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Summary

  1. MEPs debate the European Investment Bank's annual report
  2. Dutch finance minister joins MEPs for debate on Greek bailout
  3. MEPs vote to sign off 2015 spending by some EU agencies

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Sitting ends

With the short speeches finished, today's plenary sitting comes to a close. 

MEPs will next hold a plenary sitting on Strasbourg on 15-18 May. 

Short speeches begin

And with that, today's longer-than-usual voting session comes to a close. 

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

MEPs condemn 'repression' in Venezuela

European Parliament

Brussels

Protests in Venezuela
EPA

MEPs approve a motion expressing “grave concern” the political and economic crisis in Venezuela.

Nearly 30 people have been killed since the wave of protests against President Nicolas Maduro began last month.

The motion condemns the “brutal repression” against protests from the Venezuelan security forces, and calls for the “unconditional release of all political prisoners”.

The latest series of protests began after the Supreme Court took over powers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly on 29 March – a move condemned by MEPs as “undemocratic”.

It reversed its decision three days later, but opposition protesters were already on the streets in large numbers, seizing the opportunity to strike against Mr Maduro's government. 

MEPs back greater EIB investment

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs pass the motion they were debating this morning calling on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to give a greater share of investment to areas badly affected by the 2008 financial crisis.

The EIB is financed partially through money given by EU member states, but mostly by money it raises on international capital markets, mainly through issuing bonds. 

MEPs sign off EMA spending - with Brexit warning

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Canary Wharf in London
AFP

MEPs approve an audit report signing off 2015 spending from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

The report on the London-based EU agency notes that its current rental contract in Canary Wharf, which runs until 2039, does not include an early termination clause.

The report estimates that the payable rent until the end of contract could total €347m, and says any relocation costs should be considered as part of the Brexit talks.

The current contract was only signed in 2011 – when the report says “a potential exit of the UK from the Union was not foreseeable”. 

News welcomed

European Commission tweets

MEPs vote on audit reports

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs are now voting on a long series of reports from the budget control committee on whether to sign off on EU spending in various areas during 2015.

This process – known as “granting discharge” – is required by the Parliament’s treaty role to monitor and scrutinise the way the EU budget is spent.

It usually occurs in the spring, after the European Court of Auditors, the EU's auditing authority, has produced its annual report. 

MEPs back EU 'cultural heritage' year

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs also approve a proposal to designate 2018 as a “European Year of Cultural Heritage”.

Under the plans, around €8m from the EU budget would be spent on events and campaigns.

The money for the scheme will come from the Creative Europe budget line, as well as from EU structural, student exchange and research funds.

The idea was first mooted in 2014 – the European Parliament formally called for it during 2015. 

MEPs approve EU support for 'structural reforms'

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Office blocls at night
AFP

MEPs give final approval to legislation to increase the amount of EU administrative support offered to member states undertaking “structural reforms” to their economies.

The new law was proposed in late 2015 as part of a drive to encourage countries to better comply with reform recommendations issued by the Commission.

The new scheme would see the Commission offer increased research, advice and training to countries that requested assistance.

The proposed budget of €142m is to be redirected from a section of the EU budget called European Structural and Investment (ESI) funds. 

Voting soon

With the morning’s debates finished, MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will get underway shortly. 

Green MEP: Comment 'insulted women'

Debate on Greek bailout negotiations

European Parliament

Brussels

Ska Keller
EP

German MEP Ska Keller, who co-chairs the Green/EFA group, says the EU should live up to previous pledges for debt relief and should end the "austerity paradigm" in the country. 

She also takes aim at Mr Dijsselbloem over his comments in March, adding that describing women as something to "buy or spend money on", he has insulted "all the women in this house".

She adds: 

Shame on you, Mr Dijsselbloem, for disrespecting half of Europe's population."

Greek MEP: Greece is 'social cemetery'

Debate on Greek bailout negotiations

European Parliament

Brussels

Notis Marias
EP

Italian social democrat Roberto Gualtieri, who chairs the economic affairs committee, says he welcomes that Jeroen Dijsselbloem "recognises" his words were "inappropriate". 

Greek MEP Notis Marias, whose party forms part of the Syriza-led governing coalition in Greece, accuses the euro zone of turning Greece into a "social cemetery".

The changes demanded by the creditors, he adds, have led to public assets being "sold off for a pittance". 

Commissioner calls on MEPs to 'support reform process'

Debate on Greek bailout negotiations

European Parliament

Brussels

Pierre Moscovici
EP

Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici calls on MEPs to "support the reform process" in Greece.

He says the recovery in the Greek economy must be supported, and recent technical agreements should lead to the finalisation of the current review. 

