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Live Reporting

Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    That's it from the European Parliament for today, on this day when French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel gave the first Franco-German address to MEPs for 25 years. 

    MEPs will be back for the final day of this week's plenary sitting tomorrow morning from 07.30 BST - when they will be discussing the gender "pay gap" in the EU and vote on topical human rights resolutions. 

  2. Final debate

    Finally tonight, MEPs are going to debate a planned update to the EU’s action plans for gender equality and the empowerment of women in the bloc's development policy. 

  3. Project 'opposite' of EU objectives

    Danish social democrat Jeppe Kofod says he hopes the Commissioner will do "everything in his power" to stop the project going forward, adding that it represents the "diametric opposite" of the EU's wider energy objectives. 

    He continues that the project will only serve to "totally isolate" Ukraine, and that in any case it is not needed because there remains much unused supply. 

    He adds that the project brings with it the likelihood that it will increase the EU's dependency on Russian gas. 

    Jeppe Kofod
  4. Lobbying influence?

    Luxembourg Green Claude Turmes says that lobbyists from the energy companies are already "hanging around" the corridors of the Parliament to shore up support for the plan. 

    He adds that the pipeline is "not a commercial project but a political project". 

  5. Suspicion of Gazprom

    Danish Liberal Morten Helveg Petersen tells MEPs they should have "every reason" to apply suspicion to Gazprom's proposals.

    He adds that the state-backed Russian company has "always opposed" attempts to liberalise the European energy market in the past. 

    Greek left-winger Neoklis Sylikiotis says the tabling of the project shows the "inability of Europe to secure its energy supplies". 

    He states the EU needs to "make more use" of indigenous energy supplies, particularly hydrocarbons found in the Mediterranean. 

    Morten Helveg Petersen
    Image caption: Morten Helveg Petersen
  6. Commission and Council respond

    Luxembourg employment minister Nicholas Schmit, speaking on behalf of the EU's Council of Ministers, seeks to reassure MEPs that energy security is an issue at the "top of the agenda" for member states. 

    He says the Council is yet to adopted an "official position" on the project, but that it is aware that it presents potential "risks" to the energy supply and geopolitical position of the EU. 

    He says they are monitoring the project closely, noting that "a number of questions" have to be asked about the impact it might have on energy security. 

    On behalf of the Commission, Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete says that whilst a project of this type is for the commercial parties to decide, it will have to "fully respect" EU energy and environmental law.

    He pledges to MEPs that the plan will be "rigorously" assessed. 

    Miguel Arias Canete
    Image caption: Miguel Arias Canete speaking in the chamber
  7. Questions for the Commission

    In a written question to the Commission, MEPs have expressed concern that the planned extension will weaken Ukraine’s economic and position and increase the EU’s dependency on Russian gas – something the EU is currently attempting to reduce with its plans for an “energy union”.

    The commissioner responsible for the plan, Maros Sefcovic, has questioned whether the deal might undermine the EU’s current energy strategy.

    He has also said it is likely to “completely change the gas balance” in eastern Europe. 

  8. Nord Stream debate begins

    That’s the debate on the Hungarian red mud disaster finished.

    MEPs are now debating a deal signed in June between Gazprom, the Russian state-backed energy company, and a number of EU energy companies to double the capacity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline.

    The plans would add around 55 billion cubic meters of extra capacity to the pipeline, which runs from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea, by the end of 2019.

    The planned extensions are expected to lead to large losses in revenue for Ukraine and other eastern European countries – which are currently strategically important transit countries for Russian gas being exported into the EU.

    The Nord Stream pipeline, however, bypasses them completely. 

    Gas pipeline
  9. Need for effective legislation

    Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete tells MEPs that the "main lesson" to be learned from the crisis is the need for good preventative legislation that is effectively implemented. 

    He adds that it is important the relevant legislation is updated so it is fit to meet new challenges. 

    He tells MEPs that, five years on from the disaster, the EU is in a "better place" than five years ago to prevent a similar accident from having a similar effect, due to a "large body" of extra legislation in place in areas such as waste and water management.  

