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Summary

  1. MEPs debate new EU clean energy targets
  2. A move to toughen up the targets faces a vote on Wednesday
  3. They debate electro-fishing during debate on new fishing rulebook
  4. EU financial assistance to Greece also discussed

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & Coming up tomorrow

That's it for our coverage of the European Parliament this evening - the sitting will end after a round of short one-minute speeches from backbench MEPs.

Tomorrow the sitting kicks off at 08.00 GMT, when MEPs will review Estonia's six-month EU presidency.

After this, European Council President Donald Tusk will speak during a debate on the first-stage Brexit deal.

MEPs will decide whether to back calls for a ban on electro pulse fishing during a vote at lunchtime, before discussing the Iran nuclear deal and Colombian peace talks in the afternoon.

Reports on the ocean and climate change presented

Next up two MEPs will present “own initiative” reports from the environment and women’s rights committees about ocean sustainability and climate justice.

The recommendations in these reports are not binding and in effect serve as a way for the European Parliament to propose ideas for new EU policy.

MEPs debate EU financing in Greece

MEPs are now debating the results of an EU programme providing financing to Greece in the wake of the financial crisis.

The regional development committee has accused the European Commission of a “lack of communication” with MEPs about the scheme.

In an oral question they have requested more information about whether priority projects have received cash and what the likely impact on competitiveness has been.

MEPs debate new rules for EU boats in South Pacific

The next debate is in a similar vein – MEPs are discussing proposals to bring a series of recommendations from a South Pacific fishing board into EU law.

The EU is a contracting party to the South Pacific Regional Fisheries Management Organisation.

Currently trawlers from the Netherlands, Germany, Lithuania and Poland are fishing mainly for a kind of mackerel outside the fishing waters of Chile.

The new rules will cover areas such as authorisation of using trawler nets across the sea floor and using newer fishing techniques.

UKIP MEP calls for EU-wide electro fishing ban

Debate on EU fishing rulebook

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch Conservative Peter van Dalen calls on MEPs to back the Commission's position on pulse fishing, which he says will "support innovation".

However, UKIP's Mike Hookem says the practice should be outlawed in EU, blaming it for leaving the marine environment "a desert" and damaging the livelihoods of fishermen.

There is "no environmental benefit" to the practice, he claims, apart from a "small" reduction in fuel consumption on boats that use it to replace traditional nets.

The claim that the practice does not damage the sea bed, he says, is "a fallacy".

Electro fishing: A background

Debate on new EU fishing rules

Cod
Getty Images
Critics say the practice damages stocks of cod

Fishing using electric currents is banned by the EU, but some trawlers are using the technique on an experimental basis under derogations granted by the European Commission.

Advocates say it is less environmentally damaging than traditional beam trawling, but critics say it is cruel because it breaks the backs of some larger cod.

In its revision of fishing rules, the Commission has proposed to legalise the practice “under certain strict conditions”.

MEPs on the fisheries committee have suggested amending the rules to subject pulse fishing to mandatory two-year trial periods, with the effective voltage between electrodes limited to 15V.

They have also suggested all current licences should face scientific reassessment before being allowed to continue on a permanent basis.

However some MEPs have called for a total ban on the practice and have tabled amendments to that effect that will be put to a vote tomorrow.

Commissioner: Electro fishing should continue on limited basis

Debate on EU fishing rulebook

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Karmenu Vella
EBS

Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella outlines the Commission's reasons for updating the current EU technical rulebook, which he calls "quite old".

The Commission would like to allow electro pulse fishing to continue on a "limited basis", and remove the existing 5% cap on the proportion of ships per fleet that can use the technique, he explains.

"Properly controlled", he adds, electro fishing can be more ecologically beneficial than traditional trawling and reduce damage to sea beds.

However, acting on scientific advice, the Commission wants current geographical restrictions to be maintained.

MEPs debate new EU rules for fishermen

Fishing boat off the coast of Kent
PA

Next up MEPs are debating a proposal to simplify the EU rulebook for fishermen.

At the moment, rules about fishing gear, minimum catch sizes and restrictions on catching certain species are contained in around 30 pieces of legislation.

The Commission wants to replace this by giving itself the power to adopt regional versions of some of the rules, with the rest maintained on a pan-EU basis.

As part of the plan, the fisheries committee has called for the controversial practice of electric pulse trawl fishing to face additional restrictions.

