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Summary

  1. Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico began the sitting by outlining his country's plans for its EU presidency, which begins this month.
  2. After this, MEPs debated what they would like to see in the Commission's legislative programme for next year.
  3. A motion outlining their wish-list was passed at lunchtime, as well as legislation to set up the EU's proposed Border and Coast Guard force.
  4. After lunch, they were joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to debate the future of the EU's common defence policy, the Middle East and relations with China.
  5. In the evening, they discussed protection for whistle-blowers following the conviction of two men last week for their involvement in the Luxleaks scandal.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight and see you tomorrow

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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

MEPs will be back tomorrow, when the sitting will begin with a debate a motion calling on all EU institutions to "implement fully" the recommendations of an UN disability rights committee.

After this, MEPs will debate and vote on human rights motions relating to Malawi, Bahrain and Myanmar.

Also up for a vote is a motion to veto Commission rules which would allow drinks companies to advertise that their caffeinated drinks increase alertness.

After the voting session, they will debate the Commission's decision to launch legal action against France and Germany over their application of minimum wage laws. 

Commissioner: Labels will 'properly frame' caffeine health claims

Debate on caffeine label claims

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Responding for the Commission, Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen tells MEPs that the permitted labels in the draft regulation are "scientifically substantiated" by the European Food Safety Authority.

He says that without passing the new rules, the use of labels referring to caffeine would continue unregulated, capable of being used on all energy drinks "without restrictions". 

He adds that the new legislation will "properly frame" the use of such health claims. 

Jyrki Katainen
BBC

MEP: Caffeinated drinks 'not a healthy choice'

Debate on caffeine label claims

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Danish social democrat Christel Schaldemose, from the Parliament's food safety committee, says their dispute with the Commission is not about whether caffeine claims are correct or not. 

She adds that their objection comes from a desire to "protect our children and young people" by stopping labels that might encourage consumption of high-sugar energy drinks. 

"Young people should not think that they are a healthy choice when they are not," she says, adding that it is not appropriate to put "health claims" on such drinks. 

Christel Schaldemose
BBC

MEPs begin debate on energy drinks

Debate on caffeine label claims

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Finally tonight, MEPs are debating a motion to be voted on tomorrow that would veto Commission proposals allowing drinks companies to advertise that their caffeinated drinks increase alertness.

Their motion says energy drinks have been linked to headaches, sleep problems and behavioural problems in children – and calls on the Commission to introduce stricter marketing rules. 

MEPs debate credit risk change

Debate on Basel Committee

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate about whistleblower protection finished. MEPs are now debating a possible revision from the Basel Committee of banking regulators on its standard approach to credit risk.

MEPs urge greater EU action on whistleblowers

Debate on whistleblower protection

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Sven Giegold
BBC

German Green Sven Giegold says this is "the fifth time" that MEPs have asked for specific EU-wide legislation on protecting whistleblowers without action from the Commission. 

"When will you show that the EU is capable of action?" he adds. 

French Socialist Virginie Roziere also backs the call for EU-wide action, adding that national legislation, "where it exists at all" is insufficient and hampered by differences. 

Commission to 'assess the scope' for further EU action

Debate on whistle-blower protection

European Parliament

Strasbourg

On behalf of the Commission, Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen tells MEPs that the activity of whistle-blowers can be vital in exposing mismanagement and crime. 

He says the Commission supports the role of whistle-blowers through sectoral legislation, as well as anti-money laundering laws and rules for audit and legal firms.

He says that "a lot has already been done" to protect whistle-blowers in the areas where the EU has competence - and that it will "assess the scope" for further action at EU level.

He says that important to this endeavour will be a public consulation on the protection of journalists' sources, including whistle-blowers. 

Jyrki Katainen
BBC

MEPs begin debate on whistle-blower laws

Debate on whistle-blower protection

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on EU priorities at this September’s UN General Assembly finished.

MEPs are now debating EU protection for whistle-blowers following the conviction of two PricewaterhouseCoopers employees last week for their involvement in the Luxleaks scandal.

Antoine Deltour and Raphael Halet received 12 and nine-month sentences respectively for leaking documents exposing favourable tax arrangements offered by Luxembourg to some of the world's biggest companies.

The prosecution accused Deltour and Halet of theft and said they violated a confidentiality agreement in their employment contracts.

However Edouard Perrin, a journalist who reported on the leaks, was acquitted of all charges.

