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Summary

  1. MEPs debate this month's European Council summit
  2. Commissioner defends rule of law during debate on Catalonia
  3. They also discuss mis-spending of EU funds in 2016
  4. New body to prosecute fraud against EU budget debated

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

And with that, tonight's debate comes to an end.

MEPs are back for the final day of this plenary session tomorrow, when they will first debate a committee report into European prison conditions.

Debates on human rights motions will follow, with three motions put to the vote from 11.00 BST.

MEPs debate safety of lorry drivers

Migrants sit in front of a lorry near Calais
AFP

Finally this evening, MEPs will be debating the safety of lorry drivers on EU roads.

It follows the death of a van driver in Calais after it crashed into a lorry that had been forced to stop because of a blockade of tree trunks set up by migrants.

The tactic has reportedly been used by migrants wishing to slow lorries so they can jump aboard.

In an oral question, MEPs from the centre-right EPP group say drivers are facing “unprecedented challenges” and ask what more can be done at an EU level to improve safety.

MEPs debate fate of journalists held in Spain

Hamza Yalçin
EPA
Hamza Yalçin (L) held a press conference with his lawyer last week

MEPs are now debating the arrest of two writers with dual Swedish-Turkish and German-Turkish nationalities in Spain.

Hamza Yalçin and Doğan Akhanlı were held in August after Turkey requested their extradition using Interpol "red notices”.

They have both subsequently been granted conditional release but have to stay in Spain whilst Turkey’s extradition requests are considered.

Dogan Akhanli has written extensively about human rights in Turkey; Hamza Yalçin lives in Sweden where he edits a Turkish-language online publication which is critical of the Ankara government.

Turkey faces criticism around Europe for its treatment of journalists after the 2016 failed coup.

MEP: EU prosecutor 'necessary' for enforcement

Debate on EU prosecutor for budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Maite Pagazaurtundua
EBS

Spainsh liberal Maite Pagazaurtundua gives her support for the new agency, which she says is "absolutely necessary" because of doubts about some national prosecutors.

This will prevent EU funds being spent on criminal or terrorist activity, she adds.

Portuguese Communist Joao Pimenta Lopes says he is opposed to the EPPO because it "reduces the possibility" of national prosecutors to intervene.

It will end up with the EU prosecutors "going over the heads" of national constitutions and legal systems, he says.

MEPs disagree over agency participation

Debate on EU prosecutor for budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jan Philipp Albrecht
EBS

Another German MEP, the Green Jan Philipp Albrecht, says Hungary and Poland would "do themselves a favour" by deciding to join the scheme.

France is one of the countries taking part - but Front National MEP Gilles LeBreton says he is opposed to the idea, as it will "take away powers from national prosecutors".

Co-operation on cross-border cases should be on a "case-by-case basis", he adds.

German MEP: Hungary and Poland should join

Debate on EU prosecutor for budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann
EBS

German social democrat Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann says it is regrettable that both Hungary and Poland have decided not to participate in the new body.

She adds that this is especially so since both countries are among the biggest per capita recipients of EU spending - and calls upon both countries to join.

EPPO – the back story

EU flags outside the European Parliament
BBC

Plans to create the body were first tabled in 2013 but initially failed to win the required backing of all national governments.

The UK was among countries that expressed concern about the plans – and like Denmark and Ireland, has chosen to use its right to opt-out.

Having failed to reach the required agreement of the remaining 25 countries, a total of 20 member states have now agreed to set up the body anyway using a special procedure.

Last week French President Emmanuel Macron suggested there should also be a European prosecutor for investigating terrorism and organised crime.

EU budget prosecutor 'will be game-changer' - Commissioner

Debate on EU prosecutor for budget

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Vera Jourova
EBS

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says effective investigations are "essential" to counter abuses.

The new body will permit a "truly European" approach in conducting these investigations, she adds, calling it a "game-changer".

There should be "no duplication" of work with the EU anti-fraud agency OLAF, she pledges.

She adds that the remaining states who have not decided to join will be welcomed with "open arms" if they decide to do so at a later date.

MEPs debate new EU prosecutor for budget

A gavel
BBC

MEPs are now debating legislation to set up an EU body charged with investigating and prosecuting cases of fraud against the bloc’s budget.