He repeats the Commission's view that there should be a "more realistic" projection for the country's primary surplus in the final deal. 

The Commission will also monitor the "social impact" of the final agreement, including on pensions, he adds.  

Dijsselbloem: Interpretation of comments 'very unfortunate'

Debate on Greek bailout negotiations

European Parliament

Brussels

Jeroen Dijsselbloem
EP

Jeroen Dijsselbloem begins with an apology for not making the plenary debate earlier this month, which he puts down to "domestic political obligations" in the Netherlands. 

He apologises for offence caused by his comments to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, saying the linking of them to southern Europe was "very unfortunate".

"The last thing I want is to cause new divides", he adds. 

On the bailout negotiations, he says the "size and sequencing" of new budget demands has been agreed, with changes to pensions to come in during 2019 and income tax in 2020. 

He says he hopes the current review to free up the next round of payments is concluded "before the end of next month". 

Dijsselbloem and 'liqueurs and women' comments

This is the first time Mr Dijsselbloem has appeared before MEPs since making controversial comments in March during an interview with German newspaper Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung.

Making a point that anyone demanding EU solidarity also had obligations, he said: "I can't spend all my money on liqueurs and women and then go and ask for your support."

His comments were widely interpreted as an attack on indebted southern European states, although he later insisted his comments applied to all countries, north and south.

He declined to take part in a debate on Greece at the plenary session earlier this month, where several MEPs called on him to resign over the remarks. 

Jeroen Dijsselbloem
Reuters

MEPs to debate Greek bailout negotiations

Greek flags outside a shop in Athens
Reuters

MEPs will shortly be joined by Dutch finance minister and current Eurogroup President Jeroen Dijsselbloem to debate negotiations on the latest stage of Greece’s bailout programme.

Eurozone ministers are under pressure to agree on the latest tranche of payments due under the country’s third bailout package, agreed in 2015.

Greece needs the next payment under the plan before July, when it is due to make debt repayments private and public sector creditors, including the European Central Bank.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has so far refused to sign on to the plan, arguing that Greece should be granted debt relief. 

MEP outlines opposition to Parliament motion

Debate on the EIB annual report

European Parliament

Brussels

Nils Torvalds
EP

Finnish Liberal Nils Torvalds says his ALDE group will be voting against the Parliament's motion on the annual report, adding that it is "skewed in many respects".

He says his colleagues should remember the EIB is a "bank not a charity".

Independent Irish MEP Luke Ming Flanagan says he worries about the possibility of the EIB money being used to invest in military projects. 

"Ireland is a neutral country, and we intend to stay so", he adds. 

MEPs chime in with investment suggestions

Debate on the EIB annual report

European Parliament

Brussels

Croatian Liberal Ivan Jakovcic says the EIB should focus on achieving a "better geographic distribution" and increasing investment in rural areas. 

Polish centre-right MEP Dariusz Rosati says the bank has had a successful year, particularly in its "micro" loans to smaller businesses, which have "sustained a large number of jobs". 

He adds that more should be done to promote joint investments from public authorities and businesses - so-called "public-private partnerships". 

Dariusz Rosati
EP

Hoyer: EU investment plan 'a success so far'

Debate on the EIB annual report

European Parliament

Brussels

Werner Hoyer
EP

European Investment Bank (EIB) chief Werner Hoyer thanks MEPs for drawing attention to the bank's "important work" outside the EU. 

Within the bloc, he says that "large differences" remain between different areas, and that "intelligent" ways must be found to make the most of limited public funds. 

He says the bank hopes an EU initiative to streamline its financial services legislation will make it easier to release more private funds. 

He says the Commission's flagship investment programme has been "a success so far", with the evidence stating that it "favours smaller countries" and those hit by economic crisis. 

Commissioner hails partnership with EIB

Debate on the EIB annual report

European Parliament

Brussels

Pierre Moscovici
EP

Economic Affairs Commissioner Pierre Moscovici tells MEPs the Commission has an "essential" strategic partnership with the EIB. 

He says this includes support for smaller businesses, building infrastructure and fighting climate change. 

He adds that commissioners support creating "new financial instruments" to bring down the use of fossil fuels. 

Good morning

EIB headquarters
BBC
The EIB is headquartered in Luxembourg

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

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be joined by European Investment Bank (EIB) chief Werner Hoyer to debate its annual report for 2015.

The EIB is financed partially through money given by EU member states, but mostly by money it raises on international capital markets, mainly through issuing bonds.

Later today MEPs will vote on a draft motion calling on the EIB to give a greater share of investment to areas badly affected by the 2008 financial crisis.