MEPs have repeatedly called for changes to EU rights law to protect whistle-blowers who leak information deemed to be in the public interest. 

Transparency activists
Reuters
Transparency activists protested outside the trials

MEPs debate EU priorities at forthcoming UN meeting

Debate on UN General Assembly

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the EU’s annual human rights report finished. MEPs are now debating what the EU’s priorities should be at the forthcoming UN General Assembly in New York in September. 

Human rights 'not luxury element' of EU policy

Debate on human rights report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that a focus on human rights should not be seen as a "luxury" element of the EU's external policies, but an "investment in security". 

She says that she sometimes is "frustrated" by the issuing of statements of rights violations, but that it is important for activists on the ground "to see that the European Union speaks out for them". 

She admits that 2015 was a "very difficult year", but says she is proud of the role the EU played in promoting reconciliation in Myanmar and working to include accountability provisions in a peace deal between the Colombian government and Farc rebels.  

She adds that the EU's credibility as a promoter of human rights depends on upholding the "highest standards" within the European Union itself.  

Federica Mogherini
BBC

MEPs begin debate on rights report

Debate on human rights report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on EU relations with China finished. MEPs are now debating the EU’s annual report for last year on human rights and democracy around the world. 

MEPs highlight rights concerns

Debate on EU relations with China

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jo Leinen
BBC

German social democrat Jo Leinen says the EU should focus on trying to encourage China to follow international standards and rules.

However, he says this should not preclude the bloc from "speaking out against human rights violations". 

British Conservative Charles Tannock says that the economic relationship with China is set to only grow greater with time, but that EU states should not "shy away" from their differences with the country. 

He too adds that human rights violations are a "huge concern", and that the EU must square its trading relationship with the "bigger geopolitical picture".  

China and ‘market economy status’

Debate on EU relations with China

European Parliament

Strasbourg

China flag outside office
Reuters

China was not granted market status when it joined the Word Trading Organisation (WTO) in 2001, but argues that the terms of its membership mean it should automatically get it at the end of this year, when a 15-year clause in its accession agreement is due to end.

Classifying China as a market economy under WTO rules would change the way EU countries calculate whether it has been "dumping" goods - selling them at a loss - on the European market.

Such a move is fiercely opposed by some industrial unions, who say it would hamper the ability of EU governments to protect themselves against unfair trading.

The European Commission has not yet come up with its recommended response, although it has said doing nothing may leave EU countries in breach of WTO rules.

Any bid to change China's WTO status would have to win the backing of MEPs, who - along with member states - would have to approve the measure.

The Commission has said it would be "untenable" to classify China as a standard market economy, and is working on a way to apply WTO rules whilst maintaining a "strong trade defence system".

MEPs have already set out their opposition to any EU attempt to "unilaterally" grant China market status, whilst proposing that member status should continue to be able to use "non-standard" methodology in Chinese anti-dumping investigations. 

Commissioner warns on China trade 'risks'

Debate on EU relations with China

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that it is "clearly time" for the EU to update its China policy, adding that the country is now "much more of a global player" than 10 years ago when the last one was drafted. 

She says that greater economic engagement with China brings many opportunities, but also some "risks" that will need to be managed. 

She adds that she has repeatedly called for the country to end "state-endorsed distortions" in its trade, but says the EU should take its own action to modernise its trade defence instruments. 

Legislation to do this was tabled by the European Commission in 2013, but has remained blocked by a number of national governments.

She adds that the bloc needs greater unity in its relations with the country, arguing that no EU state has the power to act alone with China "either in a trade negotiation or a dispute".  

Federica Mogherini
BBC

MEPs begin debate on China relations

Debate on EU relations with China

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini will remain with MEPs to debate the EU’s provisional strategy for relations with China.

EU relations with China are soon set to be tested on the diplomatic front by a looming dispute over whether the country should be granted “market economy status” at the World Trading Organisation.

Plans to change China’s status would have to win the backing of MEPs and EU member states – although it would be fiercely opposed by some industrial unions.

The EU Commission has also said it is exploring ways for China to contribute funds to the Commission’s flagship investment plan, launched by President Juncker in late 2014. 

EU-funded groups 'openly boycott' Israel - MEP

Debate on Middle East peace process

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Polish Conservative Zdzislaw Krasnodebski says that the EU's current approach lacks an engagement with the state of Israel and its people. 

He also criticises the bloc for funding groups that "openly boycott" the country. 

