Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Summary

  1. In the morning, MEPs were joined by European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker to debate the EU's controversial migration deal with Turkey.
  2. At 11.00 BST, they heard a speech from the new Portuguese President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa.
  3. After the lunchtime voting session, they debated new EU data protection rules which they are due to put to a final vote tomorrow.
  4. After this, they also debated legislation to set up an EU-wide system for sharing airline passenger data, which will also be put to a final vote tomorrow after years of opposition.
  5. MEPs will debated progress made towards EU membership by Albania, Bosnia and Turkey, and new EU rules aimed at strengthening the protection of companies' trade secrets.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

And with that, tonight's European Parliament sitting draws to an end. 

MEPs will be back tomorrow morning from 08.00 BST, when be debating a motion on how EU countries can help fight poverty, and ways to encourage private sector firms to participate in development projects.

Ahead of a lunchtime vote, MEPs will also debate human rights motions relating to Nigeria, Honduras and last month's bomb attack in Lahore.

At the voting session, they will also decide whether to give final approval to new data protection rules, and an EU-wide system to share airline passenger data - both of which they debated this afternoon. 

MEPs debate lending to small businesses

Finally tonight, MEPs are debating something called the “supporting factor” (SF) governing lending to small businesses.

The SF was included in financial services legislation, lowering the capital requirement required to lend money to smaller businesses.

The measures was introduced after the 2008 financial crisis, which many thought had made it harder and more complicated for small businesses to gain access to finance.

A number of MEPs from the centre-right EPP group have tabled an oral question to ask the Commission for its initial assessment of how effective the measure has been. 

MEPs begin debate on 2017 spending

That’s the debate on the new EU trade secrets legislation finished – MEPs will vote on the proposals tomorrow.

Next tonight, MEPs will debate estimates for European Parliament spending during the next financial year.

Parliament’s budgets committee and Bureau endorsed an agreement earlier this month to set the budget at €1.9bn for 2017. 

This would be a 3.4% increase on spending forecast for this year, mainly due to money for increased cybersecurity and additional security measures for parliamentary buildings. 

MEPs criticise protection for whistleblowers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Michele Rivasi
BBC

French Green MEP Michele Rivasi is the first to criticise the new law, stating that it will make it easier for companies to "destroy the lives" of whistleblowers. 

Julia Reda, an MEP from the German Pirate Party, makes a similar point, telling MEPs that it will "expand corporate secrecy" and "deter whilstleblowers and journalists".

She quotes Antoine Deltour, the French whistleblower behind the Luxleaks disclosure, as saying that the freedom of expression safeguards in the text will "not protect" the whistleblowers of the future. 

Mr Deltour has been charged with five laws, including breaking Luxembourg’s professional secrecy laws. 

Julia Reda
BBC

What’s in the new law?

Debate on EU trade secrets law

The new directive would give member states two years to pass measures to give firms strong civil-law protection against unlawful acquisition, use or disclosure of their confidential business information.

This includes measures to preserve the confidentiality of trade secrets during legal proceedings, as well as a common approach to calculating the cost of damages for confidentiality breaches.

The text says fines should be able to take into account not only costs to business but also “unfair profits” made by the infringer and “moral prejudice” incurred by the firm.

It says, however, that new measures must not infringe freedom to publish stories in the public interest as defined in the EU laws relating to the freedom of expression.

However, some campaigners have criticised the provisions as weak - with a leading Green MEP saying last week that the new law could make it harder for stories such as the Panama Papers to emerge. 

Commissioner hails 'satisfactory compromise'

Debate on EU trade secrets law

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Representing the Commission in the debate this evening, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn says the text to be voted on tomorrow is a "satisfactory compromise". 

He says that, if the law is passed, EU companies will have "better tools" to protect their trade secrets - but the law "is not about promoting secrecy in business". 

In fact, he argues that by reducing "the risk of sharing information", it could encourage firms to collaborate more closely. 

Johannes Hahn
BBC

MEP calls for support for 'balanced' text

Debate on EU trade secrets law

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Centre-right MEP Constance le Grip, who has acted as Parliament's lead negotiator on the proposals, says the legislation will improve "fragmentation" in this area of EU law. 

She adds that it was also in the mind of the negotiating teams that new trade secrets law "in no way" endangered freedom of the press. 

