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Summary

  1. MEPs debate the EU's quota scheme for sharing out asylum seekers
  2. Head of African Union Commission makes speech to MEPs
  3. Afternoon session kicks off with debate on Syria
  4. MEPs discuss reported crackdown against gay people in Chechnya

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow...

That's it for tonight - MEPs will be back tomorrow at 08.00 BST when European Council President Donald Tusk will join them to debate the EU's recently-agreed guidelines for the Brexit negotiations. 

UN chief Antonio Guterres will make a speech at 11.00 BST.

At lunchtime there will be a vote on various motions suggesting whether the EU should take action against Hungary over a new law threatening the future of the Central European University. 

In the afternoon, they will debate legislation which would allow people who have paid for online TV content to access it all over the EU. 

MEPs debate tech innovation in financial sector

Trading floor
AFP

Finally tonight MEPs are debating a report on behalf of the economic affairs committee about how new technologies will affect the future of the financial services sector.

The report recommends that financial regulation authorities should allow “controlled experimentation” of new tools to promote innovation.

I also underlines that supervisory authorities will need to acquire new technical expertise to keep pace with “increasingly complex” new services. 

Commissioner on 'green card' legislative scheme

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Representing the EU Commission, Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides repeats the EU executive's desire to be "big on the big things and small on the small things".

He says that commissioners support the establishment of a "green card" system for national parliaments to not just oppose, but suggest new laws. 

He adds that this is effectively already in action, with the Commission "reflecting" ideas submitted by 18 parliamentary chambers in its new "circular economy" legislation announced in late 2015. 

What’s in the report?

Debate on EU legislative card scheme

The European Commission’s report says it received 21 “reasoned opinions” objecting to EU laws from national parliaments in 2014.

This represents a 78% fall from the previous yet, when it received 88.

The draft motion to be voted on tomorrow notes that this decrease may be “a result of the declining number of legislative proposals by the Commission”.

The yellow card procedure has only been invoked by parliaments three times since its introduction in 2009 – with no laws so far having been blocked as the result of an orange card.

Critics of the system have argued that use of the card procedure so far does not reflect the number of concerns about the scope of EU legislation. 

MEPs debate EU cards scheme

Yellow card
AFP
National parliaments can oppose EU laws using the 'yellow card'

MEPs are now debating a report from the European Commission on use of the “yellow card” and “orange card” procedures to object to EU laws during 2014.

They will set out their reaction in a non-binding motion to be voted on tomorrow.

The card scheme allows national parliaments to object to new EU rules by issuing “reasoned opinions” within eight weeks of new legislation being published.

However, a new law can only be blocked if half of parliamentary chambers object and over half of the EU’s national governments agree.

David Cameron pledged to strengthen the system to introduce a “red card” procedure – allowing parliaments to block laws – as part of his now-abandoned renegotiation of UK membership. 

MEPs debate situation in Moldova

MEPs are now debating the political situation in Moldova, where the parliament recently passed at first reading a bill to change the country’s electoral system.

If passed at a final reading, the new law would replace with current proportional system with a mixed election system.

Opposition figures have said the bill was aimed at helping the ruling Democratic Party to stay in power.

Protests in Moldova
EPA

MEPs debate reported homophobic attacks in Chechnya

LGBT activists in Berlin
AFP
The reported attacks sparked protests in Berlin

MEPs are now debating a reported crackdown against gay people in Chechnya.

Reports of a campaign against gay men by Chechen security forces have been trickling through since early April when they first appeared in the Russian newspaper Novaya Gazeta.

The Chechen government has denied the allegations – claiming that gay people “simply don't exist” in the republic.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has backed an inquiry – but in an oral question, a number of MEPs have accused the Russian authorities of ignoring the facts. 

Commissioner: Returns should be voluntary

Debate on closure of Dadaab refugee camp

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Christos Stylianides
BBC

Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides says 23,000 refugees have been returned to Somalia this year despite the court ruling. 

He says the EU says any returns must be "voluntary, dignified and sustainable" - but admits that this is "a huge challenge" at the moment. 

He says that peace in Somalia is the only way to solve the refugee crisis in the region in the long run. 

MEPs debate shutdown of Dadaab refugee camp

People inside the Dadaab refugee camp, Kenya
AFP

MEPs have been joined by Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides to debate the Kenyan government’s plans to close the massive Dadaab refugee camp by the end of this month.

A directive to shut the camp and forcibly repatriate about 260,000 Somali refugees living there was issued last year – but blocked by the Kenyan High Court in February.