However, left-wing Greek MEP Sofia Sakorafa says that Israel moves its borders "as it sees fit". 

She says that the EU's approach in the Quartet will do nothing to discourage the "same kind of behaviour". 

MEP calls for greater EU role in talks

Debate on Middle East peace process

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Christian democrat Elmar Brok, who chairs the Parliament's foreign affairs committee, says the report shows a "coherent approach" to the issue. 

He calls for the Quartet to be "strengthened", with the EU given a greater role to "act more forcefully" in the negotiations. 

Elmar Brok
BBC

Mogherini: EU has 'duty' to work towards peace

Debate on Middle East peace process

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Commissioner Mogherini says the the EU has both a "duty and an interest" to work towards peace in the Middle East, despite a "widespread feeling" amongst some that "things will never change". 

However, she says that a two-state solution in the region is being "challenged on a daily basis", with the possibility that things could get "out of control" and the chances of peace could slip away.

She says the recent Quartet report made clear that incitement and violence, the issue of Israeli settlements and the humanitarian situation in Gaza are all proving obstacles to peace. 

She adds that peace is also at risk due to "military build-up by Hamas", and continuing lack of Palestinian unity. 

She says that the report also concluded, however, that peace in the region cannot be imposed and can only come about after direct negotiations between Israel and Palestinians, adding: 

There are many things that each side can do."

Commissioner Mogherini
BBC

MEPs begin debate on the Middle East

Debate on Middle East peace process

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on plans to revise the EU’s national defence and security policies finished. Federica Mogherini will remain with MEPs to debate recent developments in the Middle East peace process.

This debate was added to the week’s agenda at the opening of the session on Monday afternoon following a request from the left-wing GUE and Socialist and Democrat groups.

It comes after the so-called Quartet of peace negotiators – made up of the UN, EU, United States and Russia – released a review last week of the current political situation on the ground.

Israeli President Reuven Rivlin and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas also gave speeches to MEPs during a plenary sitting last month.  

MEPs take different positions on co-operation

Debate on the EU's common defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Angel Dzhambazhi
BBC

Bulgarian Conservative Angel Dzhambazhi criticises the EU's common policy, stating that defence should be an "exclusive competency" of national governments, co-ordinated by Nato. 

Lithuanian Liberal Petras Austrevicius, however, is more supportive - calling the proposed strategy the "handbook for a global player".  

Defence policy 'should complement Nato' - MEP

Debate on the EU's common defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Victor Bostinaru
BBC

Romanian social democrat Victor Bostinaru says that the departure of the UK from the EU will have a "severe impact" on the remaining bloc's defence capabilities. 

He adds that any further development of the common security and defence policies should be done in a way that is "complementary" to Nato. 

German Liberal Alexadner Graf Lambsdorff says that greater co-operation on defence between EU states will be necessary given the "new orientation" of US foreign policy.  

MEPs urge UK co-operation after Brexit

Debate on the EU's common defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Charles Tannock
BBC

British Conservative MEP Charles Tannock says that despite the Brexit vote, "strong co-operation" with the UK on defence and security matters should continue. 

He says this will still be necessary because the two share many threats, including a resurgent Russia and transnational terrorism.

He adds that the EU's defence and security policies, although still in their "infancy", can help to give a "secure a strong voice for Europe" on the world stage. 

Dutch Liberal Johannes Cornelis van Baalen says he agrees that co-operation with the UK must not stop due to the Brexit vote, although personally he says he hopes an exit will not happen. 

MEP welcomes 'principled pragmatism' of report

Debate on the EU's common defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Latvian centre-right MEP Sandra Kalniete says that Ms Mogherini has done a "good job" with the proposals, which show a "shift to principled pragmatism".

She adds that she welcomes the commitment to a "credible" EU enlargement policy, and increasing the bloc's defence capabilities. 

German social democrat Knut Fleckenstein says any EU-wide strategy will "stand and fall" on the commitment of national governments to implementing it. 

He reiterates that diplomacy and soft power are still important tools for the EU's external policy. 

Knut Fleckenstein
BBC

Mogherini: EU soft power 'not enough'

Debate on the EU's common defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

A slightly delayed Federica Mogherini begins the debate by telling MEPs that "no strategy makes sense if it stays on paper", and that the priority will now be on implementing its conclusions. 

Adding that no single EU state is big enough to "act as global player" on its own, she says that the Union allows its members to speak on equal terms with powers such as the US and China. 