    Miguel Arias Canete
  10. Red mud debate begins

    Next, MEPs are going to be debating implementation of EU mining and environmental law, five years on from the red mud disaster in Hungary which killed four.

    Around 600,000-700,000 cubic meters of sludge – the waste from aluminium production – seeped out from a plant in Ajka.

    The disaster led to a criminal negligence inquiry in the country, although the company that owns the plant claimed at the time that the sludge had not been considered hazardous by EU standards.

    A group of MEPs has tabled oral questions to the Commission and European Council – representing member states – asking what is being done to prevent a similar accident occurring again.

    They are also asking what is being done to ensure that relevant EU legislation is properly enforced in the member states.

    MEPs will vote on a resolution tomorrow. 

    Red Mud
    Image caption: Red mud and debris in Devecser, southwest of Budapest
  11. Commissioner thanks MEPs for 'balanced' approach

    Summing up for the Commission, Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen says he thanks MEPs for their "balanced proposals" during negotiations over the new legislation. 

    She adds, however, that this is a change that need to be further promoted so it becomes a "topic that people understand".

    His sentiment is echoed by Italian centre-right MEP Antonio Tajani, who has acted as the "rapporteur" - or lead negotiator - for the Parliament on the new rules.

     Praising the changes as good for small businesses, he says it is an example of where the EU show it "is not the enemy of citizens".  

    The vote will take place tomorrow. 

    Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen
    Image caption: Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen
  12. Encouraging new payment services

    Sinn Fein's Matt Carthy says he will be backing the change at the vote tomorrow, adding that it should free up competition for payment services in the EU. 

    He dismisses opposition from the European banking federation due to "data protection" concerns as a case of "vested financial interests" not wanting to "see their position put in jeopardy".

    He also says he welcomes the fact that the new changes will bring some previously previously unregulated providers under EU rules. 

    Matt Carthy
  13. Payment services debate begins

    That's the debate on the "capital markets union" plan finished. 

    Next, MEPs are debating proposed changes to EU rules governing payment service providers.

    MEPs reached an initial agreement with national governments over the changes in May. Tomorrow they will vote on whether to back the deal at “first reading”.

    The new rules would give payers using an online account the right to have their payments executed on their behalf by authorised third-party providers.

    Payment service suppliers would also have to adopt technologies to ensure safe user authentication and reduce the risk of fraud. 

    Credit cards
    Image caption: The package of alterations, which also updates EU rules in a range of other areas such as refund rights payment surcharges, is aiming to foster greater innovation in the payments sector.
  14. Banks to remain 'main source' of lending

    Summing up for the Commission, Jyrki Katainen tells MEPs that although the goal of project is to boost alternative sources of lending in the EU, banks will remain the main provider of loan money to small businesses. 

    Additionally, he says the Commission is looking into the possibility of organising credit unions in the member stats outside of the EU schemes. 

    Jyrki Katainen
  15. Boosting lending

    Brian Hayes

    Irish Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes says that in his own country, private investment in the economy has fallen by 20% since the financial crisis. 

    He says he hopes a more "harmonised approach" to financial regulations across the bloc can help boost alternative sources of lending, adding that the shortfall in investment is not being filled by banks and won't be filled by governments. 

    He also says that the project should not just be concentrated on smaller businesses, but also provide a "financial escalator by which businesses can grow in Europe". 

    Danish social democrat Jeppe Kofod adds that it should be a priority for the Commission to identify "responsible" financial products, and welcomes the body's commitment to a consultation on covered bonds

  16. Warning over 'potential pitfalls'

    UKIP's economics spokesman Patrick O'Flynn says that whilst the Commission's plans are not without merit, it also contains potential "pitfalls". 

    He says that notably, the plans will never be able to truly end the need to allocate some capital geographically. 

    He attacks the naming of the plan, which he says is redolent of a "federalist ideology".

    Patrick O'Flynn
  17. Culture change 'should be attempted'

    Conservative MEP Kay Swinburne says she supports the broad objectives of the plan, but notes that the project should not just change legislation but also attempt to create a "culture change" in how European companies approach the issue of finance.  

    Kay Swinburne
  18. What's going to be reviewed?