Currently allegations of fraud involving EU funds are handled by national prosecutors.

The new European Public Prosecutor’s Office (EPPO) will be based in Luxembourg, charged with overseeing special EU prosecutors in participating member states.

MEPs will decide whether to ratify the draft legislation tomorrow, but are not able to amend it. Under the plan, the EPPO will not be able to start work for at least another three years.

MEP: Error rate decline 'should be recognised'

Brian Hayes
EBS

Irish Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes says that, since EU funds are a small part of total public money spent within the member states, it needs to be spent "to the best of our abilities".

It is "not fair", he says, for some MEPs not to recognise the "significant improvement" in the error rate over the last three years.

MEP: EU rules should be simplified

Debate on European Court of Auditors report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Joachim Zeller
EBS

German Christian democrat Joachim Zeller says the decline in the error level to 3.1% is "encouraging".

He says that the error rate can reflect the complexity of EU spending rules more than actual fraud - and calls for another look at simplifying them.

Czech Liberal Martina Dlabajova says the "usefulness and added value" of projects should also be reviewed.

ECA chief: Spending backlog 'higher than ever'

Debate on European Court of Auditors report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

ECA President Klaus-Heiner Lehne tells MEPs that there has been a "sustained improvement" over the last few years in the error level of spending.

He says that in 2016, "around half" of EU spending was found to be below the 2% target.

He adds that this led the Court to deliver a "qualified" opinion on the health of the accounts rather than an "adverse" one - the first time since the statements began in 1994.

He warns however that the backlog of unpaid spending commitments is "higher than ever" and resolving the issue should be a priority.

Klaus-Heiner Lehne
EBS

MEPs debate EU mis-spending in 2016

Euros
BBC

MEPs will now be joined by European Court of Auditors (ECA) President Klaus-Heiner Lehne to discuss levels of mis-spending of EU funds last year.

Last week the ECA’s annual report found that 3.1% of EU funds were mis-spent during 2016.

This is a drop on the 3.8% recorded for spending in 2015, but still above the ECA’s 2% target.

The body also sounded the alarm over a huge backlog of €238m in unpaid spending commitments that may need to be sorted in the next long-term budget from 2020.

Spanish MEP: Treaty 'imposes liberal economic model'

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Miguel Urban Crespo
EBS

Spanish Podemos MEP Miguel Urban Crespo says the treaty has been used in an undemocratic manner to "impose a liberal economic model" on the signatory countries.

Incorporating it into the treaties will only exacerbate the tensions between EU states, he adds.

Swedish centre-right MEP Gunnar Hokmark says that austerity is caused by countries not being able to control their deficits.

Reigning in public spending to an appropriate level will instead "hinder the road to austerity", he adds.

MEPs debate 'fiscal compact' treaty

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That's the debate on Catalonia finished - MEPs are now debating attempts to incorporate the “fiscal compact” into the EU’s treaties.

A total of 25 out of the then 27 EU members signed up to the pact in 2012 – the Czech Republic and the UK opted out.

The treaty requires states to incorporate balanced budget rules into their national legislation, and gives the EU’s top court the power to fine those who break them.

An article in the treaty states that “necessary steps” should be taken to do this before January next year.

Timmermans: 'Dialogue should start immediately'

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Summing up the short debate, Frans Timmermans tells MEPs that respect for the rule of law is the only way "for the European Union as a whole to function".

It is, he says, the "only thing that protects the weak from the powerful".

He reiterates that "the only way forward is dialogue", which he says should start "immediately".

Spain 'has handed initiative' to Catalan nationalists

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Raymond Finch
BBC

UKIP's Raymond Finch also condemns the Spanish authorities' handling of the vote, which he calls "brutal and counter-productive".

Their actions have "handed the initiative" to the Catalan nationalists, he adds - whilst the EU has used "legalistic verbiage" in place of proper condemnation.

He tells MEPs that in their actions, the Spanish government has created "a template that every independence movement on our continent can use to promote unrest".

His ex-colleague Steven Woolfe, who now sits as an independent, accuses the EU of being "critically silent" over the use of police force.

