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Summary

  1. MEPs debate report into Panama Papers tax leaks
  2. Its recommendations will be voted on tomorrow
  3. This afternoon MEPs debate Afghanistan and the Rohingya refugee crisis
  4. They also debate US move to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital
  5. Abuse of migrants in Libya and defence co-operation also on agenda

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

That's it for tonight - MEPs are back at 08.00 GMT tomorrow, when they will first debate last week’s interim deal on withdrawal issues between the UK and the EU.

After 11.30 GMT they will vote on a draft motion which recommends that EU leaders should agree to move to talks on the future relationship at their summit later this week.

MEPs will award their Sakharov human rights prize to political prisoners and the democratic opposition in Venezuela.

In the afternoon they will debate the future of the passport-free Schengen travel area and plans to beef up the the EU's Brussels-based disaster response team.

MEPs finish the night with...kebabs

Kebab spit
EPA

Finally tonight, MEPs are debating a proposal from the European Commission to authorise phosphate additives in frozen kebab meat.

Tomorrow, they are due to vote on a motion objecting to the authorisation on health grounds.

A resolution from the centre-left and Green groups says authorisation should be withheld pending the results of a scientific study due by the end of next year.

Some MEPs have health concerns about the additives and a possible link to cardiovascular disease, although this is disputed.

MEPs debate motion on Hong Kong

Hong Kong skyline
Reuters

Next tonight, MEPs are debating a motion drafted by the foreign affairs committee about EU relations with Hong Kong, 20 years after the handover from the UK to China.

The draft motion, which will be voted on tomorrow, accuses China of “constant interference” in Hong Kong which may put the "one country, two systems" model at risk.

When the city was handed back from British to Chinese rule in 1997, Beijing agreed to grant the city its own legal system, limited democracy with multiple political parties, and rights like freedom of assembly and free speech.

But China's growing influence has been met with unease and concerns that the mainland could undermine Hong Kong's more politically liberal traditions.

The motion also expresses concern at the “increasing harassment” of opposition political parties and the “refusal” of the companies registry to register some pro-democracy groups.

MEPs debate human rights report

Next tonight, MEPs are debating the foreign affairs committee’s annual report into human rights and democracy around the world.

The report upholds the EU’s policy of using trade as a tool to advance a “human rights and democracy” in countries outside the bloc.

It also expresses concern at the “increasing number of attacks” against religious minorities.

Debate on migrant evacuation plan begins

Ms Mogherini will stay with MEPs to debate an urgent evacuation plan devised two weeks ago for migrants facing abuse in detention camps.

The move follows the publication of video footage that appeared to show migrants from sub-Saharan Africa being sold in Libya as slaves.

Libya's UN-backed administration joined the agreement, which was drawn up at an African Union-European Union summit in Ivory Coast.

However, it has only limited control over the territory, raising questions about how it will work in practice.

MEP criticises 'adverse' timing of Trump decision

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Lars Adaktusson
EBS

Swedish MEP Lars Adaktusson says that Jerusalem has been "part of the state of Israel since its foundation".

He says recognising the city as Israel's capital is a "correct decision" but with "adverse timing".

However, he accuses Federica Mogherini of double standards when it comes to condemning unilateral diplomatic moves in the Middle East.

Although she expressed "deep worries" regarding Donald Trump's latest move, he says she did not do the same when Sweden recognised Palestinian statehood in 2014.

MEP condemns 'irresponsible' US move

Debate on status of Jerusalem

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Romanian centre-right MEP Cristian Dan Preda says the EU should be "more realistic" about its ability to influence events in the region.

"Simply repeating that we are in favour of a two-state solution will not make it materialise," he adds.

Portuguese Socialist Elena Valenciano condemns Donald Trump's move as an "irresponsible act", and says that it goes against international law.

Watch: Why Jerusalem matters

No alternative to dual-capital status for Jerusalem - Mogherini

Debate on status of Jerusalem

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini
EBS

Federica Mogherini's marathon performance continues, as she opens the debate on Jerusalem.

She says the EU believes Jerusalem should eventually be the "capital of two states" - of Israel in the west, and of a Palestinian state in the east.

There is no alternative solution that is "viable and sustainable", she says.

"This is the position of the entire European Union," she adds.

Debate on Trump's Jerusalem decision begins

Protests in Berlin against Donald Trump's decision
Reuters
Donald Trump's move prompted protests in Berlin

It looks like President Trump will stay at the tip of MEPs’ tongues for a little while longer, as the next debate is on his decision last week to recognise Jerusalem as Israel's capital.

