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Summary

  1. MEPs began the sitting by debating whether the EU should grant market economy status to China at the World Trade Organisation.
  2. After a debate on youth unemployment, the day's voting session saw MEPs approve fisheries EU fisheries agreements with Liberia and Mauritania.
  3. The afternoon session began with a debate on yesterday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers, over further cuts demanded of Greece to unlock funds from its EU-IMF bailout.
  4. MEPs also debated preparations for this month’s World Humanitarian Summit and the state of EU trade negotiations with the Mercosur bloc of Latin American countries.
  5. In the evening, they also discussed the continuing economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

European Parliament

Strasbourg

And with that, tonight's sitting comes to an end. 

MEPs will be back tomorrow with a debate on whether to approve new powers for Europol, the EU's police agency - with a final vote at lunchtime.

They will also debate new entry and residence rules for non-EU students and researchers, which also face a final vote at the same time. 

After the lunchtime voting session, the sitting resumes at 14.00 BST with a debate on the Commission’s latest proposals to revise EU asylum law.

They will then debate the future of the Schengen zone and new EU tax transparency rules. 

In the evening, they will also debate whether the EU should introduce country of origin labelling rules for milk and processed meat products. 

Commissioner: Demolitions 'not only challenge' to two-state solution

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that the expansion of Isreali settlements in the West Bank "challenges" the two-state solution, and are illegal under international law. 

She says the EU "always refers to them in this way", and tells MEPs that around 20% of structures are EU-funded.

She says the EU's diplomatic service - which she heads - has raised this issue with the Israeli government but has made limited progress. 

However, she says she would like to make clear that demolitions are "not the only challenge" to the two-state solution, which also includes "terrorist attacks and hate speech". 

She says the two-state solution is still the one supported by the EU, which its diplomatic service is working towards "every day". 

Federica Mogherini
BBC

MEPs begin debate on West Bank

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the situation in Venezuela finished – MEPs will set out their position in a non-binding motion vote at the plenary session in June.

Finally this evening, Federica Mogherini will stay to debate the demolition of Palestinian homes in the West Bank by Israeli forces. 

Venezuela suffering from 'ghastly Chavez legacy' - MEP

Debate on Venezuela

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Esteban Gonzalez Pons
BBC

Spanish centre-right MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons is "on the verge of a social crisis" that the EU should help to try and stop from deteriorating. 

He says this is even more of shame since the country had heating and cars "before we had them in Spain". 

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock says the country has become the "poster child" for a corrupt government model of the "ghastly Chavez legacy" based on shoring up political support by bloating the state to claim credit for giving out state benefits. 

EU 'not distant observer' to crisis

Debate on Venezuela

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini says the political and economic crises in Venezuela are getting "more difficult by the day", with rates of inflation "among the highest in the world". 

She says that the EU is not a "distant observer" to the crisis, with hundreds of thousands of people in the country holding EU passports and a number of EU companies "owed large debts" due to the crisis. 

She says that Venezuelans "deserve a country that can guarantee them a normal life", and that the government and Parliament both both adopt a "more co-operative attitude". 

Mogherini
BBC

Debate on Venezuelan political crisis begins

Debate on Venezuela

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on EU aid to Lebanon and Jordan finished.

Federica Mogherini will now remain in the chamber to debate the continuing economic and political crisis in Venezuela.

Last week the Venezuelan opposition presented the country’s electoral authorities a petition with the signatures of 1.85 million voters calling for a referendum to oust President Nicolas Maduro.

President Maduro has said he will agree to hold the referendum – but only if electoral officials can validate all of the 1.85 million signatories.

Under Venezuela's constitution, presidents can be removed from office by means of a referendum once they have served half their term.

Many Venezuelans are furious because of a deep recession, food shortages and a power crisis that has cut supply to four hours a day in most cities. 

Water cans
Reuters
The economic crisis has led to water shortages in some areas

What’s happening in Venezuela?

Debate on Venezuela

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The oil-rich country relies almost exclusively on oil exports for its revenues and has been badly hit by the global fall in oil prices.

There are shortages of basic food items and medicines, and long queues form at supermarkets whenever some basic staple foods arrive.

A drought has also caused water levels at the country's main hydroelectric dam to drop dramatically.

President Maduro announced last month that power would be cut for four-hour periods daily except in the capital, Caracas, and public sector workers would only work two days a week to save power.

The government has blamed the power crisis on the El Nino weather phenomenon and the shortages on an "economic war" waged against it by the country's elite. 

Power cuts
Reuters

Commissioner 'proud' of EU aid support

Debate on EU refugee aid

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini begins the debate by telling MEPs that they should not "underestimate the risks" faced by both Lebanon and Jordan due to the refugee crisis and the spread of the Islamic State (IS) group. 