She says the text to be voted on tomorrow is "balanced" and "fair". 

Constance le Grip
BBC

MEPs begin debate on trade secrets law

Next, MEPs are debating new EU legislation aimed at strengthening the protection of companies’ trade secrets.

The measure was announced by the previous European Commission in 2013, which said cross-border business research was being hampered by differences in national trade secrets laws.

The new proposals would introduce an EU-wide legal definition of what counts as a trade secret, and oblige member states to introduce new laws to beef up protection for commercial information.

The law also contains provisions to protect journalists and whistle-blowers – although these have been criticised as weak by some MEPs and campaigners.

MEPs reached a provisional agreement with national ministers on the law in December, which will be put to a final vote tomorrow. 

Secret documents
BBC

MEPs begin debate on Bosnia-Herzegovina

Next, MEPs are debating the EU membership prospects of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which formally applied for EU membership in February this year.

The country, which is still recovering from a devastating three-year war which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, is now an independent state, but under international administration.

It has a complicated system of government which critics say has perpetuated ethnic divisions between Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs – its three main ethnic groups.

The Commission’s latest report on the country’s membership aspirations condemned worsened conditions on media freedom, and an environment 'not conducive' to full freedom of expression.

However, it also welcomed a new public procurement law and new justice reform strategy in the country.

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn has said the country is “back on the reform track” – but some analysts have been more sceptical about progress that has actually been made. 

Commissioner welcomes call for judicial reforms

Debate on Albania's EU membership bid

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn tells MEPs he "particularly welcomes " the instance in the motion on the need for judicial reform.

Changes to the strengthen the judiciary are one of the Commission's five key reform areas. 

In addition, he adds that to further its EU membership ambitions, the country should take moves to more effectively tackle "high-level" corruption and reform its electoral laws. 

Johannes Hahn
BBC

MEPs begin debate on Albania membership talks

Next, MEPs are debating a similar motion to outline their view of the Commission’s assessment of EU membership talks with Albania.

The small Balkan country got official EU candidate status in June 2014, and says it hopes to start formal accession talks this year.

The EU has said that tackling corruption and organised crime and reforms to improve the independence of the judiciary should be priorities in the country’s membership drive.

MEPs will vote on the motion during tomorrow’s lunchtime voting session.  

Federica Mogherini and Edi Rama
EPA
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini travelled to Tirana last month

Leaders 'not linking' migration to accession

Debate on Turkey's EU membership application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

On behalf of the Dutch Presidency of the EU, Dutch defence minister Hennis-Plasschaert tells MEPs that national leaders are "not linking" migration and the assessment of accession talks. 

On the matter of visa liberation in the agreed text, she again repeats the condition nature of the deal and says the speed of its implementation depends on actions by Turkey. 

EU 'must never be silenced' by threats to media

Debate on Turkey's EU membership application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Richard Howitt
BBC

Labour MEP Richard Howitt says the MEPs' motion "does not endorse" the migration deal, noting concern expressed by international organisations and refugee charities. 

He adds that the EU must "never be silenced" in its criticism of threats to the media, in return for support in tackling the migration crisis. 

Ex-UKIP MEP Amjad Bashir, who defected to the Conservatives last year, says that there is no doubt the EU "needs" Turkey's help because of its geopolitical position. 

He adds that Turkey should not "be given a free pass", but that "enhanced co-operation" in a number of fields should be seen as an opportunity to "breathe life" into the bloc's relationship with the country. 

Turkey’s stalled EU membership bid

Turkey applied for full membership of the EU in 1987, although it wasn’t until 1999 that the country became an official membership candidate and not until late 2005 that it started accession talks.

Its long road to potential membership has been beset with political difficulties, not least its relationship with EU member Cyprus.

Tensions remain over the breakaway ethnic Turkish administration in northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Ankara. 

So far only 14 of Turkey's 35 negotiating chapters have been opened (ie started), and only one has been provisionally closed (completed).

The EU has said negotiation on eight chapters will not be started until Turkey removes obstacles to the free movement of goods, including direct transport links, with Cyprus.

Negotiations have also been overshadowed by concerns about freedom of speech and democracy in Turkey, treatment of religious minorities, and women's and children's rights. 

