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Summary

  1. MEPs debate levels of fraud in 2015 EU spending
  2. They also discuss efforts to boost cross-border recognition of professional qualifications
  3. Debate on motion proposing food waste reduction targets

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow...

That's it for our coverage of this plenary sitting this evening...

MEPs will be back tomorrow morning at 08.00 BST, when they will debate the EU's quota scheme for sharing out asylum seekers.

The Head of African Union Commission will make a speech at 11.00 BST.

The afternoon session kicks off with debate on Syria.

MEPs will also discuss reported crackdown against gay people in Chechnya. 

Commission 'not considering' changes to EU VAT law

Debate on food waste targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

Summing up, Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tells MEPs that the Commission does not consider EU-wide food waste targets to be "necessary", given existing UN-level targets. 

He adds that the precise information about food wastage needs to be better collected before binding EU targets could be proposed. 

He adds that the Commission thinks national authorities should bear in mind reducing VAT on food that is donated near its sell-by date - but that changes to the EU's VAT directive "are not being considered". 

MEP: EU should not be 'paternalistic' on food waste

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Stanislav Polcak
BBC

Czech centre-right MEP Stanislav Polcak says that reducing food waste is a matter for personal commitment.

He calls for an "intensive information campaign" to raise awareness of the issue, but warns that the EU should avoid becoming "too paternalistic" when it comes to intervening in people's lives.  

MEPs suggest options for food waste

Debate on food waste targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Maria Heubuch
BBC

German Green Maria Heubuch says using food waste to create energy can be "one option" to reduce the amount of food thrown away.

Polish centre-right MEP Andrzej Grzyb says the "major scale" of food wastage should make them look at using it in processing by industry.  

MEP backs use of food waste in animal feed

Debate on food waste targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Julie Girling
EBS

Conservative MEP Julie Girling backs the use of food waste in animal feed. 

She says this would be a good idea, "so long as public health is adhered to". 

Dutch Liberal Jan Huitema says the European Commission should consider making the rules surrounding the labelling of some food products more flexible. 

UKIP MEP warns against 'EU bureaucracy'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Julia Reid
EBS

UKIP MEP Julia Reid says she agrees that food waste figures are very high and are a "matter of great importance".

However she says that action should be taken at a global, not European level, through national parliaments. 

This would avoid the need for "further EU bureaucracy", she adds. 

MEPs back report's ambitions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Flemish nationalist Mark Demesmaeker says the figures on food waste in Europe are "appalling". 

He says he backs an "action plan" to reduce food waste in line with the targets set out the committee's report. 

German Liberal Ulrike Muller says that each EU citizen throws away an average of 2kg of food each week.

She says there should be greater awareness among consumers and says there should be more education about sell-by dates.  

Ulrike Muller
EBS

Food waste 'shameful' - Commissioner

Debate on food waste targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Vytenis Andriukaitis
EBS

Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tells MEPs that food waste is "shameful" in a world where more than 800 million people go hungry every day. 

He says the Commission will assess ways to improve knowledge of "best before" and "use by" dates.

However he does not comment specifically on the report's suggestion for new reduction targets. 

MEPs debate food waste targets

Rubbish bin
Getty Images

MEPs are now debating a draft report from the environment committee calling on the Commission to produce a new action plan for reducing food waste.

It recommends that the Commission proposes legally binding waste reduction targets for EU states within the next three years.

It suggests these targets should aim to reduce waste by 30 % by 2025 and 50% by 2030, compared to the level recorded in three years ago.

It also calls on the Commission to change EU law to explicitly allow countries to exempt food donations from VAT. 

The draft report will be put to a vote tomorrow. It does not have any legal force. 

Current EU plan 'not totally fulfilled'

Debate on EU-wide recognition of qualifications

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Monika Smolkova
BBC

Slovakian social democrat Monika Smolkova says that a lack of recognition of different qualifications has effectively hindered the functioning of free movement. 

She says she backs the Commission's new framework, arguing that the current one has not been "totally fulfilled". 

Liberal MEP calls for better recognition of volunteering skills

Debate on EU-wide recognition of qualifications

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Maltese centre-right MEP David Casa says greater awareness of different qualifications will help people find jobs and employers fill posts. 

Romanian Liberal Renate Weber says there is a lack of recognition of skills gained during volunteering.

She adds that  EU candidate countries should be encouraged to apply the Framework, so that if they do end up joining, their citizens are better able to cope with the demands of the European labour market. 

