profile committee investigations into the transparency of the tax affairs of multinational companies and private individuals. 

Benedek Javor
BBC

Danish MEP criticises 'absurd' error rate

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

Danish left-wing MEP Rina Ronja Kari says her GUE group refuses to sign off on spending, telling the chamber that there are "way too many errors" in spending, and the error rate is "absurd". 

She adds that to grant discharge to the current set of accounts would show a "lack of respect to our citizens". 

Rina Ronja Kari
BBC

Have the EU’s accounts been ‘signed off’?

Debate on EU spending in 2014

The publication of the ECA’s report in November each year normally leads to a number of media reports relating to whether the EU’s accounts have been “signed off” or not by auditors.

In its last report, the ECA concluded that overall spending of EU funds in 2014 included an “error rate” of 4.4%, mainly related to spending in agriculture and cohesion policies that violated EU rules. 

This figure is different to the one that specifically relates to fraud, which is a deliberate criminal activity.

This led the ECA to give “a clean opinion on the reliability of the accounts” – but also to state that spending was still “materially affected by error”.  

This was because, for the 21st year in a row, the error rate was above the ECA’s target “materiality threshold” of 2 %.

According to the ECA, this threshold defines the maximum rate at which errors “would be considered to be tolerable”.

However, the vague and technical nature of the language leaves a fair bit of leeway when it comes to how this is reported, both by the media and by the EU institutions themselves.

For example last November, the Times newspaper concluded that the ECA had “failed to give the EU budget a clean bill of health for the 21st year running”.

This contrasts markedly with the European Commission’s own press release, which said the ECA had “given the EU accounts a clean bill of health for the 8th year in a row”.

Confused? You can read the ECA’s full report here

Falling Euro coins
BBC

Budgets Commissioner: 'Work to do' to reduce errors

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

EU Budgets Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva says she recognises there is "work to do" to reduce the error rate in the spending of EU funds. 

She adds that more must be done to extract the "highest possible value" from the EU budget, as well as matching spending to the Commission's "political priorities". 

However, she tells MEPs that they will never be able to "never bring errors to zero", and that this should not discourage spending in certain areas, such as development policy. 

Kristalina Georgieva
BBC

Dutch minister: reduction in spending errors 'insufficient'

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

Dutch defence minister Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert says EU citizens rightly expect their politicians to be "highly attentive" to spending by EU institutions. 

She is speaking on behalf of the Dutch presidency of the EU's Council of Ministers - where national ministers meet to discuss policy - which runs until June. 

She tells MEPs that keeping EU spending "under control" is "important to all of us", and there is still "a lot to improve" in this area. 

She says the reduction in the "error rate" for spending in 2014 - which dropped to 4.4% from 4.5% in 2013 - was "insufficient". 

She adds that auditors are still "far from" being able to give an unqualified approval to the EU accounts. 

Jeanine Antoinette Hennis-Plasschaert
BBC

Situation at EU agencies 'pretty good'

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

Labour MEP Derek Vaughan, who has compiled the assessment reports on a number of EU agencies, says the "picture is looking pretty good", but there are "some areas that need to be improved". 

He adds that "most agencies" have met an EU-wide target for staff reductions, and 80% have strategies to reduce fraud. 

He also recommends that the agencies should "strengthen" their communication policies to "raise awareness" of their activities and achievements. 

Derek Vaughan
BBC

On track

Parliament tweets

What has the committee recommended?

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

The Budgets Committee has recommended that Parliament sign off on spending for the European Commission, eight other EU institutions and a number of EU agencies.

However, they have recommended that a decision on spending by the European Council and EU Council of Ministers is postponed until October, citing a lack of co-operation.

The MEPs recommended that discharge is also granted to all of the EU’s ‘joint undertakings’ – public-private research projects – apart from:

  • ARTEMIS, a technology platform
  • ENIAC, the European Nanoelectronics Initiative Advisory Council
  • ITER, the International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor.
Euro notes
AFP/Getty Images

MEPs begin debate on budget 'discharge' motions

Debate on EU spending in 2014

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on the work of the European Investment Bank finished – MEPs will vote on their non-binding motion tomorrow.

