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Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. End of the session

    And with that, today's voting session draws to a close, bringing with it the end of this month's plenary.

    Parliament will next meet in Strasbourg on 8-11 June, and there will be a day-long "mini plenary" sitting in Brussels next month.

  2. Explanation on defence resolution

    Although the voting graphic would indicate most MEPs in her political group (the Socialists and Democrats) voted in favour of the resolution on a common defence policy, Labour MEP Neena Gill says she abstained.

    Whilst she says there would perhaps be a benefit to giving the EU's common defence stance more "bite", she says she worries that it may simply duplicate activities already offered by NATO, "wasting money" whilst getting less international "clout" in return.

  3. Explanations start

    And with that, today's voting session draws to a close.

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

  4. No vote on Turkey

    MEPs were due to vote today on their resolution on progress made towards EU membership last year by Turkey.

    Although the country has been an official EU candidate country since 1999, accession talks have been deadlocked for years by a number of factors, including diplomatic relations with EU member Cyprus.

    However, the resolution's author, Dutch Socialist Kati Piri, asks for the vote to be postponed to a later plenary sitting, citing a lack of time for the political groups to discuss the large number of amendments tabled to the text this week.

    UKIP MEP Bill Dartmouth complains that a postponement would only serve the interests of those try to "evade" expressing an opinion on the country's membership bid.

    However, on a show of hands Parliament decides to postpone the vote until June.

    Rapporteur
    Image caption: The "rapporteur" of the resolution asks for more time
  5. Better funding

    In addition, MEPs back a separate resolution calling for better funding of the common defence policy by increasing the efficiency of spending.

  6. Co-operation on defence?

    MEPs also approve their annual resolution on the EU's Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP), ahead of a meeting of EU leaders next month at which defence issues are due to be discussed.

    The text, prepared by the Foreign Affairs Committee, calls for EU countries to increase their co-operation on defence matters and more closely pool their resources.

    The voting graphic reveals a pretty substantial opposition from both the hard left and the Eurosceptic right.

    Voting
  7. Further resolution

    MEPs also approve a resolution calling for the "immediate and unconditional release" of both Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu in Swaziland.

    The joint text, agreed again between all the groups, also calls for the release of all "prisoners of conscience and political prisoners".

  8. Call on Thailand

    MEPs also pass a resolution on the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Buddhist-majority Myanmar, also known as Burma.

    It calls on Thailand to hold "immediate, full and credible criminal investigations" into mass graves of Rohingyas found in the country, and calls on Myanmar to end "persecution of, and discrimination against" its Rohingya minority.

  9. Release of human rights activist demanded

    MEPs pass a resolution calling for the release of Itai Dzamara, a Zimbabwean human rights activist who has been missing ever since he was reportedly abducted last month.

    There have been accusations that the former journalist, who has previously staged protests calling for the resignation of President Robert Mugabe, was abducted by state security agents - something which has been denied by officials in the country.

    It also calls on the government to take "all necessary measures" to find the missing journalist.

  10. Coming up...

    MEPs will shortly begin their day's voting session.

    As well as the resolutions on human rights, MEPs are also due to pass a resolution on the progress of EU-Turkey accession talks.

  11. EU to re-examine relations?

    Like many other developing countries, Swaziland benefits from the EU's Generalised Scheme of Preferences (GSP) policy, which grants the country preferential trading access to the EU in return for commitments to respect human rights agreements.

    Making a point that is common to the Thursday human rights debates, Italian Five Star MEP Ignazio Corrao argues that the cases of Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu show the need for the Commission to examine the rights record of the Swaziland government - something that is also called for in the text of the resolution.

    "We can't have relations with countries that are systematically violating human rights," he adds.

    Ignazio Corrao
  12. Release called for

    Parliament's resolution calls for the "immediate and unconditional release" of both Mr Maseko and Mr Makhubu, insisting that their imprisonment relates "directly to the legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression and opinion".

    The joint text, agreed again between all the groups, also calls for the release of all "prisoners of conscience and political prisoners" in Swaziland.

  13. Final human rights debate

    That's the debate on Rohingya Muslims finished - MEPs will be voting on their resolution shortly.

    The final human rights case to be debated this morning relates to Thulani Maseko, a human rights lawyer who was imprisoned last year after criticising the judicial system in Swaziland in a newspaper article.

