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Summary

  1. MEPs heard a speech from Dutch King Willem-Alexander at the opening of the session.
  2. Following this, MEPs then discussed measures announced today aimed at boosting trade in digital services across the EU.
  3. They also debated this week's G7 summit in Japan, and Privacy Shield, the EU’s proposed data sharing pact with the US.
  4. The evening saw debates on EU efforts to tackle energy poverty, single market rules and regulation of virtual currencies.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

European Parliament

Brussels

And with that, tonight's sitting of the European Parliament comes to a close. 

MEPs will be back tomorrow at 07.30 BST, when they will debate falling dairy prices in the EU.

After this, they will discuss how to improve the European single market for goods and services. 

At the voting session, they will vote on a motion calling for a rejection of Sweden’s application for an extra year to take its share of asylum-seekers under an EU relocation scheme.

They will also set out their position on Privacy Shield, the EU's proposed data sharing agreement with the United States. 

Topical short speeches begin

One-minute 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 urges caution on EU regulation for virtual currencies

Own initiative motions

European Parliament

Brussels

German social democrat Jakob von Weizsäcker’s draft motion calls for a “proportionate regulatory approach at EU level” for virtual currencies such as Bitcoin.

He says that it is "early days" for the technology, and that the EU Commission should "not stifle innovation by regulating now". 

He adds that any risks posed by virtual currencies are not so large as to be considered "systemic". 

Instead, he calls for the Commission to set up an advisory taskforce to "monitor closely what is going on". 

Jakob von Weizsäcker
BBC

MEP urges 'change in national ministries' on single market

Own initiative motions

European Parliament

Brussels

British Conservative Daniel Dalton’s resolution, on behalf of the internal market committee, calls for “urgent action” at EU and national level to reduce “non-tariff barriers” in the single market.

Such “barriers” are defined as differences in regulations, standards and rules between EU countries which hinder trade and business.

He calls for a "change in mindset in national ministries" to reduce unnecessary and burdensome regulations which make it harder for businesses and individuals to operate across borders. 

He cites a lack of common standards and testing arrangements in areas such as retail, construction and professional services.  

Daniel Dalton
BBC

Lord Hill responds for EU Commission

Own initiative motions

European Parliament

Brussels

UK Commissioner Lord Hill is on duty tonight to respond for the Commission - he tells MEPs that the Commission is "keeping a close eye" on the issues raised by the motion. 

He says that whilst the female employment rate has gone up, lower pay means that women are still in a more insecure financial situation when compared to men. 

He adds that greater rates of part-time working among women has sometimes led to a "gender pay gap", with women also less likely to "have a pension at all". 

He outlines a number of areas where the Commission has sought to address these issues, including potentially assessing member states' social security systems under its 'European Semester' economic assessments. 

Lord Hill
BBC

MEP presents motion on gender equality

Own initiative motions

European Parliament

Brussels

Belgian Socialist Maria Arena’s draft motion, prepared on behalf of the Women’s Rights Committee, says that men should be encouraged to “promote gender equality in all fields and at all levels”.

It calls for EU states to do more to help women by putting in place “family-friendly working arrangements, such as adaptable working hours and the possibility of teleworking”.

It also takes aim at what it calls the “austerity policies being pursued by the EU”, which it says have increased rates of poverty in Europe, particularly among women.

It remains to be seen whether that clause survives amendments at the voting session tomorrow.

MEPs debate advisory motions

Own initiative resolutions

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate about the EU’s strategy for energy consumers and reducing energy poverty finished – MEPs will vote on their non-binding motion tomorrow.

Next this evening, there will be short presentations of a number of “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. 

MEP outlines support for information exchange

Debate on energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

Romanian social democrat Dan Nica says the EU energy policy should be focused on delivering "decent prices for individuals and businesses". 

He says he supports the call in the motion for a role for EU agencies to identify good pratices and ensure information is exchanged between different countries. 

He says it could be better if national authorities "can find out as soon as possible about good things happening in other member states". 

Dan Nica
BBC

Fox: 'Properly functioning' energy market needed to reduce prices

Debate on energy poverty

European Parliament

Brussels

Fine Gael MEP Sean Kelly says he backs greater action to tackle energy poverty, although an EU-wide definition of energy poverty would need to make sure it accounted for "different climactic conditions". 