Turkish flag
AFP/Getty Images

EU 'clinging to failed process' with Turkey

Debate on Turkey's EU membership application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Belgian Conservative Mark Demesmaeker is among those to pick up on the issue of media freedom in Turkey, which he says is "getting worse". 

German Liberal Alexander Lambsdorff tells MEPs that in 11 years of negotiations with Turkey, the country's relationship with the EU has declined. 

He says that even though he "sees advantages" in the possibility of membership, it is time for the EU to admit it is "clinging on to a failed process" that would better be replaced by an agreement to co-operate with the country in areas of shared interest, adding: 

There is nobody who seriously believes Turkey will be able to join the European Union."

Alexander Lambsdorff
BBC

What was in the Commission’s report?

Debate on Turkey's EU membership application

The Commission said that Turkey is well advanced in fulfilling the economic criteria for membership, and gave a favourable assessment of the country’s abilities to comply in a number of other areas.

However, the report expressed concern at criminal cases brought against journalists, writers or social media users and said there has been “serious backsliding” in freedom of expression.

The EU has also condemned the recent takeover of the Zaman newspaper in the country, after police raided the paper’s offices and a court ruling placed it under state control. 

It also said that “substantial efforts” would be needed to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, with judges still subject to “strong political pressure”. 

Commissioner 'shares concern' about media freedom

Debate on Turkey's EU membership application

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn says that it is crucial for the EU to "reinvigorate" its relationship with Turkey, and not just because of its co-operation over the migration crisis. 

He adds that he "shares" the concern of many MEPs about media freedom in the country - and says the Commission has "repeatedly" spoken to the Turkish government about these "worrying developments". 

He adds that he believes work towards starting negotiations over chapters 23 and 24 on EU membership - on the judiciary and fundamental rights - should "significantly contribute to "reform efforts in this area". 

Johannes Hahn
BBC

Debate on Turkey EU membership bid begins

That's the debate on the passenger data sharing system finished - the final vote will be held tomorrow lunchtime. 

Next, MEPs are debating a motion from the Foreign Affairs Committee on the European Commission’s November report on the state of Turkey’s candidacy for EU membership.

The report comes at a crucial time in the EU’s relations with Turkey, with the bloc last month agreeing to and beginning to implement a deal to tackle the migration crisis.

The agreement will see the EU send ‘irregular’ migrants back to Turkey in return for resettling one Syrian already in Turkey in the EU.

In addition, the EU has promised Turkey €3bn in aid to help migrants, plus pledged to “re-energise” the country’s stalled bid to join the 28-member bloc.

MEPs will vote on the motion during tomorrow’s lunchtime voting session. 

Turkish flag wrapped around a protester
EPA

Commissioner 'looking forward' to vote

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Summing up for the Commission, EU Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos repeats his assertion that the deal reached between MEPs and national ministers on the legislation - which will form the basis of the vote tomorrow - strikes the "right balance" between security and privacy. 

He says he is "looking forward" to tomorrow's vote, and its speedy adoption by member states. 

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC
Passengers boarding Easyjet plane, Berlin - file pic

The EU plans to give police more powers to see airline passenger details, in a major counter-terrorism initiative.

Read more

Passenger data 'essential tool' in terror fight

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Swedish centre-right MEP Anna Maria Corazza Bildt outlines her support for the EU-wide system, telling MEPs that privacy protection will be "more not less" than currently under different national systems.

She adds that the system will be an "essential tool in a limited toolbox" to fight terrorism. 

Anna Maria Corazza Bildt
BBC

Security services 'have to harness modern technology'

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Independent Romanian MEP Monica Macovei, who sits in the Conservative ECR group, gives her backing to the new legislation, adding that the EU "should not wait until we are hit again" by terrorism before acting. 

She says there is a need to "act against the people who seek to destroy us".

German Christian democrat Monika Hohlmeier - whose centre-right EPP group also backs the proposal - says that the security services "have to be able to harness modern technology to combat the tools used by the criminals". 

She also adds that "99% of information" will not be viewed. 

Liberal MEP: debate has been 'fact-free'

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch Liberal Sophia in't Veld, who has long been an opponent of the Commission's proposed data sharing system, confirms that she will be voting against the deal at the vote tomorrow. 

