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Summary

  1. Donald Tusk warns UK against Brexit 'no deal' threat during debate on future of EU
  2. MEPs also debated new monitoring requirements for imports of "conflict minerals"
  3. They also discuss European political parties and the EU's common external policies
  4. MEPs review the state of Montenegro's EU membership application

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & Coming up tomorrow

That's all from today's plenary sitting. MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT , when they will first debate new measures for collecting and managing data on fisheries stocks.

After this they will discuss and vote on three topical human rights motions.

From 11.00 GMT, they will vote on new EU rules for monitoring imports of "conflict minerals". 

MEPs debate use of technology in democracy

Finally tonight, MEPs are debating a report from the constitutional affairs committee which calls on the EU to use the internet and new technologies to boost democratic participation.

It says that electronic voting can make it easier to vote for those who live in remote areas and suffer from reduced mobility.

However it says that high-speed internet connections and secure electronic “identity infrastructure” should be prerequisites for considering the measures.  

'External pressure' on Montenegro growing - Commissioner

Debate on Montenegro EU application

Sir Julian King
EP

UK Commissioner Sir Julian King, who has been representing the Commission in several debates today, says that Montenegro has been making steady progress in its membership talks. 

In particular, he says they should welcome the country's "complete alignment" with the EU's common security and defence policy. 

He calls for an end to the political stalemate which has seen opposition parties boycotting the country's "half-empty" parliament. 

He also expresses concern about the "mounting external pressure" on the country as its membership of Nato draws nearer. 

Montenegro the 'front-runner' among EU applicants

Debate on Montenegro EU application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Representing Malta's EU presidency, Ian Borg says Montenegro is a "front-runner" among the countries undergoing the accession process for EU membership. 

He says the country has made further progress last year, and EU leaders are paying "close attention" to judicial reforms with a view to opening more negotiating chapters. 

He says that Malta hopes to begin and finish those chapters that are "technically ready" during its time in charge of the EU presidency, which runs until June. 

However, he says the country needs to work on improving its trade balance and controlling public debt. 

Ian Borg
EP

MEP: Montenegro has made 'strong progress'

Debate on Montenegro EU application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Charles Tannock
EP

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock, who has drafted the report on behalf of the foreign affairs committee, says that Montenegro has made "strong progress" in its EU accession talks. 

This includes "genuine reform" to its justice system, he says. 

Whilst he says that judicial investigations into the alleged Russian assassination plot continue, he adds that there is "growing consensus"  that the threat was "real and credible". 

This would be in line with Russia's "growing presence" in the Western Balkans, he adds.  

MEPs debate Montenegro EU application

MEPs are now debating a report on progress made towards EU membership last year by Montenegro, which opened accession talks in 2012.

Montenegro has started talks on most negotiating chapters, and is also making steps to become a NATO member.

A report from the foreign affairs committee to be voted on tomorrow says the Balkan country has made “steady progress”, and that negotiations should be sped up this year. 

However it expresses concern about an alleged Russia-backed plot to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic during elections last year and calls for the EU to follow developments closely.

The Sunday Telegraph quoted UK government sources  as saying the plan had been directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow.

Russia has dismissed the accusations as “absurd”. 

Dusko Markovic and Federica Mogherini
EPA
EU external realtions chief met Montengrin PM Dusko Markovic earlier this month

MEPs begin debate on EU Arctic strategy

MEPs are now debating a motion which calls on EU states to try to negotiate a ban on oil and gas extraction in the Arctic.

The recommendation is included in a report which says climate change could spark geopolitical tensions in the Arctic over new fishing routes and natural resources.

It says that the EU should ensure “more coherence” between its internal and external policies in the Arctic region. 


          Blocks of Arctic sea ice that have been broken up by the Swedish icebreaker Oden.
Science Photo Library

EU lacks 'social solidarity' for military - UKIP MEP

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Patrick O'Flynn
EP

UKIP MEP Patrick O'Flynn says the attempt to form a common European defence force is an example of the EU attempting to gain "another element of nationhood". 

He says that the EU lacks the "sufficient social solidarity" even to bail out Greek banks, let alone permit the "shedding of blood in military conflict". 

German social democrat Jo Leinen says the EU "is a soft power, and will remain so". 

He adds that steps to give the EU military powers beyond peacekeeping missions "can certainly not happen" under the terms of the current treaties. 

MEPs voice accountability concerns at report's plans

Debate on EU defence policy

Sabine Losing
EP

German left-wing MEP Sabine Losing claims that some are using the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the US as an "opportunity" to establish a military presence for the EU. 