    The package includes plans to review the raft of EU legislation in the financial sector passed in the wake of the financial crash.

    The assessment will ask whether the 40 or so pieces of legislation had had "unintended consequences" by making it harder for businesses to invest in the economy.

    There are plans to develop the European pension and insurance markets, and increase investment in long-term infrastructure projects.

    There will also be renewed attempts to harmonise differences in bankruptcy and company law between EU countries.

    The Commission has also pledged new proposals by the end of this year aiming to simplify the rules governing how companies write prospectuses - the legal documents used by firms to attract investment.

    The EU executive has argued that at the moment, some of the documents are too long and burdensome for small companies to produce. 

    Euro notes
  19. 'Taking the initiative'

    Swedish centre-right MEP Gunnar Hokmark lends his support for the plans, and says he salutes the Commission for "taking the initiative" in trying to lessen Europe's dependence on bank lending. 

    He says he agrees with the need for a review of financial legislation included as part of the plan, adding that the EU should try to "get rid of the hindrances" preventing the growth of other sources of financing. 

    Gunnar Hokmark
  20. EU business funding debated

    Next, MEPs are going to be joined by Investment Commissioner Jyrki Katainen to debate the Commission’s recently-announced plans for an EU “capital markets union”.

    The package of measures hopes to boost the amount of non-bank lending available to businesses, by making it easier for them to raise money on stock and bond markets.

    According to the Commission, companies in the EU currently get around 80% of their funding from banks, in contrast to the United States, where the figure is nearer to 20%.

    Improving non-bank lending is hoped in particular to help smaller businesses, who have found it hard to get investment from banks since the crisis. 

  21. Hollande criticism of eurosceptics

    Addressing his speech largely at Marine Le Pen, President Hollande says that those not committed to the task of building a stronger EU should "leave Europe" and "leave democracy - if you can".

    He says that Eurosceptics have presented voters with a false choice, because "sovereignty is not the same as sovereignism". 

    He says, however, that he agrees with Chancellor Merkel's call to reform the EU's Dublin Regulation - adding that not to do so would be "insufferable". 

    President Hollande
  22. Shutting borders 'no solution'

    Responding to the debate, Ms Merkel defends her handling of the migration crisis from criticism voiced by MEPs during the debate. 

    She repeats that "shutting borders" would not provide a solution to the crisis - and stresses, despite what was said in the debate, that the border between Germany and Austria is not "shut". 

    In a response to German MEP Rebecca Harms, she says the scandal at Volkswagen needs to be sorted but urges the Green party not to attack car-manufacturing jobs in the country. 

    Angela Merkel
  23. Confrontation in the chamber

    Front National leader Marine Le Pen greets Angela Merkel sardonically as the "administrator of the French province". 

    She criticises her handling of the Greek debt crisis, and adds that she should not "let France hemorrhage money" just for the "sake of saving the Euro".  

    Marine Le Pen
  24. EU project 'gone rotten'

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage says that although "nobody in their right mind" would say that it was not a good idea for France and Germany to "break bread" after World War II, the EU project has now "gone rotten". 

    He says that given France's voice in Europe is now "little more now than a pipsqueak", Europe is once again "totally German-dominated". 

    He adds that leaders' attitude to the migration crisis has been the equivalent of saying "please come to Europe" to the whole world. 

    He claims that 80% of the people in Europe are not refugees, but economic migrants.

    He concludes that the referendum on Britain's membership of the EU looks "more likely" than at any point in recent history, and says he hopes a vote to leave will mark the "beginning of the end" of the whole EU project. 

    UKIP leader Nigel Farage
  25. 'Blackmailing' of Greece

    On behalf of the left-wing GUE group, German MEP Gabriele Zimmer ticks off Ms Merkel for what she calls her "blackmailing" of Greece in enforcing austerity measures.

    She adds that the Chancellor should have taken the opportunity to push for a "social union" in Europe. 

    Another German MEP, Rebecca Harms of the Green group, warns that the EU will not succeed if leaders cannot find common solutions to "difficult problems" such as migration. 

