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Summary

  1. MEPs opened this morning's sitting by debating the performance of the European Investment Bank during 2013.
  2. MEPs also discussed sustainable food supplies and how the EU should contain the spread of a bacterial disease that has infected thousands of hectares of olive trees in Italy.
  3. During the voting session from 11.00 BST, MEPs approved resolutions on the recent terror attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Shabab in Kenya.
  4. The afternoon sitting opened with a Commission statement on yesterday's execution of eight people in Indonesia.
  5. MEPs then debated and approved resolutions on Ukrainian MP and fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, UN access to the Yarmouk refugee camp and recent arrests of Algerian labour activists.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodbye

    MEPs pass their human rights resolutions, calling for:

    • the "immediate and unconditional release" of Nadiya Savchenko, the Ukrainian MP and fighter pilot currently held in Russia
    • "unhindered access" to the Yarmouk refugee camp in Syria for the UN and other international aid organisations
    • the release of recently-arrested labour activists in Algeria and respect for "the freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly" in the country

    And that brings this month's Strasbourg plenary session to a close - MEPs will be back for their next plenary session on the 18-21 May.

  2. Low turnout...

    As can be seen from this graphic for an electronic vote on an amendment, only around a tenth of Parliament's 750 MEPs have turned up to vote at this session.

    Vote graphic
  3. Votes coming up

    That's the debate on the human rights cases finished - MEPs will now vote on their resolutions.

  4. MEPs 'duty bound'

    French Socialist Gilles Pargneaux says that despite Algeria's importance to the EU in economic terms, he feels MEPs are "duty bound" to tell the truth about the situation and condemn the arrests.

    He makes the case for a "human rights clause" to be included in the EU's association agreement with the country.

    Gilles Pargneaux
  5. Today's resolution

    Parliament's resolution - which will be put to the vote shortly - condemns the arrest of the activists and calls for their release.

    It also calls on the Algerian authorities to fulfil their "obligations to protect the right to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly, and to take appropriate steps to ensure the safety and security of civil society activists and human rights defenders".

    SNP MEP Alyn Smith says that this is the "key" part of the resolution for his group, the Greens/EFA, noting that Algeria should be asked to "do better" on this front.

  6. Algeria debate begins

    That's the debate on the Yarmouk refugee camp finished - MEPs will vote on their resolution shortly.

    We now move on to the final human rights debate of today's session, which is on the recent arrests of a number of human rights and labour activists in Algeria.

  7. 'Interventionist' polices blamed

    UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott says the humanitarian situation in Syria is the result of an "militarily interventionist foreign policy that has failed to protect vulnerable people".

    Jonathan Arnott
  8. Background on Yarmouk

    Yarmouk was first built for Palestinians fleeing the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.

    Before the Syrian civil war began, it had more than 150,000 refugees living there and had its own mosques, schools and public buildings. But since 2012, the camp has been besieged by fighting.

    Syria's bloody conflict, which has entered its fifth year, has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 Syrians.

    The battle between forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, rebels opposed to his rule and Islamic State has also driven more than 11 million people from their homes.

    Yarmouk refugee camp
  9. Yarmouk refugee camp debate begins

    That's the debate on Nadiya Savchenko finished - MEPs will be voting on their resolution later.

    The next debate is on the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in the Syrian city of Damascus.

    The UN Security Council recently demanded humanitarian access to the camp, with one UN official describing conditions for the 18,000 refugees there as "beyond inhumane".

    The situation has deteriorated since 1 April, when Islamic State (IS) fighters launched an offensive.

    Yarmouk on map
  10. Commission response

    Commissioner Neven Mimica says the case sheds light on the state of human rights and the rule of law in Russia, and is a reminder of the situation in eastern Ukraine.

    He says that the release of "illegally held" Ukrainian nationals by Russia would improve the prospects of resolving the conflict the country, and repeats that the position of the Commission is that Ms Savchenko should be released "immediately".

    Neven Mimica
  11. Political selection?

    Italian Five Star MEP Ignazio Corrao asks whether the Parliament is not being political in its selection of this case, claiming that the way the Parliament debates human rights cases and the way MEPs "play the game" depends on the nation involved.

    He says human rights debates should be held "with a level playing field for everyone".