    MEPs will also discuss the imprisonment of Bheki Makhubu, editor-in-chief of The Nation, the newspaper that published it.

  14. Myanmar's record condemned

    Conservative MEP Amjad Bashir, who defected to the party after quitting UKIP earlier this year, denounces Myanmar's "appalling" human rights record, which he says is "unworthy of a nation seeking to be a part of the international community".

    He says that the Parliament has a "moral responsibility" to speak up for the maintenance of human rights outside of Europe.

  15. What's in Parliament's resolution?

    A joint text agreed between Parliament's seven political groups:

    • calls on Thailand to hold "immediate, full and credible criminal investigations" into the mass graves
    • calls on countries in the region to step up their cooperation to counter smuggling and people trafficking
    • calls on Myanmar to end "persecution of, and discrimination against" its Rohingya minority.
  16. Who are the Rohingyas?

    Rohingyas are a distinct, Muslim ethnic group mainly living in Myanmar

    • Thought to be descended from Muslim traders who settled there more than 1,000 years ago
    • Also live in Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan
    • In Myanmar, they are subjected to forced labour, have no land rights, and are heavily restricted
    • In Bangladesh many are also desperately poor, with no documents or job prospects
    Rohingya Muslims
  17. Shelter for migrants

    After weeks of being rejected by the authorities in Malaysia and Indonesia, foreign ministers from both countries yesterday to provide temporary shelter to the migrants that land on their territory.

    However, they said they need the international community's help with resettling them.

    Myanmar's government has said it is not responsible for the boat crisis.

    Thailand says it will no longer push back boat people from its territorial waters.

  18. Rohingya Muslims debate

    That's the debate on Zimbabwean activist Itai Dzamara finished - MEPs will vote on their resolution shortly.

    The next case to be debated is that of the plight of Rohingya Muslims fleeing Buddhist-majority Myanmar - also known as Burma - because they are not recognised as citizens and face persecution.

    Around 7,000 migrants, including both Rohingya Muslims and some Bangladeshis thought to be economic migrants, are currently believed to be stranded at sea.

    Parliament's resolution also expresses concern at the discovery of a mass grave containing the bodies of at least 30 Rohingya Muslims in Thailand by the military police earlier this month.

    The bodies were found in a suspected human trafficking camp in the province of Songkhla, close to the country's border with Malaysia.

    Malaysia estimates about 7,000 people are still stranded at sea
    Image caption: Malaysia estimates about 7,000 people are still stranded at sea
  19. What's in the resolution?

    A resolution agreed between Parliament's seven political groups calls for Mr Dzamara's immediate release.

    It also calls on the government to take "all necessary measures" to find the missing journalist, and asks for the EU to step up its "political dialogue on human rights" with the country.

  20. Calls for greater Zimbabwe 'attention'

    British Conservative Geoffrey Van Orden says Zimbabwe has been a topic of discussion in the Parliament throughout the fifteen years he has been an MEP, but the situation in the country "doesn't seem to get any better".

    He blames this on a tendency to "defer" to the African Union and South Africa in relations with the country, the "dominant regional player".

    He calls for EU leaders to "pay greater attention" to the country, given the bloc's status as a "major" aid donor in the country.

    Geoffrey Van Orden
  21. Human rights cases

    That's the debate on ACER closed.

    As is tradition in the Parliament on Thursdays, MEPs are going to be debating a series of three human rights cases, after which they will vote on resolutions on all three.

    The first case to be debated this afternoon is that of Itai Dzamara, a Zimbabwean human rights activist who has been missing ever since he was reportedly abducted last month.

    There have been accusations that the former journalist, who has previously staged protests calling for the resignation of President Robert Mugabe, was abducted by state security agents - something which has been denied by officials in the country.

    MEPs' resolution notes that "the government has remained silent on Mr Dzamara's disappearance, which has raised suspicion among the public that the state might be responsible".

    EU officials have previously called for a probe into his disappearance, urging "all necessary measures" to be taken to find out where he is.

  22. Privatisation blamed

    Portuguese MEP João Ferreira, from the left-wing GUE group, blames an increase in "bureaucracy at the European level" as a corrective response to the excesses of the market unleashed by the EU's energy strategy, which he says has aimed at "privatising and liberalising" the energy sector and taking energy companies out of public hands.

