Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Summary

  1. MEPs debate independence of Czech media
  2. New design for Schengen visa approved at vote
  3. However MEPs vote to change EU tariff reductions for Ukraine
  4. MEPs also back reduced VAT rates on e-books

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

And with that, today's plenary sitting comes to an end.

The next plenary session will take place in Strasbourg between 12-15 June.

Short speeches begin

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

New Schengen visa design approved

Voting session

MEPs also give their backing to an updated design for EU visas required to enter the passport-free Schengen zone.

The EU Commission says the current visa sticker, in circulation for around 20 years, is at risk of counterfeiting and fraud.

A new sticker design was announced in 2015 in a bid to clamp boost security and clamp down on forgeries.

MEPs seek to change EU-Ukraine imports plan

Voting session

Combine harvesters in a wheat field
Reuters

MEPs take their initial position on a proposal to increase the amount of eight agricultural products from Ukraine that can be imported into the EU tariff-free.

The European Commission has proposed 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.

MEPs have backed amendments from the international trade committee opposing any new quotas for wheat, tomatoes and urea, a kind of fertiliser – fearing it would lower prices for EU producers.

However they decide not to put the amended text to a "first reading" vote at this stage - preferring instead to send it back to committee.

This is a common tactic to give them greater time in the negotiations with national trade ministers.

5G rollout backed in report

Voting session

People using mobile phones
PA

MEPs also give their approval to a non-binding report from the assembly’s industry and energy committee backing the EU’s plan to roll out 5G internet in urban areas by 2025.

The document calls for an explicit deployment timetable for the scheme, and signals the need for the plan to be backed up with "adequate investments".

The report says this is vital to avoid the "same kinds of delays" experienced with previous attempts to expand network coverage for 4G.

MEPs back lower VAT rates for e-books

Voting session

E-book
BBC

First up, MEPs give their backing to a proposal to change EU rules to allow countries to charge a lower rate of VAT on e-books.

Under current laws, the reduced rate often applied to physical books and newspapers cannot be applied to electronic publications.

The European Commission proposed the law change last year – it must now be agreed by national governments.

The European Parliament must be consulted on the plans, although it does not have the power to amend or block them.

Votes soon

That's this morning’s debates finished - the voting session will begin at 10.30 BST.

Commissioner outlines mixed picture on Convention adoption

Debate on property rights of vulnerable adults

European Parliament

Brussels

Vera Jourova
EBS

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova tells MEPs that a Commission survey last year showed that 9 EU states have notified and ratified the Hague Convention.

An additional 7 have signed, with Portugal, Latvia and Ireland set to ratify this year. She says Slovakia has not studied joining, whilst Spain and the Netherlands have ruled it out on cost grounds.

MEPs debate property rights of vulnerable adults

Old person uses a zimmer frame
BBC

MEPs are now debating a draft report from the legal affairs committee recommending greater co-operation between EU states over the property rights of vulnerable adults, such as those receiving care.

The report notes that the legal protection afforded to this group often means their freedom of movement rights are difficult to exercise.

It calls on the European Commission to put “political pressure” on EU countries that have not yet ratified the Hague Convention to do so.

Signatories to the Convention, established in 2000, agree to abide by a set of common rules on legal standards for protecting vulnerable adults’ property rights.

Commissioner backs 'long overdue' design update

Debate on new EU visa design

European Parliament

Brussels

Cecilia Malmstrom
EBS

Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says she hopes for a positive vote later today, noting that it has taken nearly two years to reach agreement on the new visa design.

Easily-forged visas, she says, enable "all sorts of crime" and improved security is "a long time overdue".

MEPs debate new EU visa design

Security control at Helsinki airport
Reuters

MEPs are now debating an EU regulation to update the design standards for EU visas to enter the passport-free Schengen area.

The EU Commission says the current visa sticker, in circulation for around 20 years, is at risk of counterfeiting and fraud.

A new sticker design was announced in 2015 in a bid to clamp boost security and clamp down on forgeries.

MEPs will vote later this morning on whether to back the new design. Parliament’s lead committee on the file has recommended approving the Commission’s proposals.

MEPs express concerns over media ownership

Debate on Czech media freedom

European Parliament

Brussels

Ingeborg Grassle
EBS

German Christian democrat Ingeborg Grassle however says the structure of media ownership in the Czech Republic is a "source of concern".

Czech Communist Jaromir Kohlicek says that the ownership by wealthy businessmen poses "a real danger".

Czech MEPs criticise choice of debate

Debate on Czech media freedom

European Parliament

Brussels

Jan Zahradil
EBS

Another Czech MEP - Jan Zahradil, from the Civic Democratic Party - says there is "no threat to media freedom" in the Czech Republic.

He adds that problems in media ownership are general to many countries, and that this morning's debate is "unnecessary" and the country should not be "pilloried in this manner".

Pavel Telicka, from the same ANO party as Andrej Babis, says he is also "not sure" why this matter is being debated in the European Parliament.

He points out that press freedom surveys last year ranked the Czech Republic "well above" both France and the UK.

'No systemic manipulation' - Czech MEP

Debate on Czech media freedom

European Parliament

Brussels

Ludeck Niedermayer
EBS

Czech MEP Ludeck Niedermayer, from the centre-right TOP 09, says it would be wrong to think Czech democracy was "coming up against a brutal wall" of political and economic interests.

He adds that the way politicians use TV in the country is something "that many countries know", and more EU intervention is "the last thing we need".

Czech social democrat Pavel Poc strikes a similar line, adding that there is "no systematic manipulation" of the media by the government in the country.

However he says that, like in a number of countries, there is a risk to competition in media ownership.

Good morning

Andrej Babis
Reuters
Mr Babis, who leads the centrist ANO party, is also a wealthy businessman

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

First up this morning, MEPs have been joined by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to debate the independence of the media in the Czech Republic.

The debate was added after a leaked recording allegedly showed former deputy prime minister Andrej Babis instructing a journalist at his media group debating whether to release information that might harm a political rival.

Earlier this week a European Commission official said the incident did not warrant EU intervention.