  12. Letters without reply

    Lithuanian Liberal Petras Austrevicius says MEPs have written a total of 60 letters to Russian diplomatic representatives in Brussels about Ms. Savchenko's case, without receiving a response.

    Petras Austrevicius
  13. Nadiya Savchenko debate begins

    First up, MEPs will debate the case of Ukrainian MP and fighter pilot Nadiya Savchenko, who is currently being detained in Russia on charges of being an accessory to murder, linked to the death of two Russian journalists covering the conflict in eastern Ukraine.

    She has insisted on her innocence, and held a hunger strike in protest at her detention in December - although she abandoned the fast after 83 days following serious concerns for her health, insisting she needs strength to fight to prove her innocence.

    Last week, she was informed on the final version of the charges against her, which she denied.

    Nadiya Savchenko
  14. Human rights debates begin

    That's the statement on the Indonesia executions and short debate finished.

    As is tradition on a Thursday, MEPs will now be debating resolutions on topical human rights cases, which will be put to the vote at the end of the sitting.

  15. Commission statement

    Development Commissioner Neven Mimica tells MEPs that the EU holds a "strong and principled" objection to the death penalty, which he calls "cruel and inhuman".

    He says the Commission is committed to achieving the worldwide abolition of the death penalty through its foreign policy, adding that it considers this essential for the "progressive development of human rights ".

    He adds that EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini has already made three statements condemning the death penalty in Indonesia and that the Commission has used "all diplomatic channels" to raise the issue with the authorities in the country.

    He also says the Commission will be helping to launch an awareness-raising campaign, led by local civil society representatives.

    Neven Mimica
  16. Indonesia executions debate

    Welcome back to BBC Democracy Live's coverage of this afternoon's sitting of the European Parliament.

    Next up, MEPs come to an item on the agenda that was added yesterday - a debate on yesterday's execution of eight people in Indonesia.

    Those killed include seven foreigners and one Indonesian.

    The incident has prompted a diplomatic outcry, with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon saying in a statement that the death penalty had "no place in the 21st Century", and urging Indonesia to spare all other death row prisoners.

    Among those killed were two Australian men - Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran.

    Australia, a key ally of Indonesia, has recalled its ambassador in protest, whilst Nigeria has also expressed "deep disappointment" at the execution of four of its nationals.

    Protests at killings
    Image caption: Family, friends and foreign diplomats appealed for the death sentences to be overturned.
  17. Lunch break

    That's the explanation of votes finished - MEPs will return to the chamber at 14.00 BST for this afternoon's human rights debates.

  18. And from yesterday...

    Due to time running out yesterday, MEPs will also have the chance to make speeches about votes that took place at yesterday's voting session - including the vote on a non-binding resolution calling on the Commission to set a system of "binding quotas" for the distribution of asylum seekers among EU countries.

  19. Nigeria resolution passed

    MEPs also approve a resolution, agreed between all seven of Parliament's political groups, condemning recent attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria and calling on the international community to to do more to help the Nigerian Government fight Boko Haram and address the "root causes" of terrorism.

    MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

  20. Food security resolution

    MEPs approve the resolution calling for more to be done to promote safe food supplies and healthy eating, ahead of an upcoming Exhibition in Milan - the topic was debated this morning.

  21. Investment resolution

    MEPs approve a resolution on the activities of the European Investment Bank (EIB) during 2013 - a topic that was debated this morning.

  22. Bosnia and Herzegovina

    MEPs also approve a motion on the state of EU accession talks with Bosnia and Herzegovina.

  23. Albania resolution

    MEPs pass a resolution on progress made by Albania towards EU membership drafted by German Socialist Knut Fleckenstein , which commends the progress made by the country - which became an official EU candidate last June.

    However, it also voices concern over ongoing political polarisation, the judiciary and corruption issues, and calls for continued political will and concrete action to pursue EU-related reforms, in particular to public administration.

  24. Maldives resolution passed

    MEPs pass a motion calling for the end of violence against peaceful protesters in the Maldives, and condemning the reintroduction of the death penalty there.

    There is currently political instability in the country following a 13-year prison sentence recently given to Mohamed Nasheed, a former president.

    Mr Nasheed was convicted last month of ordering the arrest of a judge while in office.

    He was cleared of the charges in February, but was later re-arrested and charged under anti-terrorism laws.

    His lawyers quit during the second trial, which they said was biased and intended to end his political career.

