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Summary

  1. Sitting opens with minute's silence for Manchester attack victims
  2. MEPs debate new EU measures for transport sector
  3. Trade relations with Ukraine and Sri Lanka discussed later
  4. Debate on boosting digital industries closes sitting

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

And with that, tonight's sitting come to an end.

MEPs will be back tomorrow at 07.30 BST, when they will debate the independence of the Czech media.

They will also discuss a new design for EU visas, and a proposal to increase the amount of certain food products that can be imported into the EU tariff-free.

Short speeches begin

Finally this evening, there will be a round of short one-minute speeches from backbench MEPs.

This item of business, also held during Strasbourg plenary sittings, is normally used by MEPs to make points about topical issues or stories of interest to their country or region.

MEPs debate digital industries and 5G rollout

People using phones
PA

Next tonight MEPs are discussing two non-binding draft reports from the assembly’s industry and energy committee.

The first gives general backing to the EU’s strategy for digital industries announced last year.

It calls for more money to be given towards funding the so-called digital innovation hubs proposed as part of the strategy.

The second backs the EU’s plan to roll out 5G internet in urban areas by 2025, and calls for a more explicit deployment timetable.

MEPs debate UN fishing conference

Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella has joined MEPs to debate the forthcoming UN conference in New York on ocean management.

MEPs on the fisheries committee have asked the European Commission how it intends to support worldwide efforts to clamp down on illegal and unregulated fishing.

MEPs debate remit of EU rights agency

MEPs are now debating a new five-year working plan for the EU’s fundamental rights agency.

The Vienna-based body – which employs 90 members of staff – was set up a decade ago to help advise EU and national bodies on rights issues.

Tomorrow MEPs will vote on a draft recommendation ratifying the new plan.

However Parliament’s lead negotiator on the matter has said approval should be given on condition that member states agree to include police co-operation in criminal matters in the remit.

EU states tried to remove this area of responsibility from the Commission’s proposals in November.

New trade ties with Sri Lanka up for discussion

Debate on tariff reductions for Ukraine

Factory worker in Sri Lanka
Reuters
Textiles are Sri Lanka's biggest export to the EU

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom will stay with MEPs to debate the recent decision to grant Sri Lanka better trade access to the EU market.

Tariffs on a number of products, including textiles and fish, were removed earlier this month.

The new trade concessions, under the EU’s Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) scheme, have been granted on the condition that Sri Lanka improves its human rights record.

Specifically, the country has promised to implement 27 international conventions that it has ratified on areas such as labour conditions and environmental protection.

Sri Lanka saw some preferential trade ties scrapped by the EU in 2010 over reported human rights violations.

MEPs clash over new quota rates

Debate on tariff reductions for Ukraine

European Parliament

Brussels

Heidi Hautala
EBS

Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala says that the European Parliament's opposition to some of the new tariff quotas is a "missed opportunity".

Adding that it is legitimate to use trade as part of the EU's external policy, she says that MEPs' position is "hypocritical".

French Front National MEP Philippe Loiseau however condemns the new trade measures as "unfair" and "ideological".

It is European farmers, he adds, who will have to "pay the price" of the policy, he adds.

Commissioner defends quota plans

Debate on tariff reductions for Ukraine

European Parliament

Brussels

Cecilia Malmstrom
EBS

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom defends the Commission's initial proposals, which she calls "reasonable and balanced".

The Commission is not proposing any new tariff quotas for "the most sensitive" products, such as poultry and fruit, she says.

She adds that the opening position from the European Parliament "significantly" reduces the scope of the original plan and is a "source of concern".

She tells MEPs that additional imports of urea will provide a "cheaper alternative" to imports from Russia, whilst additional imports of products like honey will probably just displace imports from China.

She pledges to consider "reinforcing" the safeguard mechanism in the new scheme that would protect European producers if imports rise above a certain level.

MEPs debate new tariff reductions for Ukraine

Combine harvesters work on a wheat field
Reuters

MEPs are debating a proposal from the European Commission to increase the amount of eight agricultural products from Ukraine that can be imported into the EU tariff-free.

