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Summary

  1. MEPs debate EU infrastructure spending
  2. Human rights motions passed on Zambia, Ethiopia and South Sudan
  3. Call for EU asylum seeker relocation targets to be prolonged
  4. MEPs approve rules on widening access to online TV abroad

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

That's all from our coverage of this final day of this month's plenary sitting in Strasbourg.

The next plenary meeting takes place in Brussels on 31 May and 1 June, with a full plenary sitting between 12-15 June in Strasbourg.

Votes end - short speeches begin

That's today's voting session finished. MEPs can now make short speeches to explain how they voted.

MEPs call for extension of asylum seeker relocation targets

Voting session

Migrants and refugees
AFP

MEPs pass a non-binding motion expressing disappointment about the efforts of member states to take in asylum seekers from Italy and Greece under an EU quota scheme.

The motion calls on the Commission to extend the scheme until agreement is found on a proposed update to the EU’s Dublin regulation.

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 this September, only 18,000 have actually been made.

MEPs pass new rules for online TV access

Voting session

TV screens
Reuters

MEPs give their backing to legislation which would allow people who have paid for online TV content to access it all over the EU.

It comes after they reached a provisional agreement on the new rules with national ministers in February. The rules are expected to come into force in the first half of next year.

The new law would require TV companies to offer access to paid-for online services to customers if they are in a different EU member state for “a limited period of time”.

Under the rules, broadcasters will have to conduct checks to verify a user’s normal country of residence before access is allowed.

Broadcasters such as the BBC whose income depends on a licence fee can offer their subscribers access if they set up a verification scheme. However, they will not be required to do so.

MEPs pass human rights motions

Voting session

MEPs have passed the three human rights motions they debated this morning, which:

  • call for an investigation into the treatment of detained Zambian opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema
  • call for the release of Ethiopian opposition leader Merera Gudina
  • condemn attacks on aid workers in during the civil war in South Sudan

Votes soon

With the debates on the human rights motions finished, MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will get underway soon.

MEPs debate motion on civil war in South Sudan

The third and final motion condemns attacks on aid workers during the civil war in South Sudan.

At least 79 aid workers have been killed in South Sudan since the conflict started in December 2013, the UN said in March.

The civil war began as a dispute between the Dinka President Salva Kiir, and former Vice-President Riek Machar who is Nuer.

The UN recently said that the conflict had seen nearly two million flee to neighbouring countries, of which 62% were children.

The draft motion also calls for an immediate and complete cessation of armed conflict by all sides and to bring perpetrators of rape to justice.

Refugees in Sudan
AFP
Many refugees have fled to neighbouring Sudan

MEPs discuss arrested Ethiopian politician

Debate on human rights motions

The second motion calls on the Ethiopian government to release prominent opposition leader Merera Gudina.

Mr Merera was detained last December after criticising the state of emergency imposed last year in an address to the European Parliament.

The government imposed curbs following months of anti-government protests by members of the country's two largest ethnic groups.

The motion says the additional restrictions are “preventing free expression and severely limiting diverse and legitimate views on Ethiopian society”.

Commissioner urges implementation of EU mission recommendations

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Corina Cretu
BBC

Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu tells MEPs that the EU hopes to remain a "key partner" of Zambia, despite the "various challenges the country is facing".

She says the Commission is advocating the implementation of recommendations made by an EU electoral observation mission.

MEPs debate motion on Zambian opposition leader

Debate on human rights motions

The first motion expresses concern at the imprisonment of Zambia's opposition leader Hakainde Hichilema, who was detained last month on suspicion of treason.

Mr Hichilema is accused of obstructing the motorcade of President Edgar Lungu when it was travelling to a traditional ceremony.

The draft motion calls for a “prompt, impartial and thorough” investigation into allegations that he has been mistreated in prison.

It also urges the Zambian government to “continue its efforts to restore full media freedom”.

Hakainde Hichilema
Reuters
Hakainde Hichilema stood as a candidate in last year's presidential elections

Human rights debates next up

That’s the debate on EU cohesion spending finished.

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

UKIP MEP dismisses 'self-promotion' of cohesion spending

Debate on EU cohesion spending

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Raymond Finch
BBC

UKIP MEP Raymond Finch says there is "no such thing as EU funding" and dismisses the projects as "self-promotion" and an "expensive carnival parade".

He adds that the projects could have been implemented more cheaply and effectively at a national level.

He predicts that the plaques put on buildings that receive EU grants may turn out to be "gravestones for your expansionist empire".

Italian MEP on civil service training

Debate on EU cohesion spending

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Andrea Cozzolino
BBC

Italian social democrat Andrea Cozzolino says that a major challenge for cohesion spending in the future will be ensuring that local civil servants can make use of the EU instruments on offer.

Polish conservative Miroslaw Piotrowski says that there is still an expectation in poorer EU countries that cohesion spending will be available to level the playing field with richer ones.

However he says that many of the financial instruments developed prior to the financial crisis are "not adequate".

Commissioner signals importance of grants

Debate on EU cohesion spending

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Corina Cretu
BBC

Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu says the EU executive is committed to finding the "proper balance" between loans and grants in cohesion spending.

She adds that certain building projects - such as schools and hospitals - will not make money for investors and thus can only be financed from grants.

A "large part" of cohesion spending will always come from grants, she says, and "that can't be otherwise".

However she says the Commission wants to make countries aware of the different kinds of funding instruments available to them - adding that sometimes even national ministers aren't fully aware of all the tools provided by the EU.

MEP: Better training for civil servants needed

Debate on EU cohesion spending

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Croatian conservative Ruza Tomasic, who has drafted the second motion, says that providing better training will be "what it comes down to" in the next cohesion spending round, due to start in 2020.

She says that in post-Communist countries, the efficiency of administrative procedures is a "major issue".

She adds that the EU should provide more information about what activities are eligible to receive technical assistance.

Good morning

Construction site in Berlin
Reuters

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

The session will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be debating two reports from the regional development committee on the EU’s cohesion spending.

This refers to EU money spent on infrastructure projects designed to boost economic growth in poorer parts of member states.

The first report calls for the right mix between grants and repayable loans to support cohesion policy.

The second says that EU-provided technical assistance to member states should take better account of regional and local differences.