She adds that the proposals in the report would "further militarise" the union. 

She also says that the kind of military co-operation it proposes would be "completely outside the control of the European Parliament". 

Hungarian Green Tamas Maszerics also says his group supports the general idea of greater defence co-operation but will vote against the report's recommendations as it would create military force without "any accountability whatsoever". 

MEP: European force 'should be back on table'

Debate on EU defence policy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jean Arthuis
EP

Liberal French MEP Jean Arthuis says that, over 60 years after it was thrown out, the idea of a genuine European defence force should be "back on the table". 

The world has become a more dangerous place, he adds, and a number of countries lack the required resources and equipment to cope with the challenges. 

He says the original six founding EEC members "should go it alone" if it becomes impossible to find EU-wide agreement. 

MEPs debate report on EU defence policy

MEPs are now debating a report recommending the EU take steps to strengthen its common security and defence policy.

Among its recommendations, the report calls for a new format for EU defence ministers to meet for co-ordinating common policies to make them more “efficient”. 

UKIP MEP in 'Orwell' warning

Debate on European party funding

Jonathan Arnott
EP

UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott says that he feels many political views should be defeated, but through "public democratic debate", adding: 

State funding those you like and defunding those you don't - that's not Voltaire, that's Orwell"

Background: UKIP under investigation

UKIP is currently under investigation from the Electoral Commission over its finances after allegations it misspent EU funds.

It comes after an earlier European Parliament investigation claims that the UKIP-dominated grouping - the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe - broke rules banning the use of the funds on "financing of national political parties, financing of national election campaigns and candidates or referendum campaigns".  

European Parliament Bureau said money spent on opinion polls in the UK ahead of the 2015 general election and EU referendum last year breached European party financing rules. 

A UKIP spokesman said: "We are confident we will be found to be in the clear" - with UKIP MEP Roger Helmer adding: "Call it revenge for Brexit if you like."

Read more here

'Hard to see' EU requirement to fund Eurosceptics - MEP

Debate on European party funding

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Gyorgy Schopflin
EP

Hungarian Fidesz MEP Gyorgy Schopflin says that whilst a plurality of views is important in a democracy, it is "hard to see" why the EU should finance parties that wish the end of its existence. 

Yesterday German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right EPP group, said that the EU should not be funding its "enemies". 

New powers to check parties included in regulations

Debate on European party funding

Sir Julian King
EP

UK Commissioner Sir Julian King, whose brief includes responsibility over security, tells MEPs that the new funding criteria includes respecting "the values on which the EU is founded". 

He adds that this included respect for the rule of law and for human rights. 

He adds that the new regulations include powers to check if European political parties are continuing to meet these criteria. 

MEP: EU funds misused 'far too often'

Debate on European party funding

Danuta Maria Huebner
EP

Polish centre-right MEP Danuta Maria Huebner, the chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, says new criteria for qualifying as a European political party came into force this year. 

She says the new criteria are "not about banning parties with critical opinions" of the EU. but rather not financing parties with "racist or discriminatory" platforms.

She adds that misuse of European funds is "happening far too often". 

MEPs debate political group funding

Euro notes
PA

MEPs have now been joined by Security Commissioner Sir Julian King to debate the funding arrangements for EU-wide political groups and foundations.

It follows calls last year from the leaders of the Parliament’s three largest political groups for a review of the arrangements to ensure recipients respect the EU’s “fundamental values”.

Last year a number of MEPs said the Parliament should stop paying €600,000 in grants to the far-right Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF) group.

The Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee is due to make a recommendation about whether the group meets the criteria for receiving EU funding. 

Conflict minerals law: A lengthy negotiation

Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

Most of the political debate on this piece of legislation has centred on whether the new due diligence requirements should be mandatory or voluntary – and for whom.

The Commission’s initial proposal, announced in March 2014, was for the scheme to be voluntary for all companies.

MEPs on the international trade committee then said monitoring should be made mandatory for smelters and refiners – whilst remaining voluntary for those further down the supply chain, such as mobile phone manufacturers.

However this demand was strengthened further when it was first put to a vote in the full Parliament, with MEPs in the left-leaning groups teaming up to demand mandatory checks for nearly all firms.

Over the course of the negotiations, the final text has changed to fit more closely to this position. 

Man on his phone outside the European Commission in Brussels
Getty Images

MEP points to 'loopholes' in final legislation

Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

European Parliament

Strasbourg

However Green MEP Molly Scott Cato points to what she calls the "important loopholes" in the legislation.

