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Summary

  1. MEPs debate plans for new EU scheme to boost skills
  2. They also discuss the Nord Stream gas pipeline
  3. MEPs call on Aung San Suu Kyi to “unequivocally” condemn attacks on Rohingya Muslims
  4. Three other topical human rights motions approved

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Sitting ends

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

MEPs have two Strasbourg plenary sessions next month - the first between 2-5th, and the second between 23rd and 26th.

MEPs react to forest fires question

Topical question on forest fires

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ivan Jakovcic
EBS

Centre-right Portuguese MEP Fernando Ruas says that that although national governments remain primarily responsible for the response, the EU should play a co-ordinating role.

He calls for money from the cohesion fund to be released "as soon as possible".

Croatian Liberal Ivan Jakovcic says the EU should ask itself whether enough is being done to prevent such fires.

UKIP MEP Bill Dartmouth says the best way to combat forest fires is to "do it locally".

He says that although neighbours "should help out", the affected communities do not need the "slow-moving" assistance of the European Commission.

MEPs probe on EU forest fire support

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Fires in Portugal
Reuters
Fires in Portugal have killed dozens this year

MEPs are now debating the EU’s response to forest fires this summer in Italy, Portugal, Croatia, France, Spain and Greece.

In a question for topical debate, a number of MEPs have asked the European Commission whether money from the EU’s solidarity fund can be released to help finance repairs.

They also want the EU executive to clarify whether it is planning new legislation to tackle fires and drought, such as providing funding for the construction of firebreaks.

Short speeches begin

That's the voting session finished - MEPs will now be able to make speeches explaining how they voted.

Funds legislation for small firm lending approved

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Next up, they approve EU legislation announced last summer which would amend frameworks for two types of investment fund.

The first aims to help small fund managers invest in small businesses, whilst the second aims to promote investment in social undertakings.

MEPs reached a provisional agreement on the new law in June, which they will put to a final vote at tomorrow’s voting session.

They have agreed to increase the initial capital from €30,000 – as proposed by the European Commission – to €50,000.

MEPs ratify EU-Chile deal on organic products

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also vote to ratify a bilateral recognition agreement in trade in organic products between the EU and Chile.

In addition, they approve a report from the international trade committee recommending updates to the EU’s 2002 trade agreement with the country.

MEPs on the committee have recommended adding chapters on small businesses, investment and sustainable development.

It also recommends using the new investment court system to resolve trade disputes.

Human rights motion passed

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also pass the human rights motions they debated this morning, which:

  • call for the immediate release of Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha
  • condemn attacks and restrictions against opposition figures and journalists in Gabon
  • call for the release of three Lao rights activists arrested last year
  • call on Aung San Suu Kyi to “unequivocally” condemn alleged attacks on Rohingya Muslims.

MEPs take position on new disability access rules

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Cash machine
Reuters

MEPs take their initial position on new EU rules that would create minimum accessibility requirements for disabled people for a range of products and services.

The proposed European Accessibility Act would update requirements for ATMs, ticketing machines, mobile phones, TVs and banking services, among others.

Yesterday the European Parliament’s lead negotiator said the legislation would need to strike a balance between improving access and not overly burdening businesses.

MEPs decide not to put their position to a "first reading" vote at this stage, instead deciding to enter into informal negotiations with national ministers first.

Votes begin

That’s this morning’s debates finished – MEPs will now move on to today’s voting session.

Mogherini condemns Myanmar military 'excesses'

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini
EBS

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that the EU is "aware and concerned" of "excesses" perpetrated by soldiers in Myanmar.

These have led to massive flows of refugees into neighbouring Bangladesh, she adds, and a situation which is "completely unacceptable".

The EU has also condemned attacks from the Rohingya Salvation Army, she notes.

She urges the authorities to show the democratic system in the country can be "shared" across ethnic and religious divides.

The EU has added €3m to the €12m it has previously given towards humanitarian efforts in both Myanmar and Bangladesh, she tells MEPs.

MEPs debate response to Rohingya crisis

Debate on human rights motions

Aung San Suu Kyi
Reuters

The fourth and final motion calls on Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, to “unequivocally” condemn alleged attacks by soldiers on Rohingya Muslims.

Some 379,000 Rohingyas have fled to Bangladesh since violence began last month.

Myanmar's military says it is fighting Rohingya militants and denies reports that it is targeting civilians – but the UN has accused the government of ethnic cleansing.

Ms Suu Kyi will miss a UN Security Council debate next week amid criticism of her handling of the crisis in Rakhine state.

The draft motion raises the possibility for MEPs to “consider” whether its Sakharov human rights prize could be stripped from Ms Suu Kyi - but stops short of calling for it explicitly.

Motion presented on arrests in Laos

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The third motion this morning calls for the release of three Lao rights activists arrested last year for criticising the government on social media.

Amnesty International says the trio were sentenced to between 12 and 20 years in prison following a “secret trial” held in April.