UK Conservative delegation leader Ashley Fox says he supports the Commission's drive for a "properly integrated gas and electricity market", which he says would improve competition. 

He says that ideally, he would like his constituents to be able to buy energy "from any energy company in the EU". 

He adds that although he recognises energy poverty "needs to be tackled", it should be done by ensuring a "properly functioning" single market delivers lower prices. 

He says he doubts if an EU-wide definition of energy poverty - one of the measures called for in tomorrow's draft motion - will "achieve anything at all".  

Ashley Fox
BBC

Commission 'will look closely' at MEPs' recommendations

Debate on energy poverty

European Parliament

Brussels

EU Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic tells MEPs that the Commission will "look closely" at the recommendations included in tomorrow's motion. 

He says the Commission is already working on an EU-wide certification scheme for price comparison sites, and backs the use of rooftop solar panels and smart meters as ways to keep down energy costs.

He adds that the EU executive is looking to publish a report in the second half of this year that will provide greater transparency on the different factors influencing energy prices in the member states.

He says that energy poverty "is an issue everywhere" - and cites a survey from 2014 in which 10% of respondents felt they were unable to keep homes adequately warm during winter. 

He tells the chamber that the Commission is looking into the feasibility of an EU-wide definition of energy poverty, and considering launching an "energy poverty observatory" in 2018. 

Maros Sefcovic
BBC

Will smart meters be worth the money?

By Lesley Curwen, BBC Radio 4 Moneybox

BBC Radio 4

The British government has committed to getting 53 million smart meters into our homes and small businesses by the end of 2020, at an estimated cost of £11bn.

The meters send information on energy usage directly back to the energy supplier, which eliminates the need for meter readings.

The EU has said that all its members must provide smart meters by 2020 as long as there is a positive economic case to do so.

Germany employed accountancy firm Ernst and Young to conduct a cost-benefit analysis and they concluded it did not make economic sense, because most householders did not use enough energy to make it value for money. As a result, Germany declined to stage a mass roll-out.

Read more here.

Smart meter
BBC

What’s in tomorrow’s motion?

Debate on energy poverty

European Parliament

Brussels

The draft text, prepared by the Industry and Energy Committee, calls for guidelines for price-comparison websites and advocates the promotion of collective switching schemes.

It also backs an EU-wide definition of “prosumers” – organisations and small businesses that consume energy but also produce some renewable energy of their own.

There’s also support for a “broad but non-quantitative” EU-wide definition of energy poverty, and a call for more co-ordination between member states to combat it.

It also calls for member states to increase the production of renewable energy, and says that the “ultimate goal” for EU countries should be to have economies “based on 100% renewables”. 

MEPs begin debate on EU energy policy

Debate on energy poverty

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on online services finished. MEPs have now been joined by Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic to debate consumer measures in the EU’s energy strategy.

The Commission’s current strategy contains ambitions to cut energy costs, reduce carbon emissions and reduce the dependency of EU states on energy imports from Russia.

Last summer it published a “new deal” pledging measures to encourage consumers to look into switching providers, boost the use of smart meters and reduce the rate of “energy poverty”.

Tomorrow MEPs will vote on a non-binding motion with a number of recommendations for the Commission advocating greater EU co-ordination in these areas. 

Energy bills
BBC

MEPs begin debate on internet services

Debate on e-services begins

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on the ECJ’s ruling on potentially dangerous “endocrine disrupting” chemicals finished – MEPs will vote on a motion at a plenary sitting next month.

Next, MEPs have been joined by Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip to debate EU efforts to improve online provision of public services and “e-identification” of citizens. 

Commission 'refusing to comply' with ECJ ruling - MEP

Debate on endocrine chemicals

European Parliament

Brussels

Julie Girling
BBC

Conservative MEP Julie Girling says she welcomes the "commitment" from the Commission to publish criteria for the chemicals in the summer. 

She adds that the criteria should be "scientifically robust" and take into account concerns in Europe's agribusiness sector. 

Dutch Liberal Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy accuses the Commission of "refusing to comply with the court's ruling". 