Support from SNP member of staff

SNP member of staff at Scottish Parliament tweets

EU should act as 'honest broker' - Green MEP

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ska Keller
BBC

German MEP Ska Keller, a co-leader of the Green/EFA group, says Spain should "refrain from using police violence against peaceful people".

The dispute must be solved politically, she says.

She says that the European Commission should be prepared to get involved as an "honest broker" between the Spanish and Catalan authorities - saying this is "not just an internal matter".

"This is something I would really expect from the European Union", she adds.

Verhofstadt: Vote 'lacked legitimacy'

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Guy Verhofstadt
BBC

Liberal ALDE group leader Guy Verhofstadt tells MEPs that the vote "lacked democratic legitimacy".

However, he says the violence in Barcelona was "deplorable", adding that there must be moves to create "inclusive dialogue".

French left-wing MEP Patrick Le Hyraric accuses the European Commission of inaction, adding that it is "leaving a European nation to tear itself apart".

The Commission, he adds, "should not be embarrassed" about acting as a mediator in the crisis.

Polish MEP: EU operating 'double standards'

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ryszard Antoni Legutko
BBC

Polish MEP Ryszard Antoni Legutko, from the right-wing Law and Justice party, accuses the European Commission of "double standards".

He says he agrees that the Commission should exercise "self-restraint" but tells MEPs that this should be done "consistently but not selectively".

And he calls the Spanish government's handling of the crisis "appalling", saying "riot police and violent scenes" will not help its cause.

Pittella: Use of force 'disproportionate'

Debate on Catalan referendum

Gianni Pitella
BBC

The leader of the Socialist and Democrat group, Italian MEP Gianni Pitella, also criticises the "unhelpful and pointless" referendum on the weekend.

He calls on the Catalan authorities not to unilaterally declare independence, which he says would "lead to further conflict".

At the same time, he says the way the crisis has been handled by the Spanish government "could have been different" and says the use of force was "disproportionate".

He adds that the Spanish socialists had put forward "perfectly viable" constitutional changes in the past that were rejected by the government.

Weber: Catalan authorities 'irresponsible'

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Manfred Weber
BBC

German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right EPP group, says that his group considers the referendum "not valid".

The EPP group houses the Spanish MEPs from the governing Popular Party of Mariano Rajoy.

The constitution of Spain should only be changed by democratic institutions, he says, adding: "Mass demonstrations will not change the constitution."

Calling the Catalan government "irresponsible", he adds that if Catalonia leaves the EU then it would also be leaving the European Union.

Timmermans: Rule of law 'cannot be ignored'

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Frans Timmermans
BBC

European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans tells MEPs that there is "general consensus" that Catalan authorities "chose to ignore the law".

He says that respect for the rule of law is "fundamental", adding that laws can be changed but not ignored.

He says there were "saddening images" from Catalonia but notes that ensuring respect for the law "sometimes does require the proportionate use of force".

Mr Timmermans repeats the Commission's position that the vote was "not legal".

He calls for "dialogue" between the Catalan authorities, but underlines that the crisis should be resolved "in full respect of the Spanish constitution".

UKIP criticises lack of speaking time

Debate on Catalan referendum

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jonathan Arnott
BBC

UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott intervenes to protest against the short speakers' list for this debate.

Allowing for only one speaker from each group, he says, means the issue "cannot truly be debated".

MEPs to hear Catalonia statement

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Protests in Barcelona against the police during a general strike
Getty Images
Yesterday saw protests against the police during a general strike

Welcome back to coverage of this plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

MEPs will shortly be joined by European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans to debate the fallout from last weekend’s disputed referendum in Catalonia.

Following the vote, the leader of the autonomous region has said Catalonia will declare independence from Spain in a matter of days.

Nearly 900 people were hurt as police violently tried to enforce a Spanish court order suspending the vote, which the government had declared illegal.

On Monday the European Commission said events were an internal matter for Spain, but some have called on the EU executive to act as a mediator.

Votes finish

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

After a break the sitting will resume at 14.00 BST with a debate on the situation in Catalonia following the disputed referendum last weekend.

The debate will see European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans make a statement to MEPs.

Debate continues

MEP tweets

MEPs approve new ferry rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ferry in the English Channel
PA

MEPs also give final approval to a series of new EU safety requirements for passenger ships such as ferries.