    She urges Germany to end what she calls its "fixation" with debt and deficit rules. 

    Rebecca Harms
  26. 'Existential threat'

    Liberal group leader and former Belgian prime minister Guy Verhofstadt warns that the EU is facing an "existential threat" from a "multi-crisis". 

    He warns that if Europe returns to being a "loose confederation of nation states" then  "it will be the Americans and Chinese who dictate our economic standards". 

    He says that all the problems of the EU can be traced back to a common theme - a  "lack of shared sovereignty" in how decisions are taken. 

    Guy Verhofstadt
  27. Preaching, not listening?

    Ryszard Antoni Legutko

    On behalf of the Conservative ECR group, Polish MEP Ryszard Antoni Legutko says the Franco-German engine at the heart of the EU is no longer serving the entire bloc. 

    He adds that it is no longer acceptable, particularly given the EU's expansion to 28 members, that "one or two countries decide for the rest".

    He continues that alienation from EU institutions is being caused by a "deafening federalist rhetoric" that is "not rooted in reality".

    He chides the Chancellor for her attitude to the migration crisis, accusing her and other leaders of "preaching" on the subject rather than engaging in dialogue - something he says goes on in the Parliament "every day". 

  28. No decline, S&D leader claims

    There's even more talk of obsolescence in the chamber, as Gianni Pitella, the Italian leader of the centre-left S&D group, says the inter-governmental model at the heart of EU decision-making is itself now "obsolete". 

    He tells MEPs, however, that they should reject the "fatalism" of assuming that the bloc is in irreversible decline. 

  29. Migration 'is major challenge'

    German MEP Manfred Weber, who belongs to Ms Merkel's CDU party and leads the centre-right EPP group in the Parliament, says he agrees that migration is now the "major challenge" for the EU. 

    He adds that it is important that EU action is driven by observance to its Charter of Fundamental Rights.

    He says that the Parliament is divided between "normal party conflict" between the broadly pro-EU parties and another group of MEPs who want to "tear things down".

    He claims, however, that Euroscepticism is "on the wane". 

    Manfred Weber
  30. Merkel attacks Dublin Regulation

    Continuing on the theme of the migration crisis, Ms Merkel says that European politicians "owe it to themselves" as well as refugees to maintain high standards of human rights. 

    She adds that reneging on such values would be an act of "self betrayal". 

    She repeats her calls for a "fair distribution" of asylum seekers across Europe according to the quota plans.

    She tells MEPs that the EU's Dublin Regulation - which says asylum seekers should be processed in the first country in which they arrive - has "not proven itself viable" to deal with the realities of the crisis but is now "obsolete in practice". 

  31. Migration and Germany

    German media reported earlier this week that up to 1.5 million people will seek asylum in Germany this year – almost double the government’s previous estimate of 800,000.

    The estimate has not been confirmed by officials.

    Ms Merkel has won international praise for her open-door stance on refugees, but she has also faced criticism from politicians in other EU countries.

    She has also faced criticism at home, including from CSU party allies in Bavaria.

    The influx of migrants has put pressure on many local authorities to find accommodation.

    Last week, Hamburg became the first German city to pass a law allowing the seizure of empty commercial properties in order to house migrants. 

    Hamburg skyline
    Image caption: City authorities in Hamburg say they face a shortage of housing
  32. Migration crisis: historic trial for EU


    Like President Hollande, Ms Merkel moves quickly onto the migration crisis - which she calls a "trial of historic measure" for the EU. 

    She says that Europe must provide a "decisive contribution" to solving the crisis in Syria, but that ultimately, it is "a job for the whole world".

    She reiterates the need to stem the causes of the migration, citing the need for a political process involving "all international operators" to bring an end to the civil war in Syria. 

    On Ukraine, she says renewed talks between Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia - the so-called "Normandy format" - bring hope that a "ceasefire may hold". 

  33. EU has 'added to diversity'


    Chancellor Merkel begins her speech with a tribute to European unification. 

    To applause from MEPs, she says the building of the EU has not diminished diversity, but added to it. 