"They are exposed to different levels of threats and pressures", noting that Lebanon has hosted almost as many people as the entire European Union, with around 1.2m Syrians in the country. 

She says that the EU is the biggest donor to Syrian refugees in both countries, with institutions and governments having pledged €6bn. 

She says that schools and hospitals have been financed in both countries, something that made her "proud" when she visited the country. 

Federica Mogherini
BBC

MEPs begin debate on EU aid policy

Debate on EU refugee aid

Federica Mogherini will remain in the chamber for the next debate, which is on EU aid to Lebanon and Jordan to cope with the effects of the Syrian refugee crisis. 

Development goals 'can help migration crisis'

Debate on UN development targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini joins MEPs to close the debate on behalf of the European Commission. 

One lesson "learnt very clearly" is that there is no time to waste on developing plans on how overarching targets should be put into action. 

She says that this is "the real part" of the deal - adding that if the EU can put the development goals into effect, it will have achieved "95% of the work we need to" with regards to solving the migration crisis, having addressed the "root causes" behind movement. 

Federica Mogherini
BBC

MEP: Goals 'require money' to bring about

Debate on UN development targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Conservative Nirj Deva says he has heard reports that the United Nations is "six months behind" developing indicators for implementing its development goals. 

He says that whilst the goals are undoubtedly important, they "require money" to bring about.  

He says that this can be helped by attempting to "leverage" money for development from the private sector through "public-private partnerships". 

Nirj Deva
BBC

UN goals 'only the start' of development - Commissioner

Debate on UN development targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans says the goals agreed in New York are "only the start" of the development drive, and says he hopes the EU leads on implementing the targets. 

He says that one of the challenges will be to divide up work between international, European and national "strands". 

He adds that it will be important to recognise the switch in approach, meaning the goals are no longer "the developed world telling the developing world what to do". 

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Debate on development goals begins

Debate on UN development targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the state of trade negotiations with the Mercosur bloc of Latin American countries finished.

MEPs have now been joined by Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans to review the state of play in implementing the UN’s 2030 sustainable development targets.

Leaders from around 200 nations agreed the poverty, hunger, climate change reduction targets at a meeting in New York last September.

The 17 new objectives will run for the next 15 years, having replaced the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) at the end of last year.

MEPs will set out their views on the EU’s strategy for and contribution to the goals in a non-binding motion to be put to the vote on Thursday. 

Commissioner: 'Unique opportunity' for Mercosur deal

Debate on EU-Mercosur trade agreement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Replying to the debate, EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom acknowledges that the trade talks have "dragged on for quite some time". 

However, she says the deal has new momentum due to the "unique opportunity" presented by the change of government in Argentina. 

She says she also hopes that national governments decide to make the negotiating mandate public, an approach favoured by the Commission. 

MEPs 'had almost started to give up' on deal

Debate on EU-Mercosur trade agreement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Swedish centre-right MEP Christofer Fjellner says the EU should take advantage of any new momentum towards a deal, noting many of them had "almost started to give up" after years of stalled talks. 

He says it is "not the case" that the negotiators want to do down the agricultural sector, which is already "the most protected by customs duties".

He adds that other European industries would be "over the moon" to enjoy similar protection - and adds that the cost for this is being paid by consumers. 

Christofer Fjellner
BBC

MEP: Trade deal 'has caused a great deal of worry' among farmers

Debate on EU-Mercosur trade agreement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ulster Unionist MEP James Nicholson - who sits on the Agriculture Committee - says negotiations over beef have caused a "great deal of worry" among farmers. 

He says there are fears that the sector is going to be used "as a bargaining chip" towards the end of the negotiations. 

He asks the Commissioner to confirm comments earlier today from the EU's Agricultural Commissioner Phil Hogan that a quota on beef could be excluded from the negotiations. 

Commissioner: Trade offers 'being fine-tuned' this week

Debate on EU-Mercosur trade agreement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says that there are "significant" tariff barriers between the EU and the Mercosur bloc. 

She says the two sides agreed to exchange their initial market offers for the deal this week, which are still being "fine-tuned" at the moment and could change over the course of negotiations. 

She tells MEPs that there will not be a specific chapter in the agreement on investor protection, as it is not included in the original mandate for talks passed some years ago. 

She adds that the EU's negotiation stance will include a number of "offensive interests", but also some "defensive interests" such as agriculture.  

Cecilia Malmstrom
BBC

Mercosur 'vital' part of EU trade future - MEP

Debate on EU-Mercosur trade agreement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German social democrat MEP Bernd Lange, who chairs the International Trade Committee says the Mercosur countries are a "vital" part of the trade map for the EU. 

He says the "economic significance" of the Mercosur countries can be forgotten in the face more prominent agreements, such as the TTIP deal being negotiated with the United States. 