The three new pieces of legislation include:

  • an update of EU fire safety rules for ships longer than 24m
  • new requirements for shipping firms to digitally register passenger details
  • inspection rules for high-speed and car-carrying ferries

MEPs approve decision on access to visa data

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs approve a decision by EU member states to allow Bulgaria and Romania to read information in the Schengen area's visa information system.

This is a precondition for allowing the two countries to participate in a new border system for the passport-free zone planned for 2020.

Bulgaria and Romania are not part of the Schengen agreement – but EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently said they should be allowed to join "immediately".

Voting to begin soon

That's the debate on this month's EU leaders' summit finished.

There will now be a short break before the voting session, which begins at 11.00 BST.

Dublin regulation 'needs to be updated'

Debate on EU leaders' summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Responding to the debate, European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans says he has "taken careful note" of the comments about the Catalan referendum.

He says he will be making a statement on the matter during this afternoon's debate.

On migration, he tells MEPs that the current Dublin regulation "needs to be adapted for the world of today and tomorrow".

Although he acknowledges disagreement over "parts of the package" between EU states, he says he still believes the package of changes proposed is "the only way forward".

Lead MEP: Forget unanimity for new migration rules

Debate on EU leaders' summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German social democrat Birgit Sippel says the EU must do more to deal with the "source of migration" by offering "better prospects" to countries outside Europe.

This should include "better channels for labour migration", but there should also be more efficient re-admission agreements, she adds.

Cecilia Wikstrom, the Swedish liberal MEP who is Parliament's lead negotiator on the reform of the Dublin regulation, says the assembly has put forward ideas for "ambitious and realistic" changes.

Predicting that EU states will "never find unanimity" on the issue, she says a vote under the qualified majority rules "is good enough" to put a new system in place.

Cecilia Wikstrom
BBC

End of the Spanish monarchy?

Debate on EU leaders' summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

More on the situation in Catalonia, as left-wing MEP Marina Albiol Guzman calls for Mariano Rajoy to step down over his handling of the vote.

The Catalan vote could even herald the "end of monarchy", she says.

This prompts an intervention from Spanish liberal MEP Beatriz Basterrechea.

Waving aloft a copy of Spain's 1978 constitution, she says people in Spain, including Catalonia, voted for a "democracy based on a monarchy".

Beatriz Basterrechea
BBC

MEPs spar over Catalan referendum

Debate on EU leaders' summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jordi Sole
BBC

There's a heated exchange on the subject of Catalonia after Catalan nationalist MEP Jordi Sole accuses Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy of violating fundamental rights in his reaction to the weekend's disputed referendum.

The Spanish police were guilty of "repressing peaceful crowds who just wanted to vote", he adds.

Carlos Iturgaiz, an MEP from Mr Rajoy's Popular Party, intervenes to denounce the referendum as "a coup that goes against the constitution".

In reply, Mr Sole says a coup cannot be perpetrated by "those who turn up at the ballot box", adding: "to cast a vote is not to conduct a coup, it's democracy".

Carlos Iturgaiz
BBC

AfD MEP: Migrants 'should not be encouraged to come'

Debate on EU leaders' summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Beatrix von Storch
BBC

Beatrix von Storch, from the Alternative for Germany (AfD) which has entered the German parliament for the first time after the recent elections, says EU leaders will only "touch upon" the issue of migration.

She tells MEPs that it is "the most important issue before us".

She adds that although Europe should be prepared to help refugees, people should not be "encouraged to come" .

However Dutch liberal Sophia in't Veld says the biggest problem confronting Europe is not migration but "paralysis, stagnation and the lack of courage".

Verhofstadt: Speeches cannot fall flat

Debate on EU leaders' summit

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Guy Verhofstadt
BBC

Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Liberal ALDE group, calls for greater collective action between the institutions of the EU to enact changes.

Referencing recent speeches by Jean-Claude Juncker and Emmanuel Macron, he says it should not be "business as usual" that calls for reforms fall flat "like a soufflé".

Another Belgian MEP, Philippe Lamberts, the co-leader of the Green/EFA group, calls for the EU to act act as a mediator between the Catalan and Madrid governments after the disputed referendum.