She says that soft power will "remain the centre" of the EU's external action, although on its own it is "not enough" to guarantee security. 

She says that "too many obstacles" have prevented the development of the existing EU battlegroups - the units of soldiers provided by member states for peacekeeping operations. 

Federica Mogherini
BBC

Good afternoon

Debate on the EU's common defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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

MEPs will shortly be joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to debate her department’s recently-unveiled proposals to update the EU’s common defence and security policies.

The long-awaited document called for a “credible European defence” to give EU countries a greater capacity to act independently of NATO.

It also urged greater “strategic convergence” between national defence policies in areas such as defence research and planning cycles. 

Voting session ends

European Parliament

Strasbourg

And with that, today’s voting session comes to an end. MEPs will now be able to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

This will be followed by a lunch break, after which the sitting will resume at 14.00 BST, when MEPs will debate a recent proposal to update the EU’s common defence and security policy. 

MEPs give backing to tax committee motion

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

They also give their backing to a non-binding motion from Parliament’s special tax investigation committee which sets out a number of recommendations for reforming corporate taxation.

The committee was set up in February to continue the work of a previous inquiry committee established after the Luxleaks revelations about favourable corporate tax deals in Luxembourg. 

Tax resolution result
BBC

MEPs back EU Border and Coast Guard force

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs give final backing to legislation to set up an EU Border and Coast Guard force, to replace Frontex, the bloc’s current border management agency.

The new force was proposed by the European Commission at the end of last year as part of an EU drive to curb the record influx of migrants.

The new force will have a reserve pool of 1,500 guards provided by national border agencies, with a mandate to intervene if member states are deemed to be failing to protect the EU's external borders.

MEPs debated the plan during their sitting yesterday – you can read more about it here

Migrant dinghy
Reuters

MEPs take initial position on energy labels update

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also vote on their initial position on an update to EU rules for labelling the energy efficiency of household appliances, ahead of negotiations with national ministers.

At the request from Parliament's lead negotiator, they decide not to put the legislation to a final vote at this stage so that negotiations on the text with national ministers can continue informally first. 

An EU-wide labelling scheme was originally created in 1995 in a bid to make it easier for consumers to identify products that are energy efficient.

The current scheme includes a scale of A+, A++, A+++ for the most efficient appliances – the Commission proposed last year to replace this with an A-G scale for all products.

The EU executive argued that an A-G scale would better reflect technological developments over the last few years, which mean more appliances are now in the most efficient classes. 

Dishwasher
BBC

Voting underway

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the Commission’s legislative programme for next year finished – MEPs will vote on their motion during today’s voting session, which now underway. 

Commissioner: Juncker 'does not run away'

Debate on EU legislative programme for 2017

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Frans Timmermans ends the debate with a fiery defence of Commission President Juncker - labelling calls for his resignation "politically weak, morally questionable, and intellectually lazy".

"Is that all you have to offer - destroy for the sake of destruction?" he adds to a chorus of boos.   

President Juncker, he adds, "deserves the respect of this Parliament" - and that "those who only shouted here" should have "had more respect" for majority decisions by MEPs. 

He adds that thing that distinguishes President Juncker from "people like Farage and others" is his willingness to confront challenges. 

To loud boos from the UKIP MEPs, he adds: 

When things get tough, he starts working, he puts his back into it, he does not run away."

Frans Timmermans
BBC

German MEP calls for Juncker resignation

Debate on EU legislative programme for 2017

European Parliament

Strasbourg

French Green MEP Yannick Jadot says that Commission needs to change course in the wake of the Brexit vote two weeks ago.

He says the EU needs to "regain legitimacy", protecting national sovereignty from multinational companies preventing the bloc becoming a "little version of liberal globalisation".

German Conservative Beatrix von Storch, however, says the only point on the Commission's programme should be the resignation of President Juncker. 

The Brexit vote "showed what people think about ever-closer union", she says, before adding: 

As long as you have Jean-Claude Juncker at the top, there will be no reform."

Beatrix von Storch
BBC

Conservative MEP explains group dissent from main motion

Debate on EU legislative programme for 2017

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Conservative MEP Vicky Ford says her group would like to see more investment in research and development, plus measures to improve Europe's digital economy. 

On the matter of migration, she says her group wants to make sure that "national governments have a final say" over the number of asylum seekers they accept.

