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Summary

  1. MEPs debated rules on natural pesticides and EU development policy
  2. They also discussed the future of the EU's emissions permit scheme
  3. Motion urging EU law on whistleblowers presented

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

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

MEPs will be back tomorrow morning from 08.00 GMT, when they will be debating recommendations for future direction of EU.

Austrian President Alexander Van der Bellen will deliver a speech to MEPs at 11.00 GMT.

At lunchtime, they will vote on a Europol co-operation agreement for Denmark.

The afternoon sees debates on the Greek bailout talks and recent fighting in eastern Ukraine. In the evening, MEPs will also debate EU membership hopes of Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina. 

MEPs begin short topical speeches

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

This item of business, traditionally held during the Monday plenary sitting, is normally used by MEPs to make points about topical issues or stories of interest to their country or region. 

Commission 'assessing' need for further EU action

Debates on "own initiative" motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Responding, EU Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager says that around 40% of fraud in the EU budget is revealed by whistleblowers. 

She adds that the Commission agrees that protection for whistleblowers is "vital". 

She says that the EU executive is "currently assessing" the need for further action at EU level, and will be launching a public consultation in this area at the end of this month. 

Commissioner Margrethe Vestager
BBC

Dutch MEP presents motion on whistleblower protection

Debates on "own initiative" motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dennis de Jong
BBC

Left-wing Dutch MEP Dennis de Jong's motion, prepared by the budgetary control committee, calls for greater protection in EU law for whistleblowers. 

In particular it urges the European Commission should draw up a new law to protect those exposing abuse of EU funds before the end of this year. 

The draft text says this new legislation should aim to offer "effective and equivalent protection" for whistleblowers across all 28 EU states. 

MEP outlines motion on UN women's summit

Debates on "own initiative" motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt
BBC

Outlining the terms of the motion on the forthcoming UN meeting on gender equality, Swedish centre-right MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt says the EU should calls for the ending of gender stereotypes and advocate a "zero tolerance" policy on gender-based domestic violence.

Among the many recommendations in the draft motion is a call for all EU countries to ratify the Instanbul Convention. 

The Convention, which came into force in 2014, is an international treaty proposed by the Council of Europe aiming to reduce violence against women and girls.

Signatories commit to providing 24/7 helplines, giving the police the power to remove perpetrators from their homes, and setting up an adequate number of shelters and refuges.

All EU states have signed the Convention, but so far only 14 have fully ratified it.  

MEPs debate advisory policy motions

Next tonight, there will be short debates on four non-binding “own initiative” motions prepared by the Parliament’s committees that will be put to the vote tomorrow.

These motions do not carry any legal force and are not binding on the Commission or on member states – but effectively serve as policy suggestions from MEPs.

Among tonight’s motions are recommendations for promoting gender equality in mental health services, suggested changes to the EU Commission’s expert groups and preparations for a forthcoming UN meeting on the status of women.

There’s also a motion that calls for EU-wide legislation to protect whistleblowers.

Debate on EU competition policy begins

MEPs are now debating a non-binding motion from the economic and monetary affairs committee on the Commission’s annual report on EU competition policy.

The draft motion says that EU-funded procurement carries higher corruption risks than national procurement in “certain member states”.

It adds that Brexit could “negatively affect” EU competition policy, and could result in duplicated proceedings and greater administrative costs.

The motion will be voted on tomorrow lunchtime. 

Permit price too low - French MEP

Debate on EU Emissions Trading System

European Parliament

Strasbourg

French Socialist Edouard Martin says that the price of permits in the current ETS scheme is too low to promote an adequate level of investment in low carbon technologies. 

He adds that much of the lowered reduction in recent years has been down to slowing industrial production as much as green policies. 

However German conservative Hans-Olaf Henkel says the EU needs to be mindful of how any changes fit into the broader global context. 

He says that if the emissions permits are made too expensive, production could be pushed outside Europe - which would be bad for both the economy and the environment overall. 