The EU executive has proposed the increased tariff-rate quotas for maize, barley, wheat, barley groats, processed tomatoes, oats, honey and grape juice, as well as certain fertilizers.

The new quotas were proposed last year in a bid to support the struggling Ukrainian economy.

The international trade committee has provisionally backed the plan, but is opposed any new quotas for wheat, tomatoes and urea, a kind of fertiliser – fearing it would lower prices for EU producers.

Tomorrow MEPs will outline their initial position ahead of negotiations with national trade ministers.

EU 'well equipped' on anti-Semitism laws

European Parliament

Brussels

Vera Jourova
EBS

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says that the EU is "well equipped" to tackle anti-Semitism through existing legislation.

She adds that a recourse to criminal justice must be a "last resort" - but that more must be done to show that anti-Semitism is unacceptable.

Ex-UKIP MEP expresses fears over 'broad' definition

European Parliament

Brussels

However ex-UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe says he is worried about the idea of adopting the IHRA's working definition, which he says is "broad and wide".

Although he says the idea is "well meaning", it could be used to constrain the freedom of speech, he says.

"Go back to the drawing board, please", he adds.

Spanish MEP backs adoption of anti-Semitism definition

European Parliament

Brussels

Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar
EBS

Spanish Socialist Juan Fernando Lopez Aguilar gives his support to one aspect in a draft motion supported by his group - for EU bodies to adopt a "working definition" of anti-Semitism.

It proposes that this should be that proposed by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) - which the UK adopted last year.

He notes that this definition should have "nothing to do" with "legitimate criticism" of the construction of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, although Israel disputes this.

Estonian official: 'Alarming increase' in abuse

Debate on anti-Semitism

European Parliament

Brussels

Matti Maasikas
EBS

On behalf of the incoming Estonian EU presidency, Estonia's deputy minister for EU affairs Matti Maasikas says he has "deep concern" about the current situation.

He says data from various agencies how shown an "alarming increase" in intolerance and hatred towards Jews.

He says that a response to the problem ends with criminal sanctions, but starts with education and proper data collection about abuse.

MEPs debate anti-Semitism in Europe

MEPs have now been joined by Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to debate EU efforts to tackle anti-Semitism.

The EU appointed Katharina von Schnurbein, a former press officer at the European Commission, to be its first co-ordinator on combating anti-Semitism in late 2015.

MEPs will set out their recommendations in a non-binding motion to be adopted tomorrow.

MEP calls for 'proper contributions' from EU states

Debate on EU external strategy

European Parliament

Brussels

Jasenko Selimovic
EBS

Swedish Liberal Jasenko Selimovic says that resilience-building should be more about anticipating future crises rather than simply responding to them.

EU states should also back up their ambitions with "proper financial contributions", he adds.

Spanish Podemos MEP Lola Sanchez Caldentey says efforts to improve the resilience of societies should go beyond the "narrow" consideration of security.

New strategy to include 'lessons learned' - Commissioner

Debate on EU external strategy

European Parliament

Brussels

Vera Jourova
EBS

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says the updated resilience strategy will be adopted at the beginning of June.

She says that the new document will be built on a 2012 document and "lessons learned" on the ground.

She adds that the new policy will call for EU engagement "at multiple levels" - not just with governments, but with charities and NGOs.

She says it will also set out ways to involve firms from the private sector in development projects.

MEPs debate EU external policy

MEPs are now debating how the EU can promote “resilience” in countries to the south and east as part of its external and security policies.

The term is usually used to describe how well a country or organisation receiving aid can withstand sudden shocks or crises, such as natural disasters.

The European Commission is due to issue an updated strategy in this area.

An oral question from the assembly’s development committee asks the Commission to clarify how it intends to learn from previous EU policies in this area.

Commission: Poverty remains priority

Debate on new EU development strategy

European Parliament

Brussels

Neven Mimica
EBS

International Development Commissioner Neven Mimica says that the primary objective of the new strategy remains the elimination of poverty.

It sends an "important political message" that EU states are prepared to work together on development, he says.