She adds that her group could not agree to support the main motion to be put to the vote today, due to demands for bigger national contributions to the EU budget, taxes and "mandatory migration targets". 

Vicky Ford
BBC

Timmermans: Commission priorities 'will not change'

Debate on EU legislative programme for 2017

European Parliament

Strasbourg

European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans says the 10 original political priorities of the current Commission - on which it was approved by MEPs - will "not change".

He says that the Commission will work towards building an economy to help people "regain a sense of control" over their lives. 

He says the Commission's flagship investment plan should be extended beyond its current end-date in 2018, and that public consultation on a revision of EU social rights will begin in September. 

He adds that agreement on legislation to end geographical blocks within the EU on digital services, alongside a planned abolition of mobile roaming charges next year, would be a "major step".   

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Debate on Commission agenda begins

Debate on EU legislative programme for 2017

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on Slovakia’s EU presidency finished. Frans Timmermans will remain with MEPs to debate the Commission’s legislative programme for next year.

They will vote at lunchtime on a non-binding motion setting out what new laws they would like to see next year, before the Commission unveils its new agenda in the autumn.

A draft motion agreed by three of the main groups calls for the EU executive to create a “European pillar of social rights”, with measures to close the co-called gender gap in pay and pensions.

It also calls for “new, ambitious industrial strategy” to accompany the EU’s recycling initiatives, and greater public investment in energy, research and education.

It also urges the bloc to have an “ambitious” common security and defence policy that will position the EU “as a geopolitical player in a rapidly changing world”. 

Fico pledges greater 'contact' with MEPs

Debate on Slovakia's EU presidency

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Summing up the debate, Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico tells MEPs that he would like increase contact with the Parliament and EU institutions during Slovakia's presidency. 

He adds that the fact that 86% of public investment in the country comes from the EU underlines the importance of the bloc to countries that joined in 2004. 

He says that he would like to remind MEPs that the eastern European states were "patient" with accommodating EU demands during their accession periods, and says he hopes to show the same patience again during the forthcoming Brexit negotiations. 

Robert Fico
BBC

Slovak MEP calls for UK to clarify Brexit position 'as soon as possible'

Debate on Slovakia's EU presidency

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Spanish centre-right MEP Pilar Del Castillo Vera says that readying the EU economy for the digital era should be a priority for the Slovak presidency. 

She calls for agreement to be reached on a number of legislative files linked to the Commission's plan to boost the trade in digital services. 

Slovak social democrat Vladimir Manka says that allowing the period of uncertainty over the Brexit vote to continue for long would damage both Britain and the EU, and aid "extremists and populists".

He adds: 

We understand you, but we need your position as soon as possible."

Vladimir Manka
BBC

What is the rotating EU presidency?

Debate on Slovakia's EU presidency

European Parliament

Strasbourg

  • The 28 member states take it in turns to manage EU affairs for six months
  • It involves chairing the bloc's ministerial meetings in the Council
  • It is a less powerful role than previously, as the EU has a permanent European Council president and a foreign policy chief
  • The country holding the presidency sends many civil servants to Brussels
  • The holder can pursue some national interests when EU policy is decided, in areas like energy, finance and security.

EU flags
AFP/GETTY

DUP MEP: Politicians 'should avoid hardened rhetoric' over Brexit

Debate on Slovakia's EU presidency

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The DUP's Diane Dodds - who campaigned for a Leave vote - says that politicians need to "lift their eyes" to the task of now finding a settlement between the UK and remaining EU states. 

She adds that "hardened rhetoric and hollowed-out positions" will not help matters, and a deal should now be struck that allows the UK to trade and co-operate with other countries in the bloc. 

If Slovakia is able to speed up the exit negotiations, she adds, then it will have played "a pivotal role at this crucial time". 

Diane Dodds
BBC

Czech MEP: Brexit situation 'very similar' to velvet divorce

Debate on Slovakia's EU presidency

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Czech Eurosceptic Petr Mach says he has "very high expectations" for the Slovak presidency given the country's previous opposition to mandatory refugee quotas. 

He praises the country's "brave" decision to vote against the plans last year, and for challenging it at the European Court of Justice. 

He says that his own country's split from Slovakia in 1993 - known as the "velvet divorce" - was a "very similar situation" to that now facing the EU and the UK. 

He adds that he hopes the country acts in a reasonable manner towards the UK, although accommodating all the different requests will be difficult. 

Petr Mach
BBC