President Trump's announcement reversed decades of US policy on the sensitive issue and has prompted widespread international criticism.

Yesterday Federica Mogherini said EU states would not recognise the city as Israel's capital before a final status peace agreement.

She spoke after meeting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who wants the EU to follow the US in doing so and called the US decision a recognition of "reality".

MEP: EU should not reject all criticism of deal

Debate on Iran nuclear deal

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Victor Bostinaru
EBS

Portuguese centre-right MEP Jose Manuel Fernandes says the EU should be open to improving the deal rather than "rejecting all criticism out of hand".

Romanian social democrat Victor Bostinaru however points out that that international regulators have said nine times that Iran is in compliance with the agreement.

He adds that even if EU and US economic sanctions relating to the nuclear deal have been lifted, separate sanctions relating to human rights abuses remain in place.

MEPs move to debate on Iran nuclear deal

Federica Mogherini will remain with MEPs to debate the implementation of the 2015 Iran international nuclear deal.

The initial framework lifted economic sanctions on Iran in return for limitations to the country's controversial nuclear energy programme.

Donald Trump has refused to re-certify the deal and has accused Iran of violating some of its terms. The US Congress will now have to decide whether to re-impose sanctions.

Ms Mogherini said previously said there had been "no violations" by Iran and called the deal "robust".

Mogherini: We are not militarising the EU

Debate on EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini
EBS

Responding to the debate, EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini defends the new defence plans from accusations that it marks a shift in the EU's role.

The European Commission is not seeking to "militarise" the EU project, she pledges.

The world needs more EU-style missions that are "working for peace", says.

Sometimes this "requires hard force" to be "used for the service of peace", she adds.

MEP: End unanimous voting on security policy

Debate on EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Tunne Kelam
EBS

Centre-right Estonian MEP Tunne Kelam calls for the EU to adopt defence and security policy according to weighted qualified majority voting.

At the moment, such decisions require the support of all member states.

He also calls for the EU to be able to enforce more "targeted" economic sanctions against individuals guilty of human rights violations.

He suggests this could be similar to the Magnitsky Act in the United States.

MEPs differ over EU defence role

Debate on EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Johannes Cornelis van Baalen
EBS

Dutch liberal MEP Johannes Cornelis van Baalen says that getting "on one line" with Nato is the best option for Europe's defence.

However he says the EU needs the capability to act if Nato action cannot take place.

The threat from Russia, he says, looks different if you're sitting in Estonia rather than the United States.

However UKIP's James Carver says the EU has "nothing to contribute" when it comes to defence and calls for it to "roll back its ambitions" in this area.

MEPs debate EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini will stay with MEPs to debate annual reports into the EU’s common foreign and defence policies.

They will also debate the EU’s permanent structured military co-operation (PESCO) – its new plan to boost defence co-operation.

As of this week, 25 out of 28 EU states have signed up to the plan, under which each country has to provide a plan for national contributions.

MEPs call for review of human rights awards

Debate on Rohingya refugee crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Swedish social democrat Soraya Post says that Aung San Suu Kyi's 2012 Nobel peace prize should be withdrawn due to her lack of a response to violence in Rakine state.

Estonian Liberal Urmas Paet says it is time to "seriously start thinking" about whether the European Parliament should strip her of the Sakharov human rights prize it awarded her in 1990.

The freedom of thought prize is awarded annually in memory of Andrei Sakharov, a Soviet scientist and dissident.

EU chief calls for 'full' humanitarian access in Myanmar

Debate on Rohingya refugee crisis

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini
EBS

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini says the recent Bangladesh-Myanmar deal is a "step the right direction", but cautions that it will need to be monitored "extremely carefully".

She says that the EU has pledged "more than the rest of the world combined " in humanitarian aid - and calls for "full access" to be granted to all NGOs.

Resolving the situation in Rakhine state is now "up to Myanmar", she says - and notes that the "difficult issue" of Rohingya citizenship will have to be addressed.

Myanmar's de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi "needs and wants" the EU's support to enact the recommendations of a UN panel led by former UN chief Kofi Annan, she says.

It called for the citizenship law - which currently does not recognise Rohingya as Myanmar citizens - to be reviewed and for more investment in Rakhine state.

MEPs debate EU response to Rohingya refugee crisis

Rohingya refugees cross a stream near the Bangladesh-Myanmar
Reuters

MEPs are now debating the EU’s response to the Rohingya Muslim crisis in Myanmar.

More than 600,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh to escape violence since August.

The UN has accused the Myanmar government of ethnic cleansing, whilst the military says it is responding to attacks by Rohingya militants and denies it is targeting civilians.