    João Ferreira
  23. Not just about cash

    Estonian Liberal Kaja Kallas expresses concern at ACER's powers, noting that in addition to a "lack of resources", it also lacks the legal "toolbox" to do its job, and struggles to acquire relevant information in its investigations.

    She calls for "mandatory information sharing" between EU countries as a remedy to the problem.

    Kaja Kallas
  24. Commission response

    Making a statement on behalf of Energy Union Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete, Commissioner Stylianides tells MEPs that ACER has been given an enhanced role in regulating Europe's energy firms since the launching in February of the plans for an "energy union" to enhance co-ordination of energy resources among the member states.

    He denies a funding problem, saying that the Commission is committed to ensuring the body is "adequately equipped".

    He adds that additional funding for the regulator will be given when it is "proved to be necessary".

  25. ACER debate begins

    That's the debate on the Eurozone economy finished.

    Next up this morning, Commissioner Stylianides will remain with MEPs to debate the resources allocated to the EU's Agency for the Cooperation of Energy Regulators (ACER).

    MEPs on the Industry, Research and Energy committee are complaining that the Slovenia-based energy regulator hasn't been given the necessary funds to do its job.

    ACER has said it will need 45 new full-time staff to carry out its tasks under a 2011 EU regulation known as REFIT, which requires it to screen and assess a large number of market transactions from this October.

    However, so far it has only been allowed an extra 15.

  26. Ideological divisions flare up

    German Christian Democrat Herbert Reul accusing the left of "complaining" about the situation whilst overlooking examples of success in countries like Ireland and Spain, where he says unpopular reforms to the economy are starting to bear fruit.

    In a thinly-veiled reference to the situation in Greece, he says the economic malaise within the Union is not a "general European problem", but rather a question of governments "not sticking to what was agreed".

    He says long-term growth in Europe will only be achieved by "creating the right environment for business", and denounces a "spend, spend, spend" approach.

    Herbert Reul

    His comments draw a quick reaction from Irish left-winger Luke Ming Flanagan, who intervenes using the "blue card" procedure to assert that growth in the Irish economy has been "inflated" by profits from multinationals that haven't paid "a cent in tax" in the country.

    He says talk of "structural reforms" has just been a euphemism for policies that have hit the vulnerable, and have been the equivalent of "urinating down the backs of our people whilst demanding we appreciate the shower".

  27. Waiting for...growth?

    Portuguese MEP Marisa Matias, from the left-wing GUE group, says the positive picture presented by the figures in the Commission's latest forecast are nothing but a "fiction", and calls for increased public investment as a motor for new growth.

    Like the inconclusive ending to Samuel Beckett's play Waiting for Godot, she says the EU executive will end up, like protagonists Vladimir and Estragon, not knowing "where they are going".

    She adds that the problem of over-optimistic predictions have been a hallmark of the Commission over the last few years.

    "There wasn't a single forecast that was actually reliable...they were all wrong", she adds.

    Marisa Matias
  28. 'Manufactured solutions'

    Belgian Conservative Sander Loones says that the €1.1 trillion programme of "quantitative easing" launched by the European Central Bank (ECB) in January has proved a "temporary fillip" that has got Europe's economy back in the black.

    However, he also warns that this programme, along with the massive investment programme launched by the new European Commission shortly after it took office last November will only prove to be "manufactured solutions" to sluggish growth that will fail to have a long-term effect.

    Instead, he says only reforms to the EU economy and drives to improve economic productivity will succeed in getting the bloc's economy back on track and lowering high rates of joblessness.

    Sander Loones
  29. Commission opens debate

    Commissioner Stylianides tells MEPs that all EU countries should benefit from the tailwinds driving growth in Europe during this year, although he warns that the extent to which they will benefit from the more favourable economic conditions will depend on how much they can capitalise on the lower oil prices.

    However, he warns of the continuation of "intolerably" high levels of unemployment in some areas of the 28-member bloc, high levels of public debt and a shortfall in investment since the financial crisis in 2008.

    Commissioner Stylianides
  30. Good Morning

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

    The session is due to begin shortly, when MEPs will first be debating economic prospects in the EU, following the publication of the Commission's "spring economic forecast" earlier this month.

    The forecast predicted 1.5% growth for the Eurozone this year, up 0.2 percentage points from its forecast in February, thanks to cheaper oil, a weak euro and stimulus measures.

    However, there was a much gloomier outlook for crisis-stricken Greece, which saw forecast growth cut to 0.5% from 2.5%.