'Commissioner hails 'very good negotiating position'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Miguel Arias Canete
EBS

Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete says the European Commission designed the legislation to be strong enough to achieve its 2030 energy targets.

He says that the European Parliament's position advocating a higher target for renewable energy represents a "very good negotiation position" ahead of talks with national ministers.

However, he notes that any new regulatory system will need to be "workable in practice".

Liberal MEP urges caution on new targets

Debate on EU energy targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Pavel Telicka
EBS

Czech Liberal Pavel Telicka warns against a "fragmented result" at the vote on Wednesday, which he says would weaken MEPs' strength ahead of negotiations with national ministers.

The European Parliament should be ambitious but also remember that any new clean energy targets should be realistic too.

Swedish Green MEP Jakop Dalunde calls for the renewables target to be set at "at least" 35%.

The Parliament, he adds, has the opportunity to be "revolutionary" when it comes to shaping Europe's future energy system, he says.

Labour MEP: Higher target will increase home renovation

Debate on EU energy targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Theresa Griffin
EBS

Labour's Theresa Griffin, however, says that a binding 40% energy efficiency target is "vital".

Every percentage point increase in the target, she adds, will lead to an extra million homes being renovated to make them more energy efficient.

Currently three-quarters of buildings in the EU are inefficient, she tells MEPs.

MEPs speak against higher efficiency target

Debate on EU energy targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Barbara Kappel
EBS

Austrian MEP Barbara Kappel, from the right-wing Freedom Party, says the committee's proposed target of a 40% improvement in energy efficiency by 2030 "can't be achieved".

Implementing the target would require €500bn in investment over the period, she adds, and put increased burdens on industry.

German Christian Democrat Markus Pieper says the industry committee believes the 40% target is not feasible for industry.

It would be better to concentrate on upping the share of renewable energy, he adds.

Green MEP urges backing for palm oil phase-out

Debate on EU energy targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Bas Eickhout
EBS

From the environment committee, Dutch Green Bas Eickhout says there should be a "total phase-out" of using palm oils in biofuels.

On Wednesday MEPs will vote on an amendment to the renewables directive calling for the use of palm oils in the transport sector to be phased out completely by 2021.

The idea seems to have found a consensus in the assembly, he adds.

Commission renewables targets 'don't go far enough'

Debate on EU energy targets

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jose Blanco Lopez
EBS

Spanish Socialist Jose Blanco Lopez, who is the European Parliament's lead negotiator on the new renewables targets, calls on MEPs to send a "powerful signal" at Wednesday's vote.

"Europe can't simply make fine speeches", he adds, before accusing national energy ministers of irresponsibility for calling for the renewables targets to be lowered to a 25% improvement.

Even the 30% target proposed by the European Commission "didn't go far enough", he says.

Debate on EU energy targets begins

Wind farm
PA

With the week’s agenda approved, MEPs turn to their first debate, which is on three new clean energy laws proposed by the European Commission in November.

The measures include revising targets included in the EU’s 2012 energy efficiency directive and the 2009 renewables directive.

Tomorrow MEPs will take an initial position on the new measures, before the European Parliament enters into negotiations on them with national ministers.

Two committees have proposed beefing up the 2030 targets from a 30% to 40% improvement in energy efficiency, and from 27% to 35% use of renewables in energy sources.

Triple whammy of defeats on proposals for debate

Opening of the sitting

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also reject another proposal from the GUE group, this time to debate the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons tomorrow afternoon.

The idea is rejected by 204 votes to 144, with 5 abstentions.

And in a triple whammy of defeats for the group, their third proposal for a debate is rejected as well - this time on job losses at German industrial group Siemens.

Vote on fishing rules to go ahead as planned

Opening of the sitting

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Younous Omerjee
EBS

On behalf of the left-wing GUE group, French MEP Younous Omerjee requests that tomorrow’s vote on a new technical rulebook for EU fishermen is postponed.

Liberal group leader Guy Verhofstadt says the rulebook should go back to the committee given the "enormous inflation" in the number of amendments added.

However, the GUE group's proposal is rejected, meaning tomorrow's vote will go ahead as planned.

The measures will be debated later today.

Good afternoon

Hello and welcome to coverage of today’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, the first of 2018 after the Christmas break.

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will hear administrative announcements and approve the agenda.

Proposals to add debates have to be made to the President at least one hour before the sitting opens.

They can be tabled by one of the Parliament’s committees, one of its political groups, or a group of 40 MEPs – it must then be approved by a simple majority.