  34. Further unification?

    President Hollande finishes his speech telling MEPs that, 25 years on from German unification, Europe should prepare for a "new round of unification" in shared projects between member states. 

  35. 'Tragic error' to return to internal borders

    Moving onto the subject of national sovereignty, President Hollande says that Europe "must affirm itself" if Europeans are not to see its "demise". 

    He adds that governance of the Eurozone needs to be strengthened, and that returning to internal borders as a result of the migration crisis would be a "tragic error". 

    He adds that the EU should work towards the compilation of a common list of safe countries to whom those whose application for asylum is turned down can be returned. 

  36. Background on EU quota plan for migrants

    Migrants boarding train
    Image caption: Slovakia has said it will be bringing a legal challenge to the decision at the EU’s top court

    After months of public squabbling, EU leaders ratified controversial plans for quotas to distribute 120,000 refugees more equally between EU states at a meeting in Brussels last month.

    The plan from the European Commission was pushed through by a qualified majority vote.

    Under the proposals, each country will take a share of refugees depending on the country’s population, wealth and previous asylum applications.

    Germany and France both supported the plan – but Romania, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Hungary voted against it.

    The UK government said it objected to the plan in principle – and used its special treaty power to opt out of the plan. 

  37. Praise for Greek PM's 'courage'

    Referring back to this summer's series of meetings to resolve the debt crisis, he says Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras showed "courage" in asking the Greek people to vote on a referendum on an EU/IMF bailout. 

    To applause, he says that "asking the people is not contradictory to the respect for common rules". 

    He adds that he hopes talks can now "lead to a debate about debt servicing" in the country. 

  38. Helping Turkey

    Parliamentary service tweets

  39. Migrant crisis: quotas will support frontline states

    Moving on to the migration crisis, President Hollande says that the faces of dying refugees will be "imprinted on our memories".

    He says he recognises that Europe was "slow to realise" how much the instability in the Middle East and Africa would require it to respond.

    He says that the quota plan agreed between EU countries to respond to the crisis, however, agreed "not without difficulties" will help to support frontline states such as Greece, and must be implemented "quickly". 

    He adds that co-operation with Turkey is now "of the essence" in resolving the crisis. 

  40. New challenges

    Political group tweets

  41. 'Succession of crises' - Hollande

    President Hollande tells MEPs that Europe today has had a "succession of crises" for over a year.

    He adds that people need to perhaps learn to "live with" the fear produced by this instability, but should not allow themselves to be "dominated" by it. 

    However, he says the problems faced by the bloc should not cause its members to "retreat into their national shells".  

    President Hollande
  42. Welcome to the Parliament

    Parliament President - and German MEP - Martin Schulz thanks both leaders for visiting the Parliament, telling them their speech comes at a time when the EU faces "unprecedented challenges". 

    Martin Schulz
  43. Leaders arrive

    Image caption: Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker greets Angela Merkel and Francois Hollande
  44. Hollande and Merkel speeches

    President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel’s speeches today are being made to mark the 25th anniversary of German reunification.

    Their joint address will be the first the French and German leaders have made to MEPs since François Mitterrand and Helmut Kohl debated the end of the Cold War in 1989.

    However, both will speak on the EU’s current political dilemmas – with the migration crisis widely expected to be a key theme.

    Ms Merkel’s stance on refugees has won her international admiration, but also criticism from politicians in other EU countries and some domestic pressure at home. 

    Their speeches are expected to last around 20 minutes each, after which group leaders - including Marine Le Pen and Nigel Farage - will get the chance to respond. 

    President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel
    Image caption: President Hollande and Chancellor Merkel meeting in Berlin last year
  45. Voting session ends

    That’s the voting session finished – MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

    After this, there will be a short break before the sitting will resume, when French President Francois Hollande and German Chancellor Angela Merkel are due to be making speeches to the Parliament. 

  46. Milk protein labelling

    MEPs also approve changes to EU food labelling law relating to “milk proteins” found in certain cheeses, coffee creamer powders and protein supplements.

    The changes will give the European Commission the power to adopt so-called delegated acts to make minor changes to the labelling specifications.