He calls on the Commissioner to guarantee that the EU executive will publish its scientific criteria before it compiles its impact assessment into the chemicals. 

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy
BBC

Commissioner: Criteria expected in summer

Debate on endocrine chemicals

European Parliament

Brussels

Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tells MEPs that the Commission has the "very firm intention" to comply with the judgment of the ECJ. 

He adds that the commissioners will discuss the matter at their meeting on 15 June, and will aim to present the new criteria during the summer. 

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

Debate on endocrine chemicals ruling begins

Debate on endocrine chemicals

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on the proposed Privacy Shield agreement finished – MEPs will set out their position on the deal in a non-binding motion vote tomorrow.

MEPs now move on to the debate they added to today’s agenda on regulation of "endocrine disruptor" chemicals (EDCs).

It follows a decision by the EU Court of Justice, which ruled in December that the European Commission has not been quick enough in identifying criteria to assess which EDCs might be harmful.

The chemicals are found in many everyday products, from food and cleaning products to plastic containers and cosmetics.

Some researchers say endocrine disruptors may affect human hormones and cause disease.  

'Particular concerns' with US data sharing - UKIP MEP

Debate on Privacy Shield data agreement

European Parliament

Brussels

UKIP MEP Gerard Batten says that there are "particular concerns" relating to sharing data with the United States - which he describes as "never a respecter of the rights of foreign nationals". 

He adds that UKIP members will be voting against the deal at the motion vote tomorrow, on the grounds that such agreements "should remain the prerogative of the democratic nation-state". 

Gerard Batten
BBC

Green MEP: 'No significant improvement' on previous data deal

Debate on Privacy Shield data agreement

European Parliament

Brussels

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht says that although the Commission has "worked hard" on the deal, there is "no significant improvement on the ground" compared to the previous Safe Harbour agreement.

He adds that in its judgement on the old deal, the EU Court of Justices said the US legal system "doesn't provide for adequate safeguards" - but that this system has not been changed. 

He says that his group's proposed amendment to tomorrow's motion vote calling for a four-year time limit on the deal is the "only honest action" to pursue. 

He adds that he is a "bit surprised" that the other political groups won't be supporting it at the vote tomorrow. 

Jan Philipp Albrecht
BBC

Privacy Shield: What’s the proposed deal?

Debate on Privacy Shield data agreement

European Parliament

Brussels

The new data pact was announced earlier this year following months of negotiations between the EU Commission and authorities in the US. Under its terms:

  • The US will create an ombudsman to handle complaints from EU citizens about the Americans spying on their data
  • The US Office of the Director of National Intelligence will give written commitments that Europeans' personal data will not be subject to mass surveillance
  • The EU and US will conduct an annual review to check the new system is working properly
  • European data privacy watchdogs will work with their US counterpart, the Federal Trade Commission, to address any flagged problems
  • Companies could be prevented from making use of the deal if they are found to fail to comply with privacy safeguards.

Data
Reuters

EU 'has overcome weaknesses' of old system - Commissioner

Debate on Privacy Shield data agreement

European Parliament

Brussels

EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says the Commission has been working to "restore trust" in the transatlantic flow of data to the US following the revelations leaked by Edward Snowden in 2013. 

She adds that she believes the new deal has "overcome the weaknesses" of the old system, with stricter rules on how US authorities can use the information and greater monitoring. 

Vera Jourova
BBC

Koenders: Bulk data collection 'only acceptable in certain circumstances'

Debate on Privacy Shield data agreement

European Parliament

Brussels

Minister Koenders kicks off the debate by saying that is "key to ensure the public's trust in data flows". 

He adds that the flow of data between the EU and the United States is "by far the biggest one" in terms of data and commercial value. 

He says that the Commission should put in place a level of protection which "fully respects" the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights. 

In particular, he says he believes that the bulk collection of data by US authorities "should only be acceptable under certain circumstances".  

Bert Koenders
BBC

MEPs begin debate on 'Privacy Shield' deal

Debate on Privacy Shield data agreement

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on the G7 summit in Japan finished. MEPs have now been joined by Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to debate Privacy Shield, the EU’s proposed data pact with the United States.