But the government has vowed to appeal the ruling, claiming the camp has become an incubator for the Somalia-based al-Shabab terror group.

Mogherini: Religion a 'fundamental right'

Debate on persecution of Christians in Middle East

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that the EU retains human rights "at the centre" of its foreign policy, including the "fundamental right" of religion. 

However she says this is "not just a human rights issue" - but of preserving cultures in the region. 

The disappearance of Christians from the Middle East would change the region's culture, she adds, and be a "dangerous drift". 

Federica Mogherini
BBC

'Increasing discrimination' against Christians in Europe - MEP

Debate on persecution of Christians in Middle East

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ryszard Antoni Legutko
BBC

Polish MEP Ryszard Antoni Legutko accuses the EU and wider West of an "inadequate" response to the killing of Christians in the Middle East. 

He says this can be explained by the attitude to Christians within Europe, where he says they are becoming "the object of increasing discrimination".

Spanish Socialist Javi Lopez says the EU should "make use of the diplomatic tools available to us" to do what it can to protect Christians.

MEPs debate persecution of Christians

MEPs are now debating the persecution of Christians in the Middle East.

The European Parliament said that Islamic State (IS) is guilty of committing genocide against Christians and Yazidis, as well as other ethnic minorities, in a vote last year. 

EU should 'open up political space'

Debate on Syrian civil war

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Boris Zala
BBC

Slovakian social democrat Boris Zala says that the EU's large humanitarian aid donations "doesn't translate into any real influence". 

He says that, given its lack of military power, it is difficult for the EU to get involved in geopolitics. 

He says the organisation should concentrate on "opening up political space" for the UN-led negotiations to succeed and providing assistance to ensure war criminals are brought to justice. 

Labour MEP warns against 'uprooting entire administration'

Debate on Syrian civil war

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Neena Gill
BBC

Labour's Neena Gill says it is imperative to learn the lessons from previous interventions in Iraq.

She says that although this means "leaders who kill and maim" must face justice, those "without blood on their hands" can have a role in rebuilding the country after the conflict. 

"Uprooting an entire administration will lead to yet another failed state", she adds. 

MEP decries 'hand-wringing' over Syria

Debate on Syrian civil war

European Parliament

Strasbourg

James Carver
BBC

UKIP's James Carver says MEPs are simply engaging in "one of our sessions of hang-wringing".

He calls on the EU to "forget regime change" and says the record of European powers of using force to try installing democracy in the Middle East is "not too impressive". 

He says the EU should focus on "dealing with the extremists " in Syria before "even more make their way to Yemen". 

EU 'should do more with Nato'

Debate on Syrian civil war

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Anna Elzbieta Fotyga
BBC

Polish centre-right MEP Anna Elzbieta Fotyga says they would be "right to be sceptical" about plans for de-escalation zones given broken ceasefires in the past.

She also calls for the EU to do more with "other Nato partners". 

MEP - EU must use 'leverage' in Syria

Debate on Syrian civil war

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Marietje Schaake
BBC

Dutch Liberal Marietje Schaake says the Assad regime is capable of "limitless brutalities".

The EU is "not where it has to be", she says, although she welcomes the increased unity shown by the bloc's new Syria strategy adopted last month. 

The EU must use its "leverage" as a humanitarian donor and contributor to post-conflict reconstruction to push harder for a political solution, she adds. 

Mogherini: EU has 'special role' in conflict resolution

Debate on Syrian civil war

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini
BBC

Federica Mogherini kicks off the debate by telling MEPs the EU has a "special role to play" in the drive towards a political solution, despite not being militarily involved.  

This makes the organisation "stronger" when it comes to mediation, she argues - and that the EU's focus on humanitarian aid makes it a "trusted political actor". 

She says that "those responsible" for the reported chemical attack in north-western Syria last month must face the consequences. 

She reiterates that peace will only come in the form of a political settlement, through the process taking place in Geneva led by the UN. 

Good afternoon

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

The sitting will resume shortly, when MEPs will be joined by EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to discuss the bloc’s strategy in Syria.

The EU is imposing restrictive measures against regime-affiliated businesses and has been operating an arms embargo since 2011. The bloc has sent around €9bn in humanitarian aid.

The EU diplomatic service supports an end to the civil war through a political solution negotiated via the United Nations. 

Votes finished - short speeches follow

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

This will be followed by a break, after which the sitting will resume at 14.00 BST with a debate on the EU’s diplomatic strategy in Syria. 

MEPs call for EU action on food waste

Voting session

Rubbish bin
Getty Images

MEPs pass another non-binding 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. 