  25. Cultural sites resolution

    MEPs also pass a resolution condemning the destruction of cultural site in the Middle East by Islamic State (IS), which also calls on the EU and member states to prevent cultural goods from Syria and Iraq from being smuggled into the Union.

  26. Kenya attacks resolution

    MEPs kick off the voting session by approving a resolution condemning the attack by the al-Shabab terror group on Garissa University College in north-eastern Kenya earlier this month, in which 148 people were killed - MEPs debated the matter yesterday.

  27. Votes coming soon

    MEPs are taking their seats for today's voting session, which will begin shortly.

  28. Commission closes debate

    Commissioner Mimica says that the Commission is determined to help boost research into the virus, as has been demanded by some MEPs during the debate.

    He adds that the Commission is committed to exploring "all possible tools" to explore options available in existing mechanisms for providing compensation to growers whose trees are felled, and pledges to bear MEPs' concerns in mind in the evaluation of any further steps taken to halt the spread of the disease.

    Commissioner Mimica
  29. Background on the virus

    The Xylella blight has previously ravaged vineyards in California and citrus groves in Brazil, according to the EFSA - the EU's food safety authority.

    Local officials, quoted by Italy's AGI news agency, suspect the disease entered Italy through ornamental plants imported from Costa Rica.

    However, a local campaign group called Peacelink disputes the EU data on the disease, arguing that a fungal infection is most likely to blame, citing research by the the University of Foggia.

    In a letter to EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, Peacelink says more than 500 olive trees treated for fungi have recovered since spring last year, and said mass destruction of olive trees in the affected area would be "totally unnecessary.

    Olive trees
  30. Commission response

    Commissioner Mimica undelines the nature of the threat, telling MEPs that this is the first time this disease has been detected in the EU, and that no treatments currently exist to cure trees that have been infected.

    He says emergency measures to halt the spread of the virus, including requirements relating to the movement of host plants, have been in place since last year.

    He adds, however, that more recently-agreed measures - including the felling of trees in some areas - are "essential" to stop the disease spreading further, and said that compensation schemes are in place for farmers affected.

  31. Today's oral question

    Today's oral question from the Agriculture and Rural Development Committee is pressing the Commission for answers on how it intends to co-ordinate action to solve the problem.

    Is says any Commission plans to cut down trees should be "proportionate", and is asking if it intends to compensate farmers if they get rid of some of their trees to help halt the spread of the virus.

    MEPs have also said they will be drawing up a resolution on the matter, to be put to the vote at a plenary sitting next month.

  32. Post update

  33. Call for 'European' response

    Italian Socialist Paolo de Castro says the fact that the disease poses a threat to several countries underlines the need for a "European", rather than simply national, response.

    He calls for quick action to stop the spread of the infection, "commensurate with the spread of the disease", and more public investment for research.

    Paolo de Castro
  34. Olive tree debate begins

    That's the debate on food security finished - MEPs will be voting on their resolution at lunchtime.

    Next up, MEPs will remain on matters agricultural, with a debate with Development Commissioner Neven Mimica on the spread of the Xylella fastidiosa bacteria - which has infected several thousand hectares of olive trees in Italy.

    Italy is resisting calls in some quarters for it to stop the problem and contain the risk of the disease spread by cutting down huge numbers of affected olive trees.

    Italian officials have already started cutting down some infected trees, despite protestations from landowners and conservationists.

    Olives
  35. Food imbalances

    Swedish liberal Fredrick Federley says he hopes the upcoming exhibition will provide a "broader context" to talk about food imbalances in the world - although he also highlights the need to tackle food problems in the developed world, including obesity.

    Fredrick Federley
  36. Milan Expo 2015 debate

    That's the debate on the EU Investment Bank's activities in 2013 finished - MEPs will be voting on their resolution at lunchtime.

    Next up is a debate with the Commission on food security, ahead of next month's Universal Exhibition in Milan next month.

    Parliament's Agriculture and Rural Development Committee has tabled an oral question asking the EU executive how it intends to promote food standards and secure food supplies.

    MEPs will again be wrapping up the debate with a vote on a resolution this lunchtime.

  37. Not 'business as usual'

    Responding to some of the MEPs' scepticism during the debate in relation to the "added value" of the Juncker plan, EIB President Werner Hoyer says that Parliament should not look at the risk profile of individual projects, but rather the Bank's investment portfolio as a whole - which he argues is "considerably higher" under the scheme than would have been the case otherwise.