She admits that her Liberal ALDE group has "been struggling" with the position they should take on the law, but that she is nevertheless "proud" of the internal debate on the matter within the group. 

She attacks some governments for what she calls "regressive" campaigning, and says the debate at times has been "completely fact-free" and littered with "ad hominem attacks".

She adds that her group's calls for data collection to be targeted rather than indiscriminate, and for information sharing to be mandatory rather than voluntary, have been ignored. 

Her group has tabled an amendment to the text to be voted on tomorrow, which would force national authorities to automatically share information they have, rather than if they deem it necessary

It is not yet clear, however, whether the amendment will command enough support to pass - or if it does, what sort of impact that will have on the future of the legislation. 

Sophia in't Veld
BBC

MEP: deal represents 'mass collection' of data

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German social democrat Birgit Sippel predicts that the deal will be passed at the vote tomorrow, with a "big majority" from her Socialist and Democrats groups voting in favour. 

The group had previously refused to back the deal until a deal on updating EU data protection rules had been reached - see below for more details. 

However, she says that she personally will not be voting in favour of the system, which she says represents the "mass collection of data" which has been ruled incompatible with EU privacy rights. 

She notes that a previous EU data retention directive, passed after attacks in London and Madrid, was thrown out by the European Court of Justice in 2014. 

Birgit Sippel
BBC

Dutch minister: system 'valuable tool' in fight against terrorism

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert says that, whilst the new system will not be a "silver bullet" for fighting terrorism, it will be a "valuable tool".

She says she is happy a deal to put the legislation to a final vote has now been reached, and that it will provide a "level playing field" for transfer of data between EU countries. 

On behalf of the Commission, EU Migration Commissioner Dmitris Avramopoulos says the deal "strikes the right balance" between security and protection of individual civil liberties. 

He outlines some of the provisions included in the legislation in this area, including rules to 'mask out' sensitive data after certain periods of time, and obligations for the systems to be monitored by data protection officers in member states. 

He says the Commission will be "putting pressure" on governments to implement the law as soon as possible, and make sure their individual systems are "interconnected". 

Dmitris Avramopoulos
BBC

Lead MEP: New system 'will save lives'

Debate on EU airline passenger data sharing system

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ex-Home Office minister and Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope, who has acted as the Parliament's lead negotiator on the legislation, says he is "proud" of the deal that will be put to a final vote tomorrow. 

He says he is confident that the new system will "catch criminals and save lives", and is the "best deal we could have reached", despite opposition from some MEPs. 

He adds that, without agreement on the current system, there would be "no European standard whatsoever" for sharing data from airline passengers.

Timothy Kirkhope
BBC

MEPs begin debate on passenger data law

With debate on the new EU data protection laws finished, MEPs will now turn their attention to legislation to set up an EU-wide system for sharing airline passenger data.

The new law would force airlines to hand over data such as passengers’ names, flight details and credit card details to security authorities for the purposes of tracking potential terrorists.

After years of opposition on civil liberties and effectiveness grounds, MEPs finally agreed a provisional deal with national ministers on the law back in December.

A final vote on the proposals will now take place tomorrow after the Civil Liberties Committee also approved a new deal to update EU data protection laws.

MEPs have come under renewed pressure to pass the deal following recent terror attacks in Paris and Brussels – but centre-left and liberal MEPs had blocked a final vote until a vote could also be held on the new data protection rules. 

UK border force
PA
The UK already operates its own data sharing system

Commissioner: rules will keep 'space for innovation'

Debate on EU data protection laws

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Summing up the debate, EU Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says the new rules are an instance of legislators "catching up" with private companies and developments in technology. 

She adds, however, that the new rules will keep a "free space for innovation" necessary for economic growth.

She tells MEPs that the Commission will be producing a "citizens' guide" to inform people how they can seek redress in the case of possible breaches of the new law. 

Vera Jourova
BBC

UKIP MEP: data legislation 'being rushed through'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

UKIP's Gerard Batten says that whilst protection of personal information is becoming "increasingly important", the current deal is being "rushed through" to allow a swift vote on the airline data plans.

Estonian Liberal Kaja Kallas says that trust is "the key" to unlocking growth in the digital sector, adding that users need to know why their data is being collected and how it is being used. 