MEPs call more more co-operation on tackling EU budget fraud

Voting session

Berlaymont building in Brussels
Reuters

MEPs also back another report which says co-operation between the EU Commission and governments on fighting fraud in the EU budget is “not effective enough”.

The latest EU Commission report found over 22,349 irregularities relating to collecting and spending EU funds during 2015 – 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%.

MEPs back report on online services

Voting session

People using computers at a job centre
BBC

MEPs pass a non-binding report they debated yesterday that encourages public authorities to make more of their services available online.

The text suggests this would reduce costs and administrative burdens for both people and for businesses.

It says greater use of online systems will make it easier for public bodies to reuse information people have previously supplied when they make new applications.

It calls on the Commission to do more to help firms file company documents online – noting that new legislation “may be the only way” to provide a legal framework for this at an EU level. 

AU chief: 'Overlaps' on agenda with EU

Address from African Union Commission chief

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Moussa Faki Mahamat
BBC

Moussa Faki Mahamat tells MEPs that the after-effects of colonisation of Africa by European powers are "not going to disappear like magic". 

He says the collective scars of the past are "hard-wired" into the mind of Africans, but Europe and Africa now need to co-operate on the basis of "solid principles". 

He adds that there is an "overlap" between the agendas of the African and European Unions, with cooperation over humanitarian crises to take "centre-stage". 

Africa does "not get the full benefit" from climate change policies, he adds - and says the area must be a higher priority.

MEPs to hear from African Union chief

That’s the debate on the EU’s globalisation paper finished – today’s voting session will kick off in around half an hour.

Before that, however, MEPs will hear a speech from Moussa Faki Mahamat, the head of the African Union (AU) Commission.

The Commission implements AU policies and coordinates the body's activities and meetings.  

Mr Faki, who used to be Chad’s foreign minister, was elected in January this year. 

French Socialist MEP backs 'buy European Act'

Debate on EU globalisation paper

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Tokia Saifi
BBC

French MEP Tokia Saifi, from the centre-right Republicans party, calls on the EU to adopt greater restrictions on non-EU firms investing in certain areas. 

Companies from around the world must not be allowed to "take control of critical infrastructure", she adds.  

Another French MEP, Socialist Emmanuel Maurel, says the Commission's latest paper shows it has "finally realised that neoliberal globalisation can have negative effects".

He gives his backing to an idea suggested by another Emmanuel - the new President Macron - for a "buy European Act" to restrict access to public procurement projects to firms outside the EU. 

EU's rule-making role disputed

Debate on EU globalisation paper

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Bernd Lange
BBC

German social democrat Bernd Lange, who chairs the assembly's international trade committee, says he welcomes the emphasis on making new rules. 

He adds however that as well as the dealing with the "external" aspects of globalisation such as trade, more should be done to handle its "internal" aspects within the EU. 

UKIP MEP Bill Dartmouth says it is not true to think that the European Commission can "roll back" the tide of globalisation.

However he says the EU is guilty of setting restrictive rules that constrict economic growth that "destroys jobs". 

Dutch MEP: EU countries 'should be rule-makers'

Debate on EU globalisation paper

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch Liberal Marietja Schaake says that EU countries must become "rule makers and not rule takers".

In particular, she says the bloc should aim to set the rules of trade in emerging digital industries, as the United States "retracts" from a global leadership role. 

She says that globalisation has lifted many out of poverty and generated "mutual dependence" between countries that aids greater stability. 

Marietja Schaake
BBC

Commissioner: EU should shape globalisation

Debate on EU globalisation paper

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen tells MEPs that although globalisation has helped pull millions out of poverty, but its benefits have not been shared evenly. 

The EU should actively try to shape the future direction of globalisation, he adds.

He says that although this is a shared responsibility with member states, the EU could take action such as pushing for a "level-playing field" on tax and more "effective" trade defence tools. 

Jyrki Katainen
BBC

MEPs debate EU globalisation paper

Chinese steel workers
Reuters

MEPs are now debating the EU Commission’s recent reflection paper on globalisation.

The document, announced last week, presents globalisation as a positive force but admits that its benefits have been “spread unequally among people and regions”.

It added that the replacement of lower-skill jobs with automation may see manufacturing jobs relocated back to Europe but they will be “different from those that moved away years ago”.

Also no new legislation was announced, the paper called for “better enforcement” of global trade rules.

It also noted that although Europe has opened up access to its public contracts and companies, this access is not always reciprocated. 

Commissioner threatens action over quota refusals

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

Summing up the debate, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that EU states cannot show solidarity "a la carte". 