The draft motion signed by five political groups calls on EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini to “urgently raise” the matter with the Laotian government.

The text also accuses Laos of engaging in the “harassment and arbitrary arrest” of human rights activists and journalists.

Motion questions political freedom in Gabon

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ali Bongo
AFP
Mr Bongo took office in 2009

The second motion condemns “attacks, use of force and severe restrictions” against opposition figures, activists and journalists in Gabon.

It follows initial bans – now lifted – on opposition leader Jean Ping and others from leaving the country after they called for civil disobedience to oust President Ali Bongo.

The draft motion says the African country made a commitment to respect democracy, the rule of law and human rights as part of the Cotonou Agreement with the EU.

It also urges Gabon to conduct a “thorough and expeditious reform” of its electoral rules, taking account of the recommendations made by EU observers.

EU observers questioned the legitimacy of last year's presidential elections - leading Mr Bongo to accuse them of "overstepping their mission".

Labour MEP: Values should come with trade

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Labour MEP David Martin says the developments show the freedom of expression is "under attack" in Cambodia - and says opposition parties must have the "space to operate" at next year's election.

He says the EU should "remind" Cambodia that it will have given €400m to the country between 2014 and 2020, and granted it preferential trade relations.

This was granted on the basis that the rule of law would be respected, he says, adding: "I hope they will respect that".

MEPs debate arrest of Cambodian opposition figure

Debate on human rights motions

Kem Sokha
EPA

The first motion calls for the immediate release of Cambodian opposition leader Kem Sokha, who was charged with treason in the country earlier this month.

A draft motion backed by five of the European Parliament’s political groups describes the charges as “politically motivated” and says the climate for opposition figures is "worsening".

Mr Sokha has been accused of colluding with the US to conspire against the Cambodian government. If found guilty, he faces up to 30 years in jail.

His National Rescue Party was seen as a contender in next year’s general election to the ruling party led by strongman Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than 30 years.

Human rights debates begin

That’s the debate about plans to extend the Nord Stream gas pipeline finished.

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

Commissioner: 'No need' for pipeline

Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Commissioner Canete
EBS

Commissioner Canete tells MEPs that the EU Commission considers there is "no need" for the pipeline extension from the point of view of EU energy policy.

The new pipeline would not increase the diversity of energy supply, nor provide a new source of gas, he says - and risks "further concentration" of supply in the hands of Russia's Gazprom.

Outside these "political considerations", he says, there are also worries that the pipeline could be built in a "legal void" because parts of it fall outside EU jurisdiction.

The request for a specific negotiating mandate is to ensure the project conforms to "the main principles of EU and international energy rules", he says.

He says a "significant number" of member states have expressed their agreement with the idea, but that some are neutral, some have not expressed opinions - and "a few" are opposed.

MEPs debate Russia-Germany gas pipeline

Gas pipes
AFP

Commissioner Canete stays with MEPs to debate a planned extension to the Nord Stream gas pipeline which runs from Russia to Germany.

Some central and eastern European states have expressed concern the extension might undermine EU plans to diversify its energy supply away from Russia.

The Danish government is trying to get a law through parliament which would allow it to block construction on foreign policy and security grounds.

The EU Commission – which is charged with making sure the project meets energy market rules – recently asked member states for a new legal basis to negotiate with Russia.

The body said the offshore sections of the new pipeline fall outside the EU’s jurisdiction, putting them in a “specific situation” from a legal point of view.

However the move has been interpreted as throwing the issue back to national governments to resolve between them.

Commissioner outlines 'progress' in skills schemes

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete
EBS

Represneting the Commission, Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete tells MEPs that since its launch last year, the new strategy is "going in the right direction".

He says the Commission is in agreement with MEPs that skills and education are the "sole basis of prosperity" for Europe in a fast-changing world.

A new "digital skills and jobs coalition" has resulted in training for 7m people, he says - and a new digital opportnuities scheme will provide internships.

There has also been "good progress", he adds, with the establishment of the Europass - an EU scheme which tries to make qualifications better understood across borders.

MEP: More digital skills needed

Debate on EU skills plan

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Martina Dlabajova
EBS

Czech Liberal Martina Dlabajova says it is vital that "the needs of the labour market" are addressed in any plan for education and skills.

Up to 20% of Europe's workforce, she says, is "functionally illiterate", whilst many also lack the digital skills that will required in the future.

Science and technology subjects should be promoted, she says, along with an "entrepreneurial spirit".

Good morning

Hello and welcome to the final day of this week’s European Parliament plenary session in Strasbourg.

The sitting will be getting underway soon, when MEPs will be debating plans for a new EU scheme to promote skills.

The EU lacks formal powers over education but attempts to promote student schemes, internships and measures to help people who want to move around to work or study.

A report from the Parliament’s employment committee to be voted on later says the new scheme should promote “soft skills” as well as more traditional work skills such as literacy and numeracy.