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Summary

  1. MEPs debate EU efforts to tackle anti-Roma discrimination
  2. They also debate and approve three topical human rights motions
  3. Final approval given to an EU visa waiver for Ukrainians
  4. MEPs also back an EU-wide cap on the wholesale price of mobile roaming data

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

There’s a short topical debate this afternoon after the sitting resumes from 14.00 BST – you can watch it here .

But that’s it from us – video footage from this morning’s sitting will be available on this page shortly.

MEPs’ next plenary sitting will take place in Brussels on the 26 and 27 April. 

Voting ends

And with that, today’s voting session come to an end.

MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

Welcoming news

Commission tweets

MEPs approve visa waiver for Ukraine

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Helsinki airport
Reuters

MEPs also give their final approval to a visa waiver for Ukrainian citizens travelling to the EU.

The measure, likely to come into effect in June, will give holders of biometric passports the right to travel for up to three months without needing a visa.

The new measure will not give Ukrainians the automatic right to work in the EU. It will apply to all member states except the UK and Ireland.

It follows the approval of new EU emergency powers to suspend visa-free travel rights last December.

The new powers allow either the Commission or a majority of EU states to suspend a country’s visa exemptions if there is a large increase in asylum requests. 

MEPs approve cap on wholesale price of mobile data

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Person using mobile phone
PA

MEPs give their final approval to legislation to cap the price of wholesale roaming charges that telecoms companies can charge each other for mobile data.

The new law is part of measures accompanying a total ban on roaming charges within the EU which is due to come into effect from June.

The European Parliament has pushed for a lower cap on the price of data and voice calls than that originally proposed by the EU Commission.

Some telecoms companies as well as European countries with lots of tourist destinations wanted a higher cap, arguing the money would be invested into improving the networks. 

MEPs pass human rights motions

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

First up MEPs pass their three human rights motions they debated this morning, which:

  • call for the immediate release of Russia’s main opposition leader Alexei Navalny
  • call for the release of protestors arrested during anti-government protests in Belarus last month  
  • condemn recent changes to marriage legislation in Bangladesh

Votes to begin soon

MEP are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will get underway shortly. 

MEPs debate child marriage in Bangladesh

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The third motion condemns recent changes to marriage legislation in Bangladesh.

The text drafted by six political groups says recent amendments to the country’s Child Marriage Restraint Act will provide “legal authorisation for child marriage”.

The law allows parents or guardians to get a court order to allow children to be married if it is in their "best interests."

Rights groups have said the legislation is vaguely drafted and could be abused.

In their motion, MEPs say the law could lead to an increase in sexual harassment and rape. 

MEPs discuss motion on Belarus arrests

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The second motion calls for the release of hundreds of protestors who were arrested in Belarus during anti-government demonstrations last month.

The protests were against a $230 (£185) tax on those unemployed for six months, dubbed a "social parasites" tax.

The foreign ministry said the demonstrations on Saturday were not peaceful, as "petrol bombs and arms-laden cars" were found near the Minsk protest.

The motion accuses Belarus of placing “undue restrictions on the right of peaceful assembly, freedom of expression and freedom of association”.

Arrests during protests in Belarus
AFP

Right time to condemn Russia?

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Helmut Scholz
BBC

Conservative MEP Charles Tannock condemns the charges against the protesters, which he calls "trumped up". 

He says the thoughts of MEPs should be with those affected by this week's bomb attack on St Petersburg earlier this week, but this "cannot allow us to silence our condemnation of President Putin". 

However left-wing German MEP Helmut Scholz says the vote on the motion should be postponed at this "difficult time for the Russian people". 

He says the EU needs to find a "sustainable" partnership with Russia, and accuses the European Parliament of having "painted itself into a corner" with a position that shuts down communication with the country. 

MEPs debate arrest of protesters in Russia

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Arrests during protests
AFP

The first motion calls for the immediate release of Russia’s main opposition leader Alexei Navalny, who was among hundreds of protestors recently detained at anti-corruption protests in Moscow.

Mr Navalny called for the nationwide protests after he published reports claiming that Mr Medvedev controlled mansions, yachts and vineyards - a fortune that far outstripped his official salary.

Thousands of people joined rallies nationwide, calling for the resignation of Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev over corruption allegations.

A motion drafted by five of Parliament’s political groups says the sentences imposed on protesters are politically motivated and calls for them to be dropped. 

MEPs to debate human rights motions

That’s the debate on discrimination against Roma within Europe finished.

MEPs will now hold short debates on this month’s three topical motions on human rights cases. 

Inclusion schemes under spotlight

Debate on anti-Roma discrimination

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Italian social democrat Silvia Costa says inclusion schemes should be subject to "strict verification" 

Slovakian Conservative Branislav Skripek says that many schemes designed to help Roma are "not efficient" and in Slovakia are prone to corruption. 

He calls for a greater effort to increase the educational opportunities for Roma children and help towards finding employment. 

Commissioner outlines EU action

Debate on anti-Roma discrimination

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Neven Mimica
BBC

International Development Commissioner Neven Mimica says that the EU is trying to tackle anti-Roma discrimination through enforcing existing laws and through "financial instruments". 

He says the Commission is pushing for the "correct implementation" of the EU's racial equality directive.

He adds that legal proceedings have been launched against three EU countries for failings in educational integration. 

Good morning

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

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will debate action taken by the EU to tackle discrimination against Roma within Europe.

It also asks for an update on what efforts EU leaders have been making to promote the European Commission’s European Roma Holocaust Memorial Day.

The European Parliament promoted the idea of a memorial day in a resolution in 2015.