Bangladesh signed a deal with Myanmar last month to return hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims, with the two sides working on the details.

Commissioner: EU helping Afghanistan boost exports

Debate on EU-Afghanistan relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Christos Stylianides
EBS

Commissioner Christos Stylianides tells MEPs that the EU has "stepped up" its engagement with the Afghan government.

The EU has worked with the government to devise strategies against corruption and for women's empowerment, he says.

A migration agreement has seen both parties pledge to "manage" the movement of people, he says. The EU has given €200m to help returned migrants integrate into society, he adds.

The EU is also working with Afghanistan to help it develop a more "export-orientated economy", he says.

The EU has an interest in promoting "better opportunities at home" for young Afghans, he adds.

Welcome back

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

MEPs will shortly be joined by Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides to debate EU relations with Afghanistan.

Votes finish

Today’s voting session comes to an end – the sitting will resume at 14.00 GMT with an external relations debate on Afghanistan.

MEP in call to 'toughen up' Brexit motion

Some news from outside the chamber - Guy Verhofstadt, the Parliament's chief Brexit spokesman, has just tweeted to announce two cross-group amendments to tomorrow's Brexit motion.

It follows comments from David Davis over the weekend that guarantees on the Northern Ireland border were not legally binding unless the two sides reached a final deal.

One amendment tweeted by Mr Verhofstadt says that progress in the next stage of talks should only take place if the UK "fully respects" its commitments in last week's interim deal on withdrawal issues, and they end up in the final agreement.

The other says that Mr Davis's comments risk undermining the "good faith" built during talks so far.

Both amendments have been signed by five political groups, meaning they are a very likely to pass.

The European Parliament is not participating directly in the Brexit talks but its support will be required to ratify the final deal.

The motion being voted on tomorrow in the European Parliament won't be binding on the negotiators.

View more on twitter

EU-Kazakhstan partnership deal ratified

Voting session

MEPs also vote to ratify a proposed EU partnership agreement with Kazakhstan.

The agreement, parts of which have been provisionally in force since May last year, will replace a previous deal agreed in 1995.

The deal is the first “enhanced” agreement the EU has concluded with a Central Asian country, and increases co-operation on trade, energy and education.

MEPs approve flight exemption in emissions scheme

Voting session

Berlin airport
EPA

They also approve a planned extension to a measure exempting flights from the EU's emissions trading system (ETS).

The ETS scheme works by making emitters buy "allowances" authorising them to emit greenhouse gases, within an overall agreed limit.

Flights to and from the European Economic Area (EEA) have been temporarily excluded whilst international regulators draw up new emissions rules.

Under a deal agreed in October, this exemption will now apply until 2023 – with a new reduction requirement applying from 2021, pending a review.

MEPs approve new boat authorisation rules

Voting session

Fishing boat
EPA

First up, they approve a new system for authorising EU vessels to fish in waters beyond member states' jurisdiction.

The European Commission put forward the new rules two years ago in a bid to improve monitoring of boats operating outside EU waters.

Under the new rules, any fishing boat beyond EU waters would be authorised and monitored by the EU state under whose flag it sails.

All vessels would also be required to have an individual number granted by the International Maritime Organization.

Votes soon

That’s the debate on the EU’s investment plan finished – MEPs will now move to today’s voting session.

MEP calls for more investment in green projects

Debate on EU investment plan

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Portuguese Communist Miguel Viegas criticises the "underlying plan" of the scheme, which pairs public with private sector investment.

Telling MEPs that he will vote against the extension, he says a further set of investment plans are not necessary but that member states should budget for "solidarity".

Dutch Green MEP Bas Eickhout says after the extension, the investment plan must do more to invest in projects which help tackle climate change.

The European Parliament should also get more control over how investment decisions are made, he adds.

MEPs outline arguments for scheme extension

Debate on EU investment plan

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Udo Bullman
EBS

German social democrat Udo Bullman, one of the Parliament's two negotiators on the legislation extending the scheme, calls on MEPs to back it at the vote.

The EU investment plan has helped to close Europe's investment gap, he says, although he says that it alone is insufficient to meet the EU's investment needs.

He calls for a greater effort in investment from EU governments, and for the European Commission to put forward a new "comprehensive investment strategy".

The other negotiator, centre-right Portuguese MEP Jose Manuel Fernandes, says the main investment fund needs to work alongside existing EU "cohesion funding".

MEPs debate extension to EU investment plan

Building work in Berlin
Reuters

MEPs are now debating plans to extend the duration of the EU’s flagship investment plan for an extra two years.