    Milk proteins are not meant to be sold directly to consumers, although they are included in a number of milk-based products and can cause those with lactose intolerance to have a reaction. 

    They have had to be labelled specifically as “milk proteins” on food labels according to a 2011 EU regulation. 

  47. Emission limits vote

    Power plants

    By another big majority, MEPs also give their backing to proposals to introduce certain emission limits for “medium-sized” combustion plants, defined as having a thermal input of between 1- 50 megawatts (MW).

    The proposals were debated yesterday afternoon.

    There are around 140,000 plants of this size in the EU – but unlike smaller and large plants, their emissions are not currently regulated by EU-wide rules.

    The new legislation would set emission limits for sulphur dioxide, nitrogen oxides and particulate matter, plus an obligatory registration scheme.

    EU member states will be responsible for setting “effective, proportionate and dissuasive” penalties for plants that do not comply. 

  48. Small claims procedure vote

    By a massive majority, MEPs approve proposed changes to the EU’s small claims procedure that were debated during yesterday’s sitting.

    The procedure, first set up in 2009, allows people and businesses to use standardised forms for reclaiming money they are owed by someone in another EU country.

    The proposed changes – which MEPs have agreed with member states – would raise the ceiling for eligible claims from €2,000 to €5,000.

    The new rules would also stipulate that fees for using the procedure should be no higher than the court fees charged for national simplified court procedures. 

    Euro coins
  49. Voting session soon

    With King Filipe’s speech over, MEPs will now take their seat for today’s votes.

    During today’s session, MEP are going to be voting on whether to approve a number of legislative proposals they debated yesterday. 

  50. King's address to the Parliament

    Filipe VI

    To applause, Filipe VI tells the chamber that he addresses them as a "Spaniard who feels profoundly European".

    He says that although the idea of Europe was present "intellectually and practically" to him as he grew up, he now feels that Spain truly "belongs to Europe".

    He adds that the country will "continue to support the European project" and that the EU is "where we intend to stay". 

    However, he tells MEPs that the EU needs a "new European purpose" is needed to build a "stronger political community" in a globalised world. 

    In particular, he speaks of the need to strengthen the Eurozone and continue attempts to build a "banking union" in the 19-member bloc. 

    He adds, nevertheless, that the EU should never lose sight of its "essential social dimension" and that "social problems have to be dealt with". 

  51. Criticism for other MEPs

    Conservative MEP tweets

  52. Spanish King speaks shortly

    That’s the debate on Turkey finished.

    MEPs are now taking their seats for a speech from King Filipe VI of Spain – his second visit to the European Parliament since becoming monarch last June. 

  53. Problems with Turkey expressed

    German Green Ska Keller
    Image caption: German Green Ska Keller

    German Green MEP Ska Keller accuses EU officials of doing a "dirty deal" with Turkey by seeking its co-operation over the migration crisis in return for its silence over human rights breaches. 

    She adds that such a deal would "not be worthy of European values". 

    Speaking after her, UKIP MEP Bill Dartmouth says that if Turkey cannot be classed as a "safe country" to which refugees in the EU can legally be returned, it calls into question its status as a candidate for EU membership. 

    In any case, he states his opposition to the idea, stating that Turkey “can never be an EU member state” due to its geographical location. 

  54. EU's turn 'to show responsibility'

    Bulgarian liberal Nedzhmi Ali also says he agrees that "no solution is possible" on migration without co-operation between the EU and Turkey. 

    Pointing to the large number of refugees taken by the country, he adds that the EU has only recently begun to experience the same problems. 

    He concludes that the EU cannot "simply pour money to make this go away", and calls for a "united European position" on refugees. 

    "Turkey has already shown responsibility - now it's the EU's turn," he adds. 

    Nedzhmi Ali
  55. 'Pretty depressing'

    Charles Tannock

    Conservative MEP Charles Tannock says that President Erdogan considers the Kurdish PKK activists the "real terrorists" threatening his country - rather than the Islamic State (IS) group. 

    He also says he regrets the country has "failed" applying its readmission policy with Greece.

    He adds, however, that the "deterioration of human rights" in the country is a cause of "great concern".