Among these, she says, is the requirement that monitoring will only be mandatory for companies importing the four relevant metals in their raw form. 

She says this could exclude companies that import the metal as part of components. 

The final text, she says, is a "watered down" version of the one that had originally had the support of the Parliament. 

Commissioner: Final text 'ambitious'

Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

Cecilia Malmstrom
EP

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom tells MEPs she thinks the final text represents a workable and "ambitious" policy. 

She says the Commission will ensure the due diligence guidelines are translated into all the EU's official languages.

Adding that trade "must be based on values", she says the new rules should help divert funds away from rebel groups towards the development of "well governed states" in affected countries. 

She says that the EU is also working with international partners such as India and China to ensure they adopt more transparent reporting practices. 

MEP lauds 'quite successful' negotiations

Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Iuliu Winkler
EP

Romaninian centre-right MEP Iuliu Winkler, who has acted as the lead MEP on the legislation for the European Parliament, says the negotiations with national ministers were "quite successful". 

He says that the final text reflects a "majority" of the assembly's priorities in the talks. 

He adds that under the final text, the European Commission will also be obliged to regularly report on the effectiveness of the monitoring measures. 

MEPs debate new monitoring rules for 'conflict minerals'

Next up, MEPs are debating long-delayed legislation that would require all but the smallest EU companies to sign up to international monitoring standards for imported “conflict minerals”.

The new rules - due to be put to a final vote tomorrow - would require due diligence checks to be undertaken by importers of tin, tungsten, tantalum and gold.

The aim of the law is to prevent money from the sale of the minerals falling into the hands of armed groups.

Under a compromise reached last November, smaller importers such as dentists and jewellers will be exempted from the new requirements.

Agreement on the measures came after a prolonged tug-of-war between MEPs and the European Commission over who should be covered by the rules. 

Mobile phones
AFP
Tantalum is often used in making mobile phones

Spanish MEP calls for stronger anti-radicalisation plans

Debate on EU counter-terror policies

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Polish centre-right MEP Michal Boni says that the EU does not need to focus on collecting more information, but that police forces are able to get hold of it and use the information available. 

Spanish Soclialist Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar says that the EU's anti-radicalisation strategy does not go far enough. 

He also calls for EU anti-money laundering legislation to be "strengthened" to help clamp down on sources of terrorist financing.  

Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
EP

MEP backs review of EU security schemes

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Green Jan Philipp Albrecht says he backs Security Commissioner Sir Julian King's decision to review the effectiveness of existing security measures. 

He adds that these can often prove expensive and curtail liberties - telling MEPs: "We have to see what's working and not working."

Jan Philipp Albrecht
EP

MEP in plea for more sharing of information

Debate on EU counter-terror policies

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Daniel Dalton
EP

British Conservative Daniel Dalton says that passport-free movement in the Schengen area makes cross-border attacks "easier". 

He tells MEPs that given terrorists do not recognise borders, the sharing of information is a particularly useful tool for EU states. 

He says the EU has "come a long way" in this area but more remains to be done.

Background on new Schengen border checks

Debate on EU counter-terror policies

Security checks at Helsinki airport
Reuters

Last month MEPs gave their final approval to proposals to increase checks at the external border of the passport-free Schengen area.

Once the new legislation comes into force, holders of EU passports will be checked against the Interpol stolen and lost travel documents database (SLTD) and Schengen Information System (SIS).

The new plans would also apply to non-EU nationals leaving the Schengen zone.

The aim is that extra checks will make it easier to determine someone’s identity and whether they are a potential security threat.

The agreement would allow only “targeted” checks at airports in the case of long border delays, under certain circumstances. 

IS will 'focus on internet' - Commissioner

Debate on EU counter-terror policies

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dimitris Avramopoulos
EP

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that today, EU citizens "increasingly look towards Europe" for measures to improve safety. 

He also reviews EU actions in this area, including the new tighter gun regulations MEPs passed during their voting session yesterday. 

He adds that with the Islamic State (IS) group losing territory in the Middle East, the internet is where they will "focus" their efforts. 

"Things are moving forward, but we still have a lot of work ahead," he says - calling for MEPs to agree on various pieces of security legislation before the end of this year. 

EU has 'grim resolve' to tackle terror threat - MEP

Debate on EU counter-terror policies

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Roberta Metsola
EP

Centre-right Maltese MEP Roberta Metsola, who is from the EPP group, says that keeping Europe safe is "at the top" of her group's agenda and "will remain there". 

She says that in the year following the Brussels attacks, the initial shock has given way to a "grim resolve" to tackle the terrorist threat.