Next, MEPs are going to be debating motions from the Budgetary Control Committee on whether to sign off on spending during 2014 made by a number of EU institutions.

This process – known as “granting discharge” – is required by the Parliament’s treaty role to monitor and scrutinise the way the EU budget is spent.

The discharge procedure usually occurs in the spring, after the European Court of Auditors, the EU's auditing authority, has produced its annual report. 

EU Bank 'practically only one' lending in Greece

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

In his closing speech, EIB President Werner Hoyer says that Greece has been a "specific preoccupation" for the EU investment bank, which is "practically the only one" that has continued to lend in the country following its economic crisis.

He says that he has "understood the message" on the need for greater transparency.

On the issue of where the EIB has been lending, he says the "lack of balance" in the geographical spread of its loans is a "myth". 

He says the countries where the Bank has the highest exposure on its loans is in countries like Portugal, Hungary and Cyprus.

He adds that the Bank does not have a quota for where it allocates loans, with funding only given to projects judged "economically viable". 

Werner Hoyer
BBC

EIB lending 'should cover series of sectors'

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

Replying to the debate for the Commission, Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici says that there has to be "political criteria" behind the choice of projects for funding, which should cover a "series of sectors".

He adds that it is desirable for EU Commission that "all countries benefit" from EIB loans, but says that the lending must be to "high quality" projects. 

He says the Juncker plan in particular is focused on lending to "higher risk" projects that have struggled to find financing elsewhere. 

Pierre Moscovici
BBC

UKIP MEP criticises EU lending to China

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

UKIP's Jane Collins says it is "an absolute disgrace" that the EIB has given so-called “soft loans” to Chinese steel plants as part of a climate policy intended to lower emissions.

Ms Collins says the policy is particularly damaging given that EU state aid rules prevent the UK government from offering financial support to failing steel plants in the UK. 

The claims were reported in the Daily Express newspaper earlier this month, which said the funding included a £40m loan that had been given to the Wuhan Iron & Steel Corporation.

The EIB has rejected that a loan to the Wuhan Corporation was ever granted, saying that EIB lending in China "focuses on transport, water and energy projects, as well as climate related investment".   

Jane Collins
BBC

'More balanced' investment between EU countries needed - MEP

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

Ryszard Czarnecki
BBC

Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki, from the Law and Justice Party which recently came to power in Poland, picks up on a statistic mentioned earlier - that around 60% of projects that receive EIB funding are located within the EU's five biggest economies. 

He says that, in order to better serve the European economy, the Bank needs to have a "more balanced lending policy". 

EU Bank 'must be part' of economic recovery

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

Irish MEP Brian Hayes, from the Fine Gael party that sits in the centre-right EPP group, says the EIB is set to play an increasingly important role in the European economy. 

He says that the Bank ""must be part" of economic recovery in the EU, and should become "more ambitious" in future years.

He adds, however, that private sector companies have "cash-rich balance sheets" which should be unlocked to increase funding from businesses. 

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge intervenes to say that it is "proven" that the EU is incapable of "future-proofing" against market forces and future economic developments - Mr Hayes says he disagrees. 

Brian Hayes
BBC

MEP backs greater oversight of EIB

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

On behalf of the Parliament's Budgets Committee, Italian social democrat Daniele Viotti says that greater responsibilities granted to the EIB should come with greater transparency. 

He lends his support to one of the recommendations in the draft motion - for the European Parliament to be given a greater scrutiny and oversight role over the Bank. 

MEPs already have a more developed oversight role over the European Central Bank (ECB), whose president has to make at least four appearances a year in front of the Parliament's Economic Affairs Committee.

Daniele Viotti
BBC

What is the Juncker investment plan?

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker announced his plan to boost investment across the EU shortly after taking office in late 2014.

The scheme involves using €21bn in public funding and guarantees to generate over €300bn in investment over the next three years.

A total of nine EU countries – including the UK – have said they will co-finance lending to projects under the plan, which could also attract huge investment from China.

Latest figures suggest that so far around 57 projects have been allocated funding, mostly in the energy and transport sectors. 