    He adds that he hopes there may be some progress this year in the country's relations with EU member Cyprus, but that "for the rest, it's pretty depressing". 

  56. What will Turkey do?

    In exchange for help from the European Commission, Turkey would undertake various measures including implementing asylum procedures and giving priority to "the opening of the six refugee reception centres built with the EU co-funding".

    However, it is yet to accept the draft action plan agreed during talks in Brussels. 

    The document does not address demands made by President Erdogan for the creation of a safe haven and no-fly zone around Syria's northern border, or explicitly mention his calls for Turkey's EU membership process to move ahead more quickly.  

  57. Turkey and the migration crisis

    Syrian refugees in Ankara

    Turkey is currently has an estimated two million Syrian refugees on its territory, and is a key route for Syrian refugees trying to make their way into Europe.

    A number of refugees are migrating across the narrow sea lanes between Turkey's Aegean coast and the Greek islands.

    The European Commission has proposed giving €1bn to help the Turks deal with the consequences of the refugees on its territory.

    It has also proposed:

    • Resettlement of some refugees already in Turkey
    • Reinforcing the Turkish coast guard to help it tackle smugglers
    • Building on plans for lifting visa requirements for Turks travelling to the EU
  58. Turkey engagement 'absolutely necessary'

    Minister Schmit tells MEPs that the migrant crisis means that co-operation with Turkey is not only advantageous, but "absolutely necessary".

    He says the EU has recently started to "deepen" engagement with the country, and that events in Syria and Iraq have increased the need for renewed co-operation on counter-terrorism issues. 

    He says the EU is committed to "pursuing a dialogue" on potential visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens.

    He adds that Turkey's efforts to host more than two million refugees deserve the "full support and approval" of EU states. 

    On the domestic situation, he says he hopes that after the elections, a new government "can be formed swiftly".

    He adds that he is concerned by the escalation in violence but says measures taken by government should be "proportionate and targeted". 

    Minister Schmit
  59. Turkey debate begins

    That’s the debate on Syria finished.

    Nicholas Schmit will remain in the chamber, however, to debate hold another external relations debate with MEPs – this time on relations with Nato member and EU candidate Turkey. 

    The country, currently facing an upsurge in violence with Kurdish nationalists, will hold parliamentary elections next month.

    It has also become an important potential ally for the EU in getting to grips with the migration crisis at Europe’s borders.

    Yesterday, the EU offered new incentives to Turkey - including financial aid and easing of visa restrictions - for help to solving the crisis.  

    Turkey migrants
    Image caption: Migrants head towards the Greek border near Edime in Turkey
  60. Syrians must have 'right to remain'

    Hungarian MEP Laszlo Tokes, who belongs to the Fidesz party of the country's prime minister Viktor Orban, also stresses the need to find a lasting solution to the conflict if the number of refugees heading towards Europe is to be reduced. 

    He adds that the long-term goal must be to ensure Syrians' "right to remain" in their own country rather than establishing a "right to emigrate". 

    Laszlo Tokes
  61. 'Power of diplomacy'

    Centre-right Romanian MEP Christian Preda says Russia's intervention is a "worrying" development whose "fundamental objective" is to support President Assad. 

    He adds that it is "quite obvious" that the attack is a "gesture against Europe", especially given that the strikes were carried out without "negotiation" with other countries. 

    Labour MEP Richard Howitt, however, stresses that there is "no military solution" to the conflict - and that, however difficult, the “power of diplomacy”must prevail with Russia. 

    Romanian MEP Christian Preda
    Image caption: Romanian MEP Christian Preda
  62. In brief: Background on Syrian conflict

    Four years on from anti-government protests against the regime of President Assad, the country is riven by conflict between the government, an array of Syrian rebel groups, Kurdish fighters and Islamic State (IS), who all hold different territory.

    Iran, Russia and Lebanon's Hezbollah movement are propping up the Alawite-led government.

    The US, UK and France, as well as Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Qatar are backing the more moderate Sunni-dominated opposition.

    Hezbollah and Iran are believed to have troops and officers on the ground, while a Western-led coalition and Russia are carrying out air strikes.