The agreement, which has still to be finalised, will set the terms under which tech companies would legally be able to send personal information for processing in US data centres.

It is intended to replace Safe Harbour, a previous data agreement which the Court of Justice ruled incompatible with EU fundamental rights law last year.

MEPs led an inquiry into Safe Harbour and repeatedly called for it to be scrapped. Tomorrow they will vote on a non-binding motion to state their position on its proposed replacement. 

Dutch minister: Public support for free trade 'has decreased'

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders - who was also meant to open the debate but was late- tells MEPs that public trust in the free trade agenda has "decreased". 

"We need to get the people back on board," he adds, by ensuring a fairer "level playing field" for trade. 

He notes that historically, effective protection of workers' rights has led to greater support for "openness" in the world economy. 

Bert Koenders
BBC

Commissioner: Migration crisis 'here to stay'

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

Frans Timmermans responds to the debate by telling MEPs that Europe does indeed face "huge global economic challenges".

He adds that "drawing up the bridges" is "not the way to get us out of this conundrum".

He says that global trade will be "necessary" to boost the EU economy, and the Commission will seek to promote it "without being naive" about the challenges posed by trade abuse. 

He also tells MEPs that the migration crisis is "here to stay" - and will not simply stop if war in Syria comes to an end. 

He adds that the EU has a vested interest to promote economic development in its wider "neighbourhood", including Africa. 

Frans Timmermans
BBC

UKIP MEP: euro 'is loser's currency'

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

UKIP MEP Patrick O'Flynn says it must be "embarrassing" for EU officials to have to turn up to each G7 meeting with excuses for poor economic performance in the Eurozone. 

He predicts that the summit will be used to issue "blood-curdling warnings" to the British people about the dangers of leaving the EU. 

He likens EU officials' optimism about the return of economic growth to Europe to Del Boy catchphrase "this time next year, we'll be millionaires", and calls the euro a "loser's currency", before adding:  

Face it, the dog didn't eat your homework, the euro killed your growth."

Patrick O'Flynn
BBC

Liberal MEP: G7 'lacking leadership'

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

Czech Liberal Pavel Telicka says there has been "not that much to cheer about" from recent G7 summits. 

He says the group is "lacking leadership" - and notes that it will be "extremely difficult" to agree on the proposed common growth strategies.

Pavel Telicka
BBC

What’s on the G7 agenda?

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

This year’s summit will be hosted by Japan, which has chosen seven main topics for the agenda:

  • global economy and trade, and the drop in oil prices
  • counter-terrorism, the Middle East, Ukraine and North Korea
  • energy policy and implementing last year’s Paris deal on climate change
  • the UN’s sustainable development targets
  • improving investment in infrastructure
  • how best to respond to public health emergencies such as the Ebola virus
  • improving education for women.
Barack Obama hosted a press conference with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe earlier today
Reuters
Barack Obama hosted a press conference with Japanese PM Shinzo Abe earlier today

Timmermans: Greece 'will return to growth in second half of 2016'

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

Deputy Commission chief Frans Timmermans says that the EU economy will have to create its own opportunities, against a "backdrop of uncertainty".

He says the EU "has a good story to tell" on attempting to boost investment - and that recent economic figures from Greece have been "better than expected". 

In fact, he predicts that the country will return to growth "in the second half of 2016".  

He also calls for a "truly global effort" to improve tax transparency. 

Frans Timmermans
BBC

MEPs debate this year's G7 summit

Debate on G7 summit

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on new digital services measures finished – MEPs have now been joined by deputy Commission chief Frans Timmermans and Dutch foreign affairs minister Bert Koenders to debate this year’s G7 summit, which starts tomorrow in Japan.

The UK, France, Germany and Italy are all G7 member countries, whilst EU officials have taken part in the group’s summits since 1981.

This year both EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Council President Donald Tusk will take part in the talks in Ise-Shima.

Russia joined the G7 group of industrialised nations in 1998, although its membership was suspended in March 2014 after its annexation of Crimea. 

David Cameron
AP
David Cameron arrived in Japan earlier today

Commissioner: Transparency on delivery prices 'will improve competition'

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Replying to the debate, Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip tells MEPs that the Commission's proposals will "make the role of businesses easier".

