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Summary

  1. MEPs vote to reject pan-EU members of the European Parliament
  2. The idea had been suggested for some British seats after Brexit
  3. Afternoon debate on corruption laws in Romania
  4. External lending mandate of EU investment bank debated in evening

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye & Coming up tomorrow

That's the debate on the European Investment Bank finished.

Next tonight MEPs will debate the “shrinking space” for charities and NGOs around the world and EU support for women’s rights groups.

However that’s where we leave our coverage for today – MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT, when they will first debate the co-ordination of daylight saving times in the EU.

They will also debate this month’s crop of three human rights debates.

Italian MEP criticises EIB lending in Turkey

Debate on European Investment Bank

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Marco Zanni
EBS

Ex-Five Star MEP Marco Zanni, who sits in the anti-EU ENF group, criticises the "gigantic amount" of European Investment Bank money lent in Turkey.

He says €30bn in loans have been offered since 2002, which he says is more than some current EU states have received.

Turkey doesn't comply with rights or transparency standards, he says.

Lending distribution criticised by MEPs

Debate on European Investment Bank

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Polish MEP Stanisław Ozog says greater EU investment has been more worthwhile for economic growth than "printing money" in central banks.

He points out there are still big geographical differences in access to EIB funds - and calls for "technical assistance" to help firms bidding for money in new member states.

Bulgarian liberal Nedzhmi Ali makes a similar point, telling MEPs that in 2016, 54% of EIB funding went to the five richest EU countries.

Debate on bank report begins

EIB President Werner Hoyer will stay with MEPs to debate the bank’s annual report for 2016.

Tomorrow they will vote on a motion drafted by the budgets committee which calls for greater transparency and accountability in lending activities.

UKIP MEP calls investment plan 'idiotic'

Debate on European Investment Bank

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala says the money should go towards "good sound development policy".

UKIP's David Coburn says countries in the third world need "trade deals, not handouts" - and describes the EU's flagship investment plan as "idiotic".

Romanian social democrat Doru-Claudian Frunzulica intervenes to ask Mr Coburn to apologise for his choice of words to describe the plan, calling it inappropriate.

In reply Mr Coburn says he could amend his description to "economically illiterate" instead.

Bank chief: Changes will allow us to take greater risks

Debate on European Investment Bank

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Werner Hoyer
EBS

Werner Hoyer tells MEPs that EIB lending can deliver a "real impact on the ground" for a "minimal cost" to the EU budget.

The changes to the mandate for lending outside the EU will allow the bank to "better address" the EU's political priorities, including stemming migration, he says.

This will include allowing the body to take greater risks with its lending to the private sector, he adds.

Debate on external lending of EU investment bank

Euro note handover
BBC

Next up MEPs have been joined by European Investment Bank (EIB) President Werner Hoyer to debate proposed changes to the Bank’s external lending mandate.

The mandate covers EIB lending outside the EU. The EU Commission wants to change this to allow the bank to lend more to projects aiming to reduce migration.

Tomorrow MEPs will decide whether to approve legislation which would increase the EU’s guarantee covering risks on loans and guarantees to non-EU countries for projects there.

This would involve making a cash injection from the EU budget of €115m for the external lending period covering 2018-2020.

MEPs debate controversial changes to judicial law in Romania

Protests in Romania
AFP
The proposed changes have prompted protests in Romania

MEPs have been joined by Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova to debate a series of proposed changes to the judicial system in Romania.

The Romanian government wants to overhaul legislation on prosecutors, the organisation of the judiciary and the organisation of the country’s Superior Council of Magistracy.

Opponents say the changes could undermine Romania’s anti-corruption authority.

The EU Commission warned the country last month against “backtracking" from commitments previously made to tackle corruption.

Governments 'have raised concerns' on ideas

Debate on European electoral law

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Monika Panayotova
EBS

Monika Panayotova, the deputy minister for Bulgaria's EU presidency, says informal contact has been taking place between MEPs and national ministers on the issue.

Parliament's lead negotiators were briefed on the "general state of play" in November last year, she says.

EU governments, she says, are supportive of the "general aim" of boosting turnout but have "raised some concerns" about the effect of Parliament's suggestions on constitutional traditions.

She tries to assure MEPs that the issue is "high" on the agenda for governments to resolve ahead of the elections next year.

Debate on European electoral law begins

Next up MEPs are debating when member states will officially respond to suggested changes to the law on how MEPs are elected.

The European Parliament made a number of recommendations in late 2015 but national governments are yet to agree a position.

The changes proposed would allow EU citizens living elsewhere the right to vote and possibly introducing electronic and postal voting.

MEPs on the constitutional affairs committee say any changes will need to be agreed by this spring if they are to apply for the elections due next year.

Conservative MEP urges focus on 'grassroots' schemes

Debate on economic inequality

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Syed Kammall
EBS

Conservative MEP Syed Kamall, a co-leader of the ECR group, says that the poor have been failed by both left and right in recent years.