    More than 250,000 Syrians have been killed and a million injured. Some 11 million others have been forced from their homes, of whom four million have fled abroad.

    That group includes growing numbers who are making the dangerous journey to Europe.

    Read here: a guide to where thekey countries stand

    A Syrian refugee at a camp in Lebanon
    Image caption: A Syrian refugee at a camp in Lebanon
  63. Humanitarian support

    German Christian Democrat Elmar Brok, who chairs the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee, says the EU is doing a lot to help the humanitarian situation, but it is still "not enough". 

    In particular, he expresses concern about those EU states who have made cuts to their aid contributions. 

    DUP member Diane Dodds adds that the EU should be doing more to put pressure on the Gulf states to do more to help the “very difficult situation". 

    DUP MEP Diane Dodds
    Image caption: DUP MEP Diane Dodds
  64. 'Little sign of peace'

    Minister Schmit begins his speech by telling MEPs that there is "little sign of peace on the horizon" for Syria, whose ongoing civil war is driving large numbers of refugees towards Europe. 

    He adds that the EU has a duty to deal with the "humanitarian consequences" of the conflict, although he insists that only an "end to the war" will bring an end to refugee crisis at Europe's borders. 

    He says there is now a "growing consensus" behind a  "two-track approach" to resolving the conflict - which includes fighting Islamic State (IS) group as well as supporting UN-led efforts to "get Syrians talking to each other again". 

  65. Syria debate begins - sort of...

    Next, MEPs are debating the situation in Syria with Luxembourg employment minister Nicholas Schmit, who is standing in for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini. 

    However, Mr Schmit has not yet turned up - so the debate continues with speeches from MEPs speaking on behalf of the political groups. 

    It comes after Russia, an ally of President Bashar al-Asssad, began making air strikes in the country last week.

    The country says the strikes - its first military engagement outside the borders of the former Soviet Union since the end of the Cold War – are to target fighters from Islamic State (IS) group.

    However, the Syrian opposition and others have suggested rebel factions opposed al-Assad are bearing the brunt of the Russian attacks. 

  66. Value of 'precision bombing'

    Another UK MEP, Jean Lambert from the Green Party, says the strike calls into the question the value of so-called "precision bombing". 

    She says the strike is a clear violation of "international humanitarian law", and says the investigation must take place -  "however uncomfortable that may be".  

    Jean Lambert
  67. MEPs stress need for investigation

    Labour MEP Afzal Khan also pays tribute to the victims of the strike, and also lends his voice to calls for a "prompt, full investigation".

    "Those responsible must be brought to justice," he adds, noting that all should be done to ensure that "this type of tragedy does not happen again". 

    Belgian Conservative Mark Demasmaeker also presses the need to find out more about the circumstances surrounding the strike, but warns that explaining the deaths as a case of "collateral damage" would be a "cheap and unacceptable excuse". 

    Afzal Khan
    Image caption: Labour's Afzal Khan
  68. Commission expects 'clear results' from investigation

    Humanitarian Aid Commissioner Christos Stylianides says the attack is a "sad reminder" of the difficulties that Afghanistan is facing. 

    He describes the deaths  as a "tragedy", that he deplores not only as an EU Commissioner but as a former medical professional himself. 

    He pays tribute to the Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) staff killed during the strike, who he says are offering a vital service under "extremely trying conditions".

    He says that the Commission welcomes the commitment from US authorities for a "full and transparent investigation" into the strike, adding that they are expecting "clear results very soon". 

    Christos Stylianides
  69. Good morning

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

    First this morning, MEPs are going to be debating the US airstrike in Afghanistan that killed at least 22 people at a hospital last week.

    The debate was added to the week’s agenda at the opening of the sitting on Monday.

    It comes after the US commander of international forces in the country yesterday said the strike was a mistake.

    Gen John Campbell said that the US would never intentionally target a protected medical facility.

    Medical charity Medecins sans Frontieres has called for an independent international inquiry into the attack in the northen city of Kunduz. 

    Kunduz hospital
    Image caption: The hospital was severely damaged and is no longer being used by MSF