He says talks on agricultural products "will be something we want to focus on", whilst he predicts the South American countries will be keen to discuss engineering and machinery. 

Bernd Lange
BBC

Debate on EU-Latin America trade begins

Debate on EU-Mercosur trade agreement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That's the debate on preparation for the World Humanitarian Summit finished. 

MEPs are now debating the state of trade negotiations with the Mercosur bloc of Latin American countries – which includes Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Venezuela.

The EU first began talks with the bloc, excluding Venezuela, on the possibility of concluding a trade deal back in 1999.

Having been stalled for years, the chances of reaching a deal improved last month when the two agreed to renew their negotiation efforts, with “market offers” to be exchanged this month.

MEPs on the International Trade Committee have tabled an oral question saying the EU should “take advantage of the current momentum” in talks.

However, they also want to know what assessment the Commission has made of the potential impact on the EU’s agricultural sector, given concern from farmers. 

MEPs in Argentina
EPA
A delegation of MEPs talked about the deal during a March visit to Argentina

Debate on aid summit begins

Debate on World Humanitarian Summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs are now debating EU preparations for this month’s World Humanitarian Summit with Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides and Dutch Defence Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

The summit, to be held in Istanbul, will see government officials, businesses and charities gather to discuss the deployment of humanitarian aid to conflict areas.

UN aid chiefs have said that over 87 million people in 37 countries require humanitarian aid this year, most of whom are in countries affected by conflict.

The organisation has launched a record $20.1bn appeal for 2016. Ten years ago, the UN asked for less than a quarter of that - just $4.7bn. 

MEPs begin debate on Greek bailout negotiations

Debate on Greek bailout

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Hello and welcome back to coverage of this afternoon’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The sitting will begin shorty, when MEPs will be joined by Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici to debate the state of negotiations over releasing funds to Greece from its EU-IMF bailout.

Greece finalised its third bailout package last autumn, after months of fraught negotiations with the IMF, the EU institutions and other member states.

However, the terms of the deal make releasing loan funding conditional on the Greek government enacting cuts to government spending.

Eurozone ministers meeting yesterday decided more work was needed on contingency measures before the next tranche of funding is released - but agreed to further discussions at the end of this month. 

Protests in Athens
Getty Images
Cuts to public spending have prompted protests in Athens

Voting session ends

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Today's short voting session has now finished – and as is customary, MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

This will be followed by a break for lunch, after which they will be back at 14.00 BST to debate the current state of negotiations on Greece’s EU-IMF bailout with Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici. 

MEPs approve motions on EU cohesion policy

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also approve the motion which they debated yesterday advocating increased funding for smaller businesses and a strategy for mountainous regions in EU cohesion policy. 

Cohesion policy spending, which accounts for around a third of the EU’s budget, is targeted at investment projects which aim to reduce economic differences between different regions in the EU. 

MEPs approve fisheries agreements with Mauritania and Liberia

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs give their approval to the renewal of a wide-ranging fisheries agreement between the EU and Mauritania, and the EU’s first-ever fishing deal with Liberia.

The agreements will see the two countries grant access to fishing vessels from EU states, in return for “financial contributions” from the 28-nation bloc.

Both agreements have been applied provisionally since the end of last year, but require ratification from the European Parliament before they can fully come into effect. 

Fishing boat
BBC

Votes shortly

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate about youth unemployment and economic performance finished – MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which begins in 15 minutes. 

EU schemes 'starting to bear fruit' - Commissioner

Debate on youth unemployment

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Replying for the Commission, Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis says that "strategic reforms" will be required to deliver on the EU's Youth Guarantee Scheme. 

He adds, however, that EU jobs programmes were now "starting to bear fruit" - but adding that the Youth Employment Initiative is "only part of the solution". 

He tells MEPs that the Commission will publish a review of both schemes this October. 

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

'Small number of countries' applying EU guarantee scheme

Debate on youth unemployment

European Parliament

Strasbourg

French Socialist Pervenche Beres says that the EU's Youth Guarantee Scheme has shown "great achievements" in the "small number of countries" where it has been applied. 

The scheme includes the pledge to provide people under 25 with either a job offer, apprenticeship or some form of training within four months of them losing a job. 

Further success, she adds, would depend on the scheme being granted an "appropriate amount of funding". 

Pervenche Beres
BBC

Jobless rate 'shame' for Europe

Debate on youth unemployment

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Portuguese left-wing MEP Marisa Matia says that "no one expects" help to cope with youth unemployment from the European Commission, which she criticises for pursuing a pro-austerity agenda. 

She says that national governments should be allowed to "choose their own options". 

Belgian Liberal Jean Arthuis, who chairs the Parliament's budgets committee, says the high rate of youth joblessness should be a source of "shame" for Europe.

He says that youth unemployment is lowest, however, in countries that have "used apprenticeships as a bridge into working life for young people". 