Hans-Olaf Henkel
BBC

UKIP MEP criticises 'flawed' ETS scheme

European Parliament

Strasbourg

UKIP MEP Diane James says she will not support the proposed changes to the ETS system, a scheme she describes as "flawed". 

She adds that the scheme has led to job losses, and "theft and fraud" in the use of permits. 

She says the impact of a tightening of the regime would be to create conditions for greater loss of jobs in Europe, and the risk that pollution will be "exported", with firms leaving to set up in countries with lower emissions limits. 

Diane James
BBC

EU emissions system: What’s the state of play?

Debate on EU Emissions Trading System

In its proposal, the Commission has proposed reducing the number of emission allowances by 2.2% per year from 2021.

The new rate would apply until 2030, by which time the EU has promised to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 40% compared to what they were in 1990.

MEPs on the environment committee have suggested increasing the permit withdrawal rate to 2.4% per year, and cancelling several million permits in a reserve fund in 2021.

However national ministers have not agreed on any new limits. Plans to make the ETS regime stricter are unpopular in EU countries currently more reliant on fossil fuels. 

Chimney
AFP

MEPs signal support for committee position

Debate on EU Emissions Trading System

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy
BBC

Dutch Liberal MEP Gerben-Jan Gerbrandy says the position reached in the environment committee is "far from ideal" but probably the most extensive change possible to agree at the moment. 

Another Dutch MEP, Green Bas Eickhout says it is now time to turn the "nice words" that greeted the agreement into action. 

He notes that the agreement on changes reached at committee stage won support from a broad spectrum of MEPs, from left-wingers to conservatives in the ECR groups. 

He says that as such it also includes protection for the fertiliser and steel sectors.

'Signs of convergence' on deal - Commissioner

Debate on EU Emissions Trading System

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Miguel Arias Canete
BBC

Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete says the EU must show it is "serious" about reforming the ETS system to make it fit to meet the EU's climate commitments. 

He says the EU must "lead by example" in the effort to reduce emissions, at the same time as providing protection for vulnerable sectors.

He adds that there are "signs of convergence" between member states in the Council of Ministers, and says he is convinced there is "political momentum" for talks on changes to start. 

He says he hopes the European Parliament and European Commission can stay "united" in negotiations with national governments.

MEP: EU states 'will have to agree' ETS changes

Debate on EU Emissions Trading System

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ian Duncan
BBC

Conservative MEP Ian Duncan, who has drafted the Parliament's position on the proposals, says the EU has "got to stick" with emissions commitments made in the Paris Agreement it ratified last year. 

He says he acknowledges that the necessary agreement among member states is not yet in place to change the current ETS regime, but predicts that they will "have to" one day. 

He adds that pushing the proposals to a first-reading vote tomorrow will help to move the legislative file "in that direction". 

Debate on carbon permits begins

Debate on EU Emissions Trading System

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs are now debating proposed changes to the EU’s Emissions Trading System (ETS), a scheme introduced around 12 years ago which aims to reduce carbon emissions.

The scheme works by making large power plants buy “allowances” that authorise them to emit greenhouse gases, within an overall agreed limit.

Critics of the current system say it is ineffective because the price of permits is too low and the overall cap has become overly generous due to lower economic activity.

The EU Commission has proposed to increase the speed at which emissions permits are withdrawn from the market in the nine years running up to 2030.

MEPs will take a position on the changes on Wednesday, although there is currently no agreement from EU governments on where to go from here. 

Power plant in Germany
Reuters

MEP calls for development policy 'coherence'

Debate on EU development policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Bogdon Wenta
BBC

Centre-right Polish MEP Bogdon Wenta, one of two MEPs who has drafted the motion on behalf of the development committee, says the motion calls for "coherence" on matters relating to development in the EU's internal policies, as well as in relations with non-EU states. 

He adds that any action taken at EU level should "complement and strengthen" national policies.  