Renate Weber
BBC

Commissioner: New scheme 'evolution not revolution'

Debate on EU-wide recognition of qualifications

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Also representing the Commission in this debate, Marianne Thyssen tells MEPs that the Qualifications Framework has been "a success story".

She says that in the ten years since it was set up, 24 EU countries have implemented its referencing recommendations and others will follow suit. 

She pledges that the new Framework, to be announced at a meeting next week, is an "evolution not a revolution".

She stresses that the ultimate goal of the scheme is to promote greater understanding and transparency for different qualifications, not to harmonise national awards. 

MEPs to debate EU-wide recognition of qualifications

Students on their graduation day
BBC

MEPs are now debating the European Qualifications Framework, an EU scheme which aims to boost recognition of professional qualifications between member states.

The European Commission has said it wants to revise the scheme as part of a forthcoming review of its programme for promoting skills.

Members of the employment committee have tabled an oral question asking for a justification for the revision, arguing the current programme has been “only partially implemented”.

They also say the current scheme’s objectives have “not yet been fully achieved”.

MEPs will set out their recommendations in a motion vote on Wednesday. 

Commissioner: 'No straight answer' on irregularities increase

Debate on fraud levels in EU budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Marianne Thyssen
BBC

Summing up the debate, Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen tells MEPs that "continuous improvements" will be required to strengthen the fight against fraud. 

She says there is "no straight answer" as to why the number of reported irregularities has increased.

She adds, however, that the ability of national authorities to detect fraud is what counts.

In response to questions from MEPs about EU protections for whistle-blowers, she says that the European Commission is currently assessing the need for any new rules. 

A decision will be made in July this year, she says.

MEP argues against EU budget prosecutor

Debate on fraud levels in EU budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Italian MEP Marco Valli, from the Five Star movement, says there should be greater transparency when it comes to the awarding of public procurement contracts. 

German Conservative Bernd Kolmel says he disagrees with the idea of setting up a new EU body to prosecute cases against the organisation's budget. 

It would not necessarily lead to more proceedings being opened, he adds, and might put limits on national prosecutions doing the same. 

Bernd Kolmel
BBC

MEP: Fraud 'damages reputation' of EU

Debate on fraud levels in EU budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Christian democrat Ingeborg Grassle tells MEPs that the low detection rate comes from a lack of harmonisation between EU states on how to define what counts as fraud. 

Bulgarian Liberal Nedzhmi Ali says the EU's institutions need to work harder to protect spending from irregularities and fraud. 

He adds that fraud levels can "damage the reputation of the Union". 

Nedzhmi Ali
BBC

Commissioner backs EU budget investigation body

Debate on fraud levels in EU budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Marianne Thyssen
BBC

Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen tells MEPs that legal updates in recent years have "significantly reinforced" the EU's capacity to protect its spending. 

She repeats the Commissions's backing for an EU body charged with investigating and prosecuting cases of fraud against the bloc's budget. 

Plans to create a European Public Prosecutor's Office (EPPO) were first tabled in 2013 but have so far failed to win the necessary backing among national governments. 

It is possible that, if agreement cannot be found, a smaller number of governments may push ahead with the idea under a special enhanced co-operation rule.

An EPPO has "significant potential" to improve the current situation, she says. 

MEP: Co-operation on fraud discovery 'insufficient'

Debate on fraud levels in EU budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Julia Pitera
BBC

Polish centre-right MEP Julia Pitera, from the budgetary control committee, says there is a lack of common rules for reporting fraud in member states. 

She says that taxpayers' money must be defended but co-operation is "insufficient" and the discovery of irregularities is hampered by delayed implementation of some EU rules in certain member states. 

So-called cohesion spending, where the EU gives money towards infrastructure projects in poorer regions, has particularly high rates of irregularities, she adds.

MEPs to debate fraud in EU budget

Berlaymont building in Brussels
Reuters

With no changes having been made to the week’s agenda, MEPs are now debating a European Commission report on cases of fraud in EU spending during 2015.

The report found over 22,349 “irregularities” relating to collecting and spending EU funds during the year – of which 1,461 (6.5%) were reported as fraudulent.

Other causes of irregular spending can be due to administrative errors, such as a lack of proper paperwork and accounting. Around 80% of EU spending is managed by national authorities.

On the spending side, the number of fraudulent cases went down by a tenth compared to the previous year, but the amounts involved increased by 55%.

Tomorrow MEPs will vote on a report from the budgetary control committee which says co-operation between the EU Commission and governments on fighting fraud is “not effective enough”.

Good afternoon

Welcome to live coverage of today’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which will be getting underway shortly.

The sitting will kick off 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.