On the issue of parcel delivery, he says the difference between delivery costs between member states justifies the EU executive's proposed transparency measures. 

He adds that it can sometimes cost 22 times more to send a parcel between two countries compared to a delivery of the same distance within a single member state. 

Adding that the Commission is seeking more transparency rather than regulating the prices themselves, he adds: 

We believe that if there is more transparency, we will get more competition and our citizens will get better prices."

Andrus Ansip
BBC

MEP calls for 'full ban on geoblocking'

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Bulgarian centre-right MEP Eva Paunova says that the proposals announced today are a "positive step forward", but is among those who says they regret that TV and movie streaming has been left out of the measures relating to geoblocking

She says she hopes the Commission comes up with a "full ban on geoblocking sooner rather than later". 

She adds that both consumers and businesses are keen to "break down the barriers" in the online world. 

Eva Paunova
BBC

Quota proposal 'bit of a red herring'

Europe Editor at Buzzfeed UK tweets:

Ending geoblocking 'good basic idea'

Leader of centre-right EPP group tweets:

Commission 'has stepped back from brink' on platforms - MEP

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford, who chairs the influential internal market committee, says she is glad the Commission has "stepped back from the brink" by deciding not to propose new regulation for platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. 

She says new broadcasting rules must respect a difference between traditional and new broadcasting, adding that consumers "love the diversity of new media services". 

Estonian Liberal Kaja Kallas says she disagrees with the decision to exclude video streaming from the new geoblocking rules. 

She adds that politicians need to think about how best to encourage companies to sell online, and reduce reasons for them to put up geographical restrictions to their websites. 

Kaja Kallas
BBC
Kaja Kallas is the daughter of former EU Commissioner Siim Kallas

Reda: Proposals 'could have been more ambitious'

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

German MEP Julia Reda, whose Pirate Party campaigns for looser copyright rules, says the Commission's plans would have been better if they were "just a bit more ambitious". 

She says that the decision to leave video streaming "exempt from the regulation" misses the "core of the problem" with geographical restrictions as experienced by most internet users.  

She adds that the Commission's promises that this will be dealt with in upcoming changes to EU copyright rules ignores the fact that a lot of blocking "has nothing to do" with copyright restrictions. 

Julia Reda
BBC

Polish MEP: ‘High time’ for digital reforms

Euractiv

Writing for the Euractiv website, Polish MEP Tomasz Poręba, from the ruling Law and Justice Party, has said it is “high time” that the EU delivered on its promises to boost digital trade.

He has argued that “no single big step has been taken” in this area so far, despite the Commission announcing its digital market strategy just over a year ago.

“It is perhaps Brussels’ most ambitious economic goal since the launch of the euro in 2000, but this time we should turn it into a real success story," he adds. 

Read more here.

EU 'going in the right direction' - MEP

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Andreas Schwab
BBC

German Christian democrat Andreas Schwab gives broad approval to the Commission's proposals, adding that EU plans for a single market for digital goods is "going in the right direction". 

He says the Commission has rightly been "cautious" in those areas where more market information is needed before taking actions at an EU level.

Another German, social democrat Evelyne Gebhardt gives her support for stronger online rights for consumers, and more transparency over delivery pricing. 

What else is being proposed?

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Among the other changes being proposed today, as part of a revision of the EU’s Audiovisual Media Services directive, include:

  • a requirement that video-sharing platforms including YouTube adopt "better" measures to protect minors from violent content and people of all ages from clips that act as an incitement to hatred
  • a call for the creation of new symbols or phrases that would warn viewers of potentially harmful video content - such as bad language, sex or drugs - that would be used across the EU by both broadcasters and internet-based platforms
  • the ability for TV broadcasters to have more flexibility as to when they show adverts. 

Commissioner: Measures will end 'discrimination'

Debate on digital services proposals

European Parliament

Brussels

Digital Single Market Commissioner Andrus Ansip tells MEPs that the Commission's measures aim to prevent "unjustified" discrimination against those purchasing services online in the EU. 

"In a true single market, you should not be discriminated against based on your nationality," he adds. 

However, he says the EU executive has "no intention" of imposing single prices across Europe.  

Andrus Ansip
BBC