The left, he says, has adopted an approach which is too "top-down", whilst the right has forgotten that the welfare state was created because private provision was not enough.

Instead, he calls for a greater focus on "grassroots" anti-poverty projects in poor areas.

The only non-white leader of a parliamentary group, he also says the EU needs to "get its house in order" when it comes to racial diversity to have credibility on the issue of equality.

Commissioner insists inequality a 'priority'

Debate on economic inequality

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Marianne Thyssen
EBS

Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen says actions to reduce economic inequality is a "priority" for the European Commission.

She gives an overview of various EU policies which she says have helped in this area, including last year's strategy on skills and the investment plan launched in 2014.

She also says a revamped version of the European semester scheme will include a "social scoreboard" for each member state.

The "semester" is the name for the annual programme through which the EU Commission reviews national debt and deficit levels.

German MEP calls for EU measures on inequality

Debate on economic inequality

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German social democrat Udo Bullman says that 120m people in the EU are poor, and inequality threatens to "tear our societies apart".

Policy efforts in this area are "insufficient", he says.

He calls for an EU "child guarantee" on access to education and healthcare, and an EU-wide index to recommend "appropriate" minimum wages for each country.

Udo Bullman
EBS

Welcome back

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

First up this afternoon is a topical debate on economic and social inequality in the EU.

'We've lost the battle, not the war'

Liberal group leader tweets:

Votes end

That’s today’s voting session finished.

There will be now be a break for lunch. The sitting gets underway again at 14.00 GMT.

MEPs allow countries to be added to terror financing blacklist

Voting session

By a narrow margin, MEPs have voted to allow Tunisia, Sri Lanka and Trinidad and Tobago to be added to a blacklist of states considered at high risk of money laundering and terrorism financing.

The proposal had been made by the European Commission, which said the countries had strategic deficiencies in their regimes to tackle the problems.

A proposal to veto the Commission’s proposal attracted 357 votes, falling 19 votes short of the required threshold.

Lead-candidate convention backed at vote

Voting session

They also approve the other report they debated this morning on the Parliament’s operating agreement with the European Commission.

As part of their suggested changes, they reaffirm their commitment to the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ process for deciding the president of the EU Commission.

Under the convention, the job is awarded to the candidate selected by the political group which wins the most seats in the European Parliament.

MEPs 'hand initiative' to national governments

Former MEP tweets:

Pan-EU list rejection 'good for accountability'

Swedish centre-right MEP tweets:

MEPs reject idea of pan-EU election lists

Voting session

The European Parliament has voted to reject the idea of potentially creating a pan-EU constituency of MEPs using vacant British seats after Brexit.

Amendments rejecting the idea tabled by left-wing, conservative and Eurosceptic groups were approved by 386 votes to 274.

The final decision on what will happen to the seats requires unanimous backing from the remaining EU governments.

The next European Parliament elections are due to take place in the spring of next year.

MEP stripped of vice-presidency

Voting session

Ryszard Czarnecki
EBS

First up MEPs endorse a decision from the leaders of the political groups to remove Polish MEP Ryszard Czarnecki from his role as a vice-president of the assembly.

It comes after he referred to a fellow Polish MEP from a rival party using a term that refers to Polish Nazi collaborators during the Second World War.

Votes soon

That’s the debate on the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ convention finished. MEPs will shortly be taking their seats for today’s voting session.

However first they will hear a speech from Beatrice Fihn, from the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (Ican).The group was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for last year.

Weber calls for 'clear answer' from French President on system

Debate on EU Parliament - EU Commission relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Manfred Weber
EBS

German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right EPP group, gives his backing for the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ process.

Those in the frame to head the European Commission should have to present a programme to voters, he says.

He says the European Parliament needs a "clear answer" from French President Emmanuel Macron about whether he supports carrying on the convention.

It has been reported that Mr Macron is among the EU leaders who have voiced opposition to the lead-candidate process continuing.

His political group will not accept any candidate that is not presented under the system, he adds.

Commission 'welcomes' proposed change on elections

Debate on EU Parliament - EU Commission relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Frans Timmermans
EBS

European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans says the body "would welcome" the idea of allowing commissioners to stand as MEPs without having to take leave of absence.

The idea is among the suggestions made by the European Parliament's draft that will be voted on later.

The Commission will "contribute constructively" to the debate about the lead-candidate convention at a meeting of EU leaders later this month, he adds.

MEPs debate lead-candidate convention

Jean-Claude Juncker
Reuters
The convention was first used to select Jean-Claude Juncker in 2014

Next up MEPs are discussing a report which reaffirms the assembly’s commitment to the ‘Spitzenkandidat’ process for deciding the president of the EU Commission.

Under the convention, the job is awarded to the candidate selected by the political group which wins the most seats in the European Parliament.