    He adds that there is "no reason to believe this is business as usual".

    Werner Hoyer
  38. MEPs too statist?

    German Conservative Marcus Pretzell says it is necessary for investment in Europe to become more market-orientated, and questions whether his politician colleagues are really able to decide the difference between "good and bad" investments.

    He says the support for the public-led scheme in the house, even among conservatives and liberals, is further evidence of what he call the "efforts towards a state economy in Europe".

    Marcus Pretzell
  39. More on the plan

    The Commission outlined its legislative proposals for the plan - known as the European Fund for Strategic Investments, or EFSI - in January, which are currently making their way through the Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee.

    The Commission has said it wants the text to be fully approved in a plenary vote by June.

    So far, the nature of much of the negotiations has centred on how transparent the investment process should be - with some MEPs also asking for the Parliament to be given a greater role in overseeing the "steering board" of experts that will be in charge of deciding which projects get funding.

    Another point of debate has been the extent to which the plan will actually encourage investment that wouldn't have happened anyway - something referred to in EU jargon as "added value" or "additionality".

    Dutch Green MEP says during the debate that the EIB needs to be "far clearer" on how it hopes to achieve this.

  40. What is the 'Juncker Plan'?

    The package hopes to raise €315bn in EU-wide investment in public and private money to boost economic growth - something the Commission has said is vital given that investment in the bloc has fallen around 15% in real terms since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.

    The plan involves using a €16bn guarantee from the EU budget and €5bn contribution from the European Investment Bank (EIB) to try and encourage private firms to invest in infrastructure projects.

    The aim then is that this initial pledge - or "seed money", invested in riskier projects than would normally be the case - will be enough to raise 15 times as much cash for investment over three years.

    The Commission has said this so-called leverage factor of 15 is based on "prudent estimates from historical experience" - but there have been plenty of critics who have dismissed this as overly optimistic.

    Euro notes
  41. Tax avoidance plea

    Belgian Socialist Hugues Bayet says he thinks that the EIB at the moment is not using its entire "investment clout".

    He also says the Bank needs to "do its utmost" to ensure that the intermediaries through which it raises finance - such as some financial institutions - are not involved in tax avoidance.

    Hugues Bayet
  42. Juncker plan role

    Mr Hoyer adds that the EIB is playing an important role in providing finance to the new Commission's new plan to boost investment in Europe (officially known as the Investment Plan for Europe, but more commonly referred to as the "Juncker plan").

    He adds that the plan will allow the Bank to take on a "higher risk profile" in its lending activities, but that it will still maintain "due diligence" in the vetting of projects.

  43. EIB President speaks

    EIB President Werner Hoyer tells MEPs that, although there is no formal treaty mechanism requiring him to appear before the Parliament in this manner, he thinks it "only proper" that he comes to the hemicycle to explain the Bank's activities.

    He says the Bank's has lent some €50bn in new finance to small and medium-sized businesses (SMEs), although he adds that he is still conscious that "many firms still struggle" to find loans in Europe.

    He reminds MEPs that the Bank's loans are not commercial, but work towards "economic and societal outcomes" enshrined in the EU's 2020 economic growth strategy.

    He underlines the Bank's commitment to environmentally sound lending, and says that 25% of its lending over last 5 years has contributed to climate action.

    Werner Hoyer
  44. Parliament's resolution

    The text expresses concern at current "economic stalling" in the EU and what it calls the "significant" decline in both public and private investment across the 28-member bloc.

    It claims overall investment has dropped around 18% since 2007, with a "staggering" 35% decline in the investment going to small businesses between 2008 - 2013.

    It says that such falls present a "massive hurdle" for achieving a sustainable economy recovery in the EU and the chances of meeting the economic objectives of the "Europe 2020" strategy.

    European Parliament
  45. Good Morning

    Hello and welcome to BBC Democracy Live's coverage of today's plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

    The session will be getting underway shortly with a debate on the annual report for 2013 on the European Investment Bank (EIB), with the Bank's President, Werner Hoyer.

    Parliament's Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee has drafted a resolution which will be put to the vote at lunchtime.

    Members of the Employment and Social Affairs Committee and the Budgetary Control Committee have also submitted opinions for the resolution.