Jean Arthuis
BBC

'Massive investment' needed for EU jobs schemes - Green MEP

Debate on youth unemployment

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Green Terry Reintke - who is Parliament's youngest MEP - says that European politicians are "getting used to" high youth unemployment as the "new normal".

However, she says there are still "alarming levels" of youth unemployment, even in Germany.

She adds that EU jobs promotion schemes such as the Youth Employment Initiative will not achieve their desired effect until they are backed with "massive public investment". 

Terry Reintke
BBC

Urge to help

MEP tweets

Debate on youth unemployment begins

Debate on youth unemployment

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on whether to grant China market economy status finished – MEPs will vote on their motion on Thursday.

Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis will stay to represent the Commission during the next debate, which is on economic growth and youth unemployment within the EU.

It comes after recently published official statistics showed the eurozone's economy grew by a faster-than-expected 0.6% in the first three months of the year.

Figures from Eurostat showed the eurozone's general unemployment rate fell to 10.2% in March, the lowest rate for four-and-a-half years.

Deflation has returned to the bloc, however, with inflation falling to -0.2% in April, down from zero in March. 

Job centre in Madrid
Reuters

Commissioner: Eventual decision 'will reflect all out interests'

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Replying to the debate, Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis says the Commission is "strongly committed" to allowing European industry to compete on a "level playing field".

The EU executive is continuing its impact assessment into the decision, he adds, and will work towards a decision that "reflects all of our interests". 

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

MEP calls for 'China-specific' solution

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

David Martin
BBC

Labour's David Martin says this decision will test whether the EU has the "political will" to protect its industries. 

He adds that national governments - including the UK's - have been "sitting on their hands" instead of pushing for reform of anti-dumping protections. 

He says there is a need for a "non-standard" methodology to be use when calculating tariffs on dumped Chinese goods. 

Polish centre-right MEP Jarosław Walesa says there is a need to maintain good relations with China, but that "ideological free trade" has brought "massive costs" to workers. 

He suggests that there is "sufficient room" in China's WTO accession terms for the Commission to suggest the current situation is replaced by a "China-specific" solution. 

More opposition to MES...

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

French Green Yannick Jadot says that MES should not be granted to China until the EU's ability to impose anti-dumping tariffs is "seriously beefed up".

He says that the EU's policy on trade is "completely dislocated", with 28 member states "acting separately off their own bat" instead of maintaining a common position. 

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge says the Parliament could "do one thing" to help manufacturing in Europe by opposing any proposal to grant MES to China. 

He says "crazy" EU energy directives have hampered the ability of the British steel industry to compete, although it has also been struck by some "appallingly bad" decisions from the UK government. 

Yannick Jadot
BBC

Le Pen calls for 'intelligent protectionism' against China

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

French Front National leader Marine Le Pen says that "almost free trade" with China has "devastated European and French industry".

She adds that the EU's trade policies have been "irresponsible" - and instead calls for "intelligent protectionism" against the "hugely interventionist" Chinese economy. 

Marine Le Pen
BBC

MEPs set out positions

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The leader of the Socialist and Democrat group, Italian MEP Gianni Pitella, says his group is currently opposed to granting a MES to China, which he also says "is not a market economy".

He says the decision affects "the future of European industry" and "millions of jobs".

On behalf of the ECR group, Conservative trade spokeswoman Emma McClarkin says there is a need to determine the "full legal meaning" of China's WTO accession terms - and that they await the proposal from the Commission. 

She says the EU needs to make sure its law is compatible with the WTO - whilst retaining the ability to launch  "timely and effective measures" against market-distorting practices. 

She says there is no doubt that market distortions are behind the "dramatic decline" in certain industries, particularly steel. 

Emma McClarkin
BBC

Commissioner: China 'is not a market economy'

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tells MEPs that aside from the legal disputes, the Commission's overriding aim is for a "strong and effective" defence system against unfair practices. 

He says it is "undeniable" that China "is not a market economy by any standards", but that is "not the question here".

He adds that granting some form of MES to China would present a "very high cost in terms of job losses", but that doing nothing would pose a "high legal risk" to the EU's tariff calculation method. 

Instead, he says that a third option - changing the methodology for calculating anti-dumping tariffs - could be a way of reflecting "ongoing distortions" from Chinese imports. 

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

MES decision 'of unprecedented significance' for EU - Dutch minister

Debate on China and market economy status

European Parliament

Strasbourg

On behalf of the Dutch EU presidency, Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert tells MEPs that the decision on whether to grant MES to China is a question of "unprecedented political significance" for the EU. 

She says that the decision will ultimately have to balance the "legitimate concerns" of European producers and China's strategic importance as a trade partner. 

She adds that member states - who meet as the Council of Ministers - have not yet taken a decision but are determined to examine the "full potential impact" of all options. 

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
BBC