In the report, they threaten not to approve any candidate who is not a leading group candidate for the presidency. It will be put to a final vote later.

The renewed commitment comes in the form of suggested changes to the assembly’s operating agreement with the Commission.

At the moment the convention is not specifically described in the EU's treaties.

What would the political effects of redistribution be?

Think-tank Votewatch Europe has done some research into what the political effect of the committee's proposed redistribution would be on the European Parliament.

The organisation concluded that the assembly would be "more progressive environmental and energy policies, more protectionist trade policies and an increased focus on the Eurozone".

Read more.

'Not too sure I'll weep tears for your departure'

Debate on reallocation of UK seats

European Parliament

Strasbourg

UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge calls for the UK's seats to remain empty as a "monument" to the "betrayal of democracy" of the Brexit transition period.

Irish Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness says the debate about what to do with the vacated UK seats is a "sad day for the European Parliament".

She says she will miss the "constructive engagement" of British Conservative, Labour, Lib Dem and Green MEPs.

"To Mr Etheridge, I'm not too sure I'll weep tears for your departure - it may well be the opposite", she adds.

She adds that she welcomes the two extra seats for Ireland in the proposed redistribution.

On a transnational list, she says: "maybe it's not of its time now", but that she likes the idea that "colleagues from other countries will speak up for citizens in other member states".

Mairead McGuinness
EBS

'Sharing out the bounty'

Debate on reallocation of UK seats

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Independent Romanian Laurentiu Rebega, who sits in the anti-EU ENF group, says the debate today is about "sharing out the bounty after Brexit".

The vacated seats, he says, should not be filled until the future of the EU has been decided.

Former UKIP leader Diane James, who now sits as an independent after having quit the party in 2016, says a pan-EU list would represent the "end-stage of the European Union project".

The idea is "dangerous" and "thoroughly anti-democratic", she says.

Diane James
EBS

Pan-EU lists splits MEPs from two biggest groups

Debate on reallocation of UK seats

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Paulo Rangel
EBS

Portuguese MEP Paulo Rangel, who sits in the centre-right EPP group, urges his colleagues to back amendments at the vote later rejecting a pan-EU list.

"If we are not a federation, why should we have a joint constituency?", he asks.

However German social democrat Jo Leinen, in the centre-right S&D group, says the idea would allow European elections to become "truly European".

It is "high time to take a fresh step forward", he says.

Belgian MEPs urge support for pan-EU seats

Debate on reallocation of UK seats

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Guy Verhofstadt
EBS

However the idea of an EU-wide constituency gets backing from Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Liberal ALDE group.

A transnational list is needed "to create" a European demos, he says - adding that this will not appear of its own account.

The proposal also gets support from another Belgian MEP, Philippe Lamberts, the co-leader of the Green/EFA group.

The new pan-EU seats would be created in addition to the national seats "and will not detract from them", he adds.

Hungarian MEP critcises 'elite-driven' EU-wide list idea

Debate on reallocation of UK seats

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Gyorgy Schopflin
EBS

Hungarian MEP Gyorgy Schopflin, from the ruling Fidesz party, tells MEPs that the idea that a pan-EU list will create a "European demos" is simply "magical thinking".

The idea that a European demos exists, he adds, is an "illusion".

He calls the idea of a transnational list a "top-down elite-driven project".

Members elected from such a list will be distant from their constituents and "answerable to no one", he adds.

MEP: Reallocation can tackle 'under-representation'

Debate on reallocation of UK seats

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Danuta Hubner
EBS

Polish centre-right MEP Danuta Hubner, who chairs the constitutional affairs committee, says she hopes a "large majority" endorses the committee's blueprint at the vote later.

Brexit offers the chance to reduce the size and cost of the assembly, she says, but also to address the "under-representation" of certain member states through some redistribution.

It also allows for the eventual creation of a pan-EU constituency, "depending on the creation of the proposer legal basis".

Portuguese Socialist Pedro Silva Pereira, who also drafted the blueprint, says it makes clear that sign-off from member states is a "pre-condition" for a pan-EU list.

Good morning

Members of the European Parliament
European Parliament

Hello and welcome to this third day of this week’s European Parliament plenary sitting in Strasbourg.

First this morning MEPs are going to be talking about…themselves – or rather, what to do about the 73 seats that will be vacated by British members after Brexit.

The assembly’s constitutional affairs committee has suggested that the Parliament should shrink from 751 to 705 MEPs after the UK’s exit.

They have recommended 27 seats should be re-distributed among some member states, with the remaining 46 seats placed in reserve, possibly for a transnational constituency.

The idea has the backing of some influential figures such as French President Emmanuel Macron but has also faced criticism both inside and outside the assembly.

MEPs will vote on the draft blueprint later this morning. The final decision requires unanimous backing from the remaining EU governments.