Debate on development policy begins

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs are now debating a non-binding report prepared by the development committee which includes a number of recommendations for the EU’s development policy.

Among other things, the report calls for the sustainable development goals agreed by the UN in 2015 to be translated into national and regional targets that are “contextually relevant”.

Conservative MEP warns on pesticide effectiveness

Debate on natural pesticides

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Julie Girling
BBC

British Conservative MEP Julie Girling says she supports lowering the burden of the authorisation procedure, but this ambition should apply to both biological and non-biological pesticides. 

She says her group will support amendments specifying that the effectiveness of pesticides should remain a concern - noting that some natural alternatives "just aren't very effective".

However Belgian Liberal Frederique Ries says her group support the creation of an "accelerated procedure" for authorising natural pesticides. 

The process of permitting the use of such pesticides should be "unblocked", she adds. 

Effectiveness of incentives to be reviewed - Commissioner

Debate on natural pesticides

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis says that biological pesticides are not "automatically considered low-risk" and are currently subject to a risk assessment procedure, like chemical pesticides. 

He says the current authorisation procedure does contain some incentives to promote biological pesticides.

He says the effectiveness of these provisions will be assessed under the REFIT programme - the Commission's scheme for periodically reviewing EU legislation.

However he says EU member states should do more to promote biological pesticides, including by launching awareness-raising campaigns. 

MEP calls for review of authorisation rules

Debate on natural pesticides

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Czech social democrat Pavel Poc, who sits on the environment committee, says undesirable pesticides have harmful health effects and pose a risk to vulnerable groups. 

He says that natural pesticides could be an "effective alternative", but the authorisation procedure is long and expensive. 

He adds that the use of such pesticides should be encouraged, and the EU Commission should review the existing authorisation procedure this year. 

Pavel Poc
BBC

MEPs begin debate on natural pesticides

European Parliament

Strasbourg

With the agenda approved, MEPs have been joined by Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to debate ways to promote greater use of natural pesticides in European farming.

Pesticides derived from natural ingredients are believed by some to be more environmentally friendly than conventional products.

MEPs on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee have tabled an oral question asking the Commission to set out how it hopes to make these pesticides more available.

Their question notes that currently only six biological pesticides are approved by the EU – and that they are often refused authorisation for being less effective.

Tomorrow MEPs are due to vote on a non-binding motion to call for the current authorisation rules to be revised. 

Tractor sprays crops
Reuters

Additional changes made

Debate on week's agenda

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also dismiss a request to add a debate on changes to port regulation in Spain, tabled by the left-wing GUE group. 

However they approve a request to move forward a debate on the Commission's recent agreement with Germany on its planned road tolls to Wednesday, instead of Thursday afternoon. 

One more change is approved without opposition - to start the session on Thursday at 08.30 instead of 09.00 GMT. 

Debate on rule applications rejected

Debate on the week's agenda

European Parliament

Strasbourg

On behalf of the Eurosceptic EFDD group, former UKIP leader Nigel Farage requests a debate on the "common application" of the Parliament's rules to all political groups.

In a short speech, he claims that Eurosceptic groups have been the victims of "persisent victimisation" since the Brexit vote. 

However, the request is defeated on a show of hands. 

Nigel Farage
BBC

MEPs change debate title but reject resolution vote

Debate on the week's agenda

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Maria Joao Rodrigues
BBC

On behalf of the centre-left Socialist and Democrats group, Portuguese Socialist Maria Joao Rodrigues requests that the title of tomorrow afternoon’s debate on the Middle East is changed to “debate on the situation in the West Bank, including settlements". 

At the moment the debate is simply titled "prospects for resuming peace talks in the Middle East".

The request for change is approved, however a separate request to add a vote on a resolution on Thursday is rejected. 

Good afternoon

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Hello and welcome to coverage of today’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which will begin shortly.

The sitting will begin with administrative announcements, after which MEPs will have the chance to request additions or changes to this week’s agenda or make points of order.

Proposals to add a debate to the agenda 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.