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Summary

  1. MEPs debate EU schemes for promoting culture and European history
  2. Parliamentary immunity of Marine Le Pen lifted after vote
  3. MEPs also back new rules on EU oversight of energy contracts

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Sitting ends

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

MEPs will next meet for a plenary sitting in Strasbourg, between 13-16 March. 

Voting session ends

That's today's voting session finished. MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted. 

MEPs call for reintroduction of visa requirements for US citizens

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs back a motion calling on the European Commission to reintroduce temporary visa requirements for US citizens within two months.

The move would be part of efforts to encourage the United States to introduce visa-free travel for citizens of all EU countries.

Currently, the US insists that citizens of Bulgaria, Romania, Croatia, Cyprus and Poland obtain visas before being able to travel there.

The motion is not legally binding on the Commission. 

MEPs back new EU oversight rules for energy contracts

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Gas pipeline
AFP

MEPs give their backing to legislation requiring EU governments to submit draft energy contracts with non-EU countries to the Commission before they are signed.

The Commission would then assess whether the draft complied with EU law. At the moment, countries only have to inform the Commission after deals are signed.

The new law is part of EU plans for an “energy union” within Europe to promote a more cohesive European energy market.

MEPs reached an agreement on the new law with national ministers in December, under which electricity contracts will be exempted from the requirement for EU assessment before being signed.

The new law will now enter into force when it is given final agreement from member states. 

MEPs confirm immunity waiver for Marine Le Pen

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Marine Le Pen
AFP

On a show of hands, MEPs vote to strip French Front National leader and presidential candidate Marine Le Pen of her parliamentary immunity.

The request to waive her immunity was made by prosecutors in France, where she is under investigation for tweeting pictures of Islamic State (IS) killings in 2015 .

French laws prohibit the dissemination of violent images that “seriously violate” human dignity. Waiving Ms Le Pen’s immunity would allow legal action to be taken against her.

Ms le Pen posted images of the killing of American journalist James Foley and others in reply to a journalist who compared her party to IS.

The legal affairs committee backed the request for the immunity to be lifted earlier this week. 

Voting to begin soon

And with that, this morning’s debates come to an end. MEPs will shortly be taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will begin in around 20 minutes.  

MEP urges importance of anti-corruption drive

Debate on wildlife protection in trade deals

European Parliament

Brussels

Emma McClarkin
EP

Conservative MEP Emma McClarkin, who has prepared the motion on behalf of the committee, says current trade in illegal wildlife products is a "serious threat" to the environment. 

She says her report backs increased training for customs officers to help them identify illegal products. 

She adds that a long-term approach to the problem will also require greater efforts to tackle corruption.

MEPs debate wildlife protection in trade deals

Ivory tusks in Kenya
AFP
The EU supports an international ban on trading ivory

MEPs are now debating a motion from the international trade committee backing the EU’s Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking.

The plan aims to ensure that illegal wildlife products are not trafficked as a result of free trade agreements.

It welcomes the “ambitious approach” to wildlife protection in the EU’s free trade deal with Vietnam, and the idea of including a sustainable development chapter in any deal with the US.  

It also calls on the EU Commission to investigate to what extent EU wildlife trade laws are properly applied by national customs officers.

Commission to 'look at' low success rates for applications

Debate on Europe for Citizens programme

European Parliament

Brussels

Sir Julian King
EP

Representing the Commission, UK Commissioner Sir Julian King says the Parliament's report will provide an "important starting point" for the body's review of the programme this year. 

He says he acknowledges that the Commission needs to "look at" the low success rates for applications in certain areas, noting that the process has become "very competitive". 

He says that the programme could also be used to create opportunities for the Commission's plan to create a 100,000-strong youth volunteer scheme. 

The plan was announced during Jean-Claude Juncker's "state of the union" speech  last September. 

MEPs debate EU history programme

MEPs are now debating another relatively unknown EU scheme – the Europe for Citizens programme, which promotes understanding of EU history.

Around 20% of the programme’s budget goes on promoting European history, with 60% spent on civil projects and town twinning.

The draft motion calls on the European Parliament to be given a bigger role in drafting the scheme.

It also calls for geographical differences and cost of living in participating countries to be better taken into account in the scheme.

MEPs query funding under scheme

Debate on Creative Europe programme

European Parliament

Brussels

Kaja Kallas
EP

Estonian Liberal Kaja Kallas says that, in an age of increasing robotics, there is an economic case for promoting "more and more creative people" in Europe. 

However, she says that so far that most funding from the programme seems to go to the "five big countries". 

French Front National MEP Dominique Bilde says she is opposed to further funding for the programme and has tabled amendments to the motion to that effect. 

She adds that areas of the economy relating to culture should bot be opened up to market competition in the EU's free trade deals. 

This would allow cultural activities not to "fall to the sirens of the global market", she adds. 

MEP dismisses 'European culture'

Debate on Creative Europe programme

European Parliament

Brussels

Labour MEP Clare Moody says the Commission should ensure the programme gets the resources it needs to be successful. 

However German Conservative Hans-Olaf Henkel takes aim at the basis of the programme, telling MEPs that it is "presumptuous" to promote the idea of a European culture.  

He highlights several examples of where culture is national, adding that in his own country cultural policy is not even administered at the national level but the regional one. 

The Creative Europe programme, he adds, should concentrate on promoting science.

Hans-Olaf Henkel
EP

Commission to keep 'critical eye' on projects

Debate on Creative Europe programme

European Parliament

Brussels

Carlos Moedas
EP

Research and Science Commissioner Carlos Moedas says the European year for promoting culture next year will provide an opportunity to "take stock" of what the programme is doing so far. 

He says both the European Commission and the European Parliament must keep a "critical eye" on how projects are being implemented. 

On the question of funding, he says that the "small" budget for the programme means that many high-quality projects will not be able to get money. 

However he adds that the Commission is thinking about creating a dedicated pool of funds within the scheme especially for smaller groups who lack experience of making applications. 

Good morning

Hello and welcome to this plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Brussels.

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will discuss a motion on the EU’s Creative Europe programme for supporting cultural activities.

The current programme has a seven-year budget of €1.46bn, and is up for renewal in 2020. The Commission must produce a mid-term assessment by the end of this year.

The draft motion, to be voted on later this morning, suggests that applications in the “culture” strand of the programme have been lessened due to underfunding. 

Film
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