It was initially planned to run until the end of 2018, but the European Commission wants to extend this until the end of the EU’s current long-term budget in 2020.

The scheme – which was launched by Jean-Claude Juncker shortly after the present Commission team took office – aims to boost private investment in the EU economy after the financial crisis.

It uses money from the EU budget and money raised by the European Investment Bank to stimulate financing for infrastructure projects and loans for businesses.

Agreement to prolong the scheme between MEPs and national ministers was reached in September and faces a final vote later this morning.

Committee chair to support amendment on 'EU tax havens'

Debate on Panama Papers report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Werner Langen
EBS

German Christian democrat Werner Langen, who has chaired the Panama Papers inquiry committee, says MEPs must now maintain "political pressure" to act on tax avoidance.

He says he would be in favour of extending the mandate of a tax committee until the end of the Parliament's current term, in spring 2019.

He says that certain EU states need to "get their own house in order" on this issue.

He says he will be supporting an amendment to the report from the centre-left S&D group which calls on the Commission to name Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Ireland and Malta as "EU tax havens".

UKIP MEP: Don't name UK as tax haven

Debate on Panama Papers report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Green MEP Sven Giegold criticises amendments to the recommendations tabled by the centre-right EPP and liberal ALDE group.

These would water down recommendations rights at the heart of the report, he says.

UKIP's David Coburn says the "plethora" of tax reports compiled by the European Parliament always recommend the same course of action - higher taxes and more harmonisation.

He warns that the EU should not seek to "punish the UK" by naming it as a tax haven after Brexit.

'No excuse for inaction' - Green MEP

Debate on Panama Papers report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Spanish Podemos Miguel Urban Crespo says the European Parliament should have a permanent committee looking into the matter of tax avoidance.

Previous inquiry committees, such as the Panama Papers committee, have only been set up on a temporary basis.

UK Green MEP Molly Scott Cato calls on the European Commission to turn the report's recommendations into new EU legislation.

There is "no excuse for inaction", she adds.

Molly Scott Cato
EBS

Commissioner defends EU tax haven blacklist

Debate on Panama Papers report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Pierre Moscovici
EBS

Taxation Commissioner Pierre Moscovici says he wants to work with MEPs to build on the "political momentum" of their report to combat tax avoidance.

Over the past few years he says the EU has been moving from a "secrecy culture" to a "transparency culture".

The automatic exchange of information between different EU countries is essential, he adds, to prevent companies conducting "arbitrage" between different tax jurisdictions.

On the new blacklist of tax havens, he says EU countries can't be compared with the countries on the list, where he says tax avoidance is "systematic".

However he says that efforts to avoid tax are "certainty widespread in Europe" and more needs to be done to tackle this.

What does the committee recommend?

Panama Papers inquiry report

Panama City
Reuters
The EU has named Panama on its list of tax havens

The draft report criticises EU states for a "lack of political will" in reforming tax rules, adding that current tax evasion laws contain "many loopholes".

The UK is named as having the largest number of offshore entities in the Panama leaks, and even suggests the matter should come up in Brexit trade talks.

The headline recommendation is that firms wanting to set up offshore structures should have to give the authorities a "legitimate reason" for doing so.

Ultimate beneficial owners of companies should be publicly listed in regularly-updated registers, they say.

It also calls for EU members to work together to apply a "minimum effective tax rate in Europe".

Report's MEPs outline recommendations

Debate on Panama Papers report

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Petr Jezek
EBS

Czech Liberal Petr Jezek, one of the two MEPs on the committee that has drafted the report, pays tribute to the journalists who worked on the Panama Papers revelations.

He says the EU must also look at itself on this issue - although he says he would not call countries like Ireland and Luxembourg tax havens, he adds that some are "not very helpful" on tax issues.

The other MEP who drafted the report, Danish social democrat Jeppe Kofod, says the secrecy provided by tax havens has been used to cover up crimes.

He calls for public lists of the ultimate beneficial owners of offshore companies, and a "tax Europol" body based on the EU police co-operation agency.

He also calls for an EU minimum for corporation tax to stop a "race to the bottom".

Good morning

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

First this morning, MEPs are going to be debating the final report from the inquiry committee set up to investigate the Panama Papers leaks last year.

A lengthy list of recommendations will be put to a final vote tomorrow.

It comes only a month after a separate set of leaks, dubbed the “Paradise Papers”, shed more light on how the super-rich hide wealth in offshore tax havens.

Last week the European Commission put 17 countries on a published list of tax havens – including Tunisia, the UAE and Panama, but did not include any EU countries.