She reviews some of the EU policies taken since the attacks, including establishing greater database checks at the external Schengen border, measures to clamp down on the financing of terror groups and EU anti-radicalisation strategies. 

However she says there remains "more that needs to be done" - including greater information sharing among the member states.

MEPs to review EU counter-terror policy

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

The session will be resuming shortly, when MEPs will be joined by Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to debate EU counter-terror measures.

The debate – chosen by the centre-right EPP group – is being held to review the situation around one year after the terror attacks in Brussels last March. 

This is the first in a new kind of debate established after a change to the Parliament’s rules earlier this year, which allows the political groups to suggest topical points of discussion.

Armed police in a Brussels metro station
EPA

Brexit threats 'will not work'

BBC Parliament tweets

Votes finished - short speeches to follow

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

Following this there will be a short break, after which the sitting will resume at 14.00 GMT with a debate on EU counter-terror measures in the wake of last year’s Brussels attacks.

Concern about legality of German road toll plans expressed

Voting session

Lorry about to go on the Autobahn
EPA

MEPs back a motion which says that a revised plan for motorway tolls in Germany "still contains elements" which might breach EU anti-discrimination laws. 

In 2015 the German Parliament approved a law that allowed German-registered cars to get a deduction on the charge on their annual vehicle tax bill.

The Commission initially launched infringement proceedings against Germany, warning that the planned tolls might discriminate illegally against non-German EU citizens.

However the case was put on hold after Commission recently reached an agreement on the tolls that would ensure they complied with EU rules. 

MEPs urge better respect for free movement laws

Voting session

MEPs pass a non-binding motion calling on EU states to better respect the bloc’s movement on free movement and access to benefits.

The Parliament’s petitions committee has received a number of complaints from people in different EU countries about delays in accessing employment or social security benefits.

The motion accuses “some member states” of denying social protection to workers from other EU countries in their application of the rules.

It also urges national governments to provide “clear guidelines and proper training” to civil servants who process and administer social rights. 

MEPs back new EU food inspection rules

Voting session

MEPs give their backing to new EU rules for food safety inspections first proposed after the horsemeat scandal in 2013.

The new legislation would introduce more harmonised rules for checks on food, feed, plant health, pesticides and animal welfare.

It also provides a new list of import conditions for animals and food products imported from outside the EU. 

Burgers being prepared in a factory
AFP

Votes soon

That’s the debate on last week’s EU summit and this month’s Rome summit finished. MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session.

Tusk: Rome summit should herald 'reintegration' of EU

Debate on EU Rome summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Donald Tusk
EP

European Council President Donald Tusk sums up the debate by telling MEPs the Rome summit should not be a chance to "celebrate" but to "set a clear course for the future".

He adds he hopes the meeting marks a "turning point" in the "reintegration" of the EU. 

And he predicts that a "majority of citizens" in countries "governed by eurosceptics" will be on their side.

MEP: EU should promote 'fairness' in global trade

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Gilles Pargneaux
EP

French Socialist MEP Gilles Pargneaux says the EU needs to use the Rome summit as an opportunity to change the prevailing "economic paradigm" in the bloc. 

He says this should include moves to ensure greater "fairness" in global trade and efforts to build a "circular economy" through more efficient use of resources. 

Urging his colleagues to "fight against nationalists", he says the summit should mark a "new chapter for a new Europe". 

MEP urges action on youth joblessness

Debate on EU Rome summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Elisabetta Gardini
EP

Italian centre-right MEP Elisabetta Gardini says the EU needs to focus on the future of young people in the economy. 

"If we don't reduce youth unemployment, we won't have a future," she adds. 

Belgian Conservative Anneleen van Bossuyt says the EU should adopt a "slimline budget" that is more focused on the priority of securing the external border.

Turkey's position

EU Commission president tweets

Nuttall predicts 'floodgate' of EU exits

Debate on EU Rome summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Paul Nuttall
EP

UKIP leader Paul Nuttall says that he is in agreement with many of the previous speakers about Turkey, telling MEPs that the country should "never, ever" be allowed to join the EU. 

The country, he adds, is moving towards becoming a "theocracy akin to the Middle East". 

On the forthcoming summit, he accuses EU leaders of "fiddling while the Treaty of Rome burns", adding that the potential of greater integration shows they "never learn".

He too says there is already a two-speed Europe: Britain leaving the union, and "all you guys going in reverse". 

He predicts that Brexit could open a "floodgate" of other countries to try to leave the bloc.