Jean-Claude Juncker
EPA

Commissioner: EU 'should make up' investment shortfall

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici says the EU should "make up" for the shortfall of investment in infrastructure projects in Europe, which he says has fallen by 15% since the financial crisis. 

He says that the Commission's own investment plan is "not a plan for large companies", with around a quarter of the lending slated to go to smaller firms. 

He adds that the plan is "very encouraging" - and that a lack of investment is "always the weak link in European growth". 

Pierre Moscovici
BBC

EIB chief: Bank has seen 'quantum change' in role

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

EIB President Werner Hoyer says that a "high volume" of lending is "still needed" in the EU. 

He adds that the fact that the Bank is contributing funds to the EU Commission's current investment plan - known informally as the 'Juncker plan', after President Jean-Claude Juncker - has led to a "quantum change" in its role. 

He says the "advisory hub" set up under the scheme - which provides information to those seeking investment - has been largely successful. 

He adds the EIB is "actively working" on proposals to be presented in June on how funds from the EIB might be used to help EU governments with the costs of coping with the migration crisis. 

Werner Hoyer
BBC

Role of EIB 'even more urgent'

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

Bulgarian Socialist Georgi Pirinski, who wrote the motion on behalf of the committee, says that given the economic conditions in many EU countries, it is "even more urgent" that the Bank "fully commits" to promoting the single market and social cohesion projects.   

He adds that "virtually 60%" of projects approved in the EU during 2014 were in the most developed economies. 

Georgi Pirinski
BBC

MEPs begin debate on EU infrastructure lending

Debate on the EU Investment Bank

European Parliament

Brussels

With the agenda approved, MEPs move on to the first of today’s debates, which is on lending granted by the European Investment Bank (EIB).

The EIB is an EU institution that lends money on low-interest, long-term deals for big infrastructure projects.

It is financed partially through money given by EU member states, but mostly by money it raises on the international capital markets, mainly through issuing bonds.

MEPs will vote tomorrow on a draft motion from the Budgetary Control Committee which calls on the EIB to give “increased technical support” to countries where projects are less likely to be approved.

It also says that the “dramatically high unemployment rates in many member states, in particular among young people” should be taken into account when allocating lending. 

EIB sign
BBC
The EIB is headquartered in Luxembourg, with offices in other EU countries

MEPs delay decision on MES debate

European Parliament

Brussels

The leader of the centre-left Socialist and Democrats group, Italian MEP Gianni Pitella, asks for a debate to be added to today's agenda on whether the EU should grant "market economy status" (MES) to China at the World Trade Organisation. 

Mr Pitella says that the next couple of months will be "decisive" in the debate on this subject, and that the European Parliament "has to figure in this debate".

Green group co-leader Philippe Lambert says he agrees with the need for MEPs to pass on opinion on the subject before a decision is made, but recommends that it is added to the agenda of next month's plenary sitting rather than "putting it on the agenda at the last minute". 

Mr Pitella says he agrees, as long as the vote on the resolution takes place before the next scheduled of EU trade ministers. 

However, Martin Schulz says if the amended proposal is to have a debate and vote at the next session, then that should be decided after the next meeting of political group leaders within the Parliament. 

Gianni Pitella
BBC

Remembering the victims

Political group tweets

Schulz commemorates Chernobyl victims

European Parliament

Brussels

Parliament President Martin Schulz kicks off the session by commemorating the victims of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster in the former Soviet Union, which occurred 30 years ago yesterday. 

An uncontrolled reaction blew the roof off the nuclear plant, spewing out a cloud of radioactive material which drifted into other parts of the USSR, including Russia and Belarus, and northern Europe. 

He says that a number of people are still affected by the disaster due to radiation poisoning, and that exact number of people to suffer from the tragedy "may never be established".

He adds that the "warning" from the disaster is to European politicians, to ensure nuclear sites in Europe are safe. 

Martin Schulz
BBC

Good afternoon

Hello and welcome to coverage of today’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will hear administrative announcements and approve the agenda.

Proposals to add debates 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.

In order to be formally added, an item must be approved by a simple majority – and can be done on a show of hands.