Estonian official: Strategy 'sends important signal'

Debate on new EU development strategy

European Parliament

Brussels

Matti Maasikas
EBS

On behalf of the incoming Estonian EU presidency, Estonia's deputy minister for EU affairs Matti Maasikas says the new strategy will guide activity "for years to come".

He is standing in for representatives of Malta - which currently holds the presidency but is preparing for a snap election this weekend.

The new strategy will send an "important signal to the global community" on the EU's commitment to the new sustainable development goals, he says.

Development strategy under spotlight

MEPs are now debating the EU’s new development strategy, which national ministers adopted earlier this month.

The strategy sets out how EU countries intend to meet the UN’s new sustainable development targets, which are due to be met by 2030.

The document calls for greater co-ordination between EU and national authorities when it comes to reaching the targets, which it says should also contribute to the promotion of human rights.

MEPs will vote tomorrow on a non-binding motion welcoming the new strategy.

MEPs calls for 'same protection' for drivers

Debate on new EU transport measures

European Parliament

Brussels

Kathleen Van Brempt
EBS

Dutch social democrat Kathleen Van Brempt says that the "same rules and same social protection" must be in place for drivers from Eastern and Western European companies.

She also calls for the EU to "assume its responsibility" following the news earlier today that President Donald Trump is poised to pull the United States out of the Paris climate accord.

UKIP MEP Jill Seymour says that smaller operators must not be "run off the road" by new regulation.

She adds that protecting the single market should not be used as an "excuse" to harmonise national laws on road safety.

Former trucker criticises new proposals

Debate on new EU transport measures

European Parliament

Brussels

Peter Lundgren, an MEP from the Eurosceptic Sweden Democrats (and former truck driver), states his opposition to the Commission's proposed 5-day rule for "cabotage" deliveries.

If enacted, the new regulations would allow Danish drivers to carry out unlimited deliveries within Sweden during the period, he says.

He says this will mean the country will be "inundated" with foreign drivers, which will damage companies that want to pay "decent wages".

The new proposals are worse than the current rules, he adds.

MEPs split over new rules

Debate on new EU transport measures

European Parliament

Brussels

Pavel Telicka
EBS

On the package of new measures, Czech Liberal Pavel Telicka urges MEPs to "give it a chance".

The ultimate priority, he adds, should be to refine rules to ensure the adequate functioning of the European single market.

However Danish left-winger Rina Ronja Kari says the new rules amount to "full deregulation" of the labour market for those in the haulage sector.

These will be "close to a disaster" for drivers, she adds.

Commissioner: EU to 'simplify' driver rules

Debate on new EU transport measures

European Parliament

Brussels

Violeta Bulc
EBS

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc tells MEPs that today's package of measures will include new rules to "simplify" cabotage rules by basing them on timed worked.

She adds that during the consultation period, the current rules were widely described as "too difficult to enforce".

As part of the new measures announced today, drivers would be able to conduct unlimited cabotage operations within 5 days of an international delivery.

At the moment, EU rules allowed for 3 cabotage operations within 7 days of deliveries.

MEPs debate new transport rules

Motorway traffic
PA

MEPs have now been joined by Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic and Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc, who will formally unveil new EU proposals for the transport sector.

Earlier this month MEPs called for “ambitious” EU carbon dioxide reduction standards for trucks and buses.

They also called for future legislation to clarify rules for “cabotage” – when drivers work in another EU state whilst making deliveries there.

EU rules say drivers posted temporarily away from home should be guaranteed the minimum conditions and pay in the host nation – but critics say firms can exploit loopholes in the law.

MEPs observe minute's silence for Manchester victims

European Parliament

Brussels

At the request of European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, MEPs observe a minute's silence to remember the victims of this month's terror attack in Manchester.

The attack, he says, was an act of "inhuman violence".

MEPs
EBS

Good afternoon

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

The sitting will be getting underway shortly with administrative announcements, after which MEPs can make points of order or request changes to the agenda.

Proposals to change the agenda have to be made at least one hour before the sitting starts, and can be made by one of the Parliament’s committees, one of its political groups, or a group of 40 MEPs.

Changes to the agenda have to be approved by a simple majority – this can be done on a show of hands, with an electronic vote to check a close vote.