He says that those member states who have not taken in any relocated asylum seekers "should make progress immediately". 

If no action is taken within the next month, he adds, the EU Commission will consider "making use of our powers" - including opening infringement proceedings. 

"The Commission will politically and economically support its policy", he adds. 

Disagreements over EU penalties

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
BBC

Spanish Socialist Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar says the EU should consider imposing economic sanctions on those countries refusing to take in their quota share of asylum seekers. 

He suggests this could include withdrawing EU spending from such countries, which he admits would currently include Spain. 

He adds that the quota commitment was a legally binding commitment, and failure to follow through should also draw a legal response. 

However Czech centre-right MEP Tomas Zdechovsky says the relocation scheme is "utopian" and "never going to work". Dismissing the idea of sanctions, he adds: 

solidarity that has to be coerced is never going to work"

New Dublin rules: The state of play

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

Migrants on the Macedonian-Greek border
AFP

Plans for a permanent EU-wide resettlement system remain in the slightly different form of a proposed system of fines for countries that refuse to take a calculated “share” of asylum seekers.

The scheme is included in a proposed revision of the EU’s Dublin regulation announced by the European Commission last year.

The basic Dublin regulation would be kept, requiring refugees to claim asylum in the member state in which they arrive.

However a distribution system would kick in if countries receive "disproportionate numbers" of applications.

The legislation has only recently started its passage through the European Parliament, and faces stern opposition from some national governments.

Attempts to enforce the sharing out of refugees have received enthusiastic support from MEPs, who have long argued for greater EU co-operation over migration.

However it is possible that the Commission’s plans may have to be significantly altered to pass.

MEPs clash on quota plans

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Raymond Finch
BBC

UKIP's Raymond Finch says the question of what to do about migration has become an "existential" question for the EU.

He adds that policy in this area will determine whether the project is to be based on "co-operation" between states or whether the EU becomes a "centralised coercive structure". 

He says the EU should abandon its current policy in its own self-interest. 

However Hungarian social democrat Peter Niedermuller says that relocation is a demonstration of "our sense of responsibility".

He says that Italy and Greece cannot be left to deal with huge inflows of people or the asylum system "will collapse", jeopardising the future of the Schengen area. 

Don't 'point finger' at northern Europe - MEP

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Helga Stevens
BBC

Helga Stevens, from the conservative Flemish nationalist party, says it would not be right to "point the finger" at northern European countries for the low number of relocations. 

She says there is a "huge backlog" when it comes to registering people in Italy.

She also adds that relocation of migrants away from the south to the north is "already a fact" because many head northwards having crossed the EU's southern external borders. 

MEP: 160,000 target 'no longer relevant'

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

European Parliament

Brussels

Jeroen Lenaers
BBC

Dutch centre-right MEP Jeroen Lenaers says the original target of relocating 160,000 asylum seekers before September this year is "no longer relevant".

However he calls for protection for those who have the right to asylum. 

Italian social democrat Cecile Kyenge says that only two of the 28 EU states have "taken up their commitments" to take in asylum seekers. 

"Many others could do much more", she adds. 

Relocation: The status so far

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

Ship disembarks in Italy
EPA

Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against mandatory quotas when the scheme was controversially pushed to a vote in September 2015.

Hungary and Slovakia continued their opposition by challenging the plans in court, whilst the UK and Denmark exercised their treaty rights not to take part.

Poland is also refusing to take part in the scheme.

Austria recently agreed to take in 50 vulnerable migrants from Italy, although the country had previously asked for its existing exemption to be extended. 

Commissioner: Some EU states 'breaching obligations'

Debate on EU asylum seeker quotas

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that the EU's relocation quotas are "vital" for the success of the bloc's asylum policy. 

He says the policy does not just benefit Italy and Greece, but the whole EU by supporting the functioning of the passport-free Schengen zone. 

He adds that "further efforts" are needed from national governments to meet the targets, and that those refusing to fill their agreed quotas are "in breach of their obligations". 

Good morning

Refugee camp in Greece
Reuters

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

First this morning MEPs will be joined by Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos to debate the EU’s scheme to relocate migrants from Italy and Greece using binding quotas.

The EU pushed through a two-year scheme to redistribute 120,000 asylum seekers from struggling frontline states in late 2015, despite four member states voting against.

It came after an earlier emergency scheme to relocate 40,000 people, which stopped short of proposing fixed quotas for each country.

However out of the total 160,000 relocations promised before September this year, only 18,000 have actually been made.

MEPs will set out their position on the scheme – which it has repeatedly backed in the past – at a motion vote on Thursday.