Kaja Kallas
BBC
Kaja Kallas is the daughter of Estonia's former EU Commissioner

MEP reflects on technological change

Debate on EU data protection laws

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch Liberal Sophia in't Veld also picks up on the pace of change in the technology industry, noting that when MEPs started negotiations on the law four years ago, they were "just getting to grips" with the first version of the iPad. 

She says the new rules should not constitute an obstacle to innovation - but should remove obstacles. 

She adds that she hopes that, by fostering trust in how security services use personal data, the new law will increase sharing of information between different national authorities. 

Sophia in't Veld
BBC

MEP: 'one of biggest pieces of legislation' Parliament has enacted

Debate on EU data protection laws

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Claude Moraes
BBC

Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs the Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee, says tomorrow's vote will be "historic", and the new rules will be "one of the biggest pieces of legislation the Parliament has enacted". 

He says he is "particularly proud" that both the vote on the directive and the regulation can take place tomorrow at the same time - something not everyone thought possible when negotiations began. 

Conservative MEP Tim Kirkhope says that whilst his group has previously had some "serious reservations" about some elements in the legislation, he says the current agreement is a "pragmatic and workable solution".

He adds that the new rules will give tech companies clarity over what they "can and cannot do" - and will spur investment into EU tech firms as a result. 

However, noting the rapidly changing nature of technology, he predicts the legislation will "only last up to another 20 years".  

Commissioner: police 'will save money' from rules update

Debate on EU data protection laws

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says the Commission welcomes the deal that MEPs have reached with national ministers.

She adds that the updated rules will allow European tech firms to take "full advantage of digital single market". 

This digital single market is the name the Commission has given to its package of measures to boost the trade in digital services in the EU by changing copyright and other laws. 

She also says the directive on data used by the police authorities will allow them to save "time and money" by applying a single EU-wide set of standards instead of different national ones. 

Vera Jourova
BBC

Dutch minister: new rules 'will end fragmentation'

Debate on EU data protection laws

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert says that national ministers ""very much welcome" agreement on the legislation. 

She tells MEPs that the new rules will end "fragmentation" caused by application of the existing laws, and provide a "level playing field" for new data and digital companies. 

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert
BBC

MEP: new rules 'important key' for digital economy

Debate on EU data protection laws

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Green Jan Philipp Albrecht, who was Parliament's lead negotiator on the personal data protection rules, says the deal to be put to the vote tomorrow is the result of around four years of "intense" negotiations. 

He says he hopes that the new legislation can help the EU set a "gold standard" for future digital technologies, adding that trust in the use of data is an "important key" for the success of Europe's digital economy. 

Jan Philipp Albrecht
BBC

What’s in the new data laws?

Under the plans, users would have to give their “affirmative consent” to the processing of their private data – ie actively ticking a box on an internet page instead of a pre-clicked one or silence.

The proposals also include:

  • a right for users to have their personal data deleted, if there are no legitimate grounds to retain it
  • a right for users to know if their data has been hacked in a serious data breach
  • greater powers for data protection authorities to punish companies who do not comply with EU rules with fines up to 4% of their global annual turnover

The rules also contain a provision allowing national governments to set their own age limits – as long as they are between 13 and 16 – for children to open an account on social media sites. 

MEPs, as well as the European Commission, had originally proposed that there should be a uniform age of consent set at 13 years, which would have brought the EU in line with the US.

A last-minute amendment to raise the EU-wide age to 16 ran into opposition after protests from some states, as well as tech firms, and was eventually dropped

Facebook reflection in eye
PA

Data laws: the link to airline information plans

Debate on EU data protection laws

Tomorrow's vote will be in two parts: a vote on a new EU regulation governing personal data protection, and a second part on an EU directive on how data are used by police and security forces. 

Agreement on this deal has been crucial in getting another vote onto tomorrow's voting sheet - on whether to give final approval to a controversial EU-wide scheme to share airline passenger data. 

The new law would force airlines to hand over data such as passengers’ names, flight details and credit card details to security authorities for the purposes of tracking potential terrorists.

This information is known as passenger name record (or 'PNR') data. 

Certain centre-left and liberal MEPs had said they would not support holding a vote on the passenger data plans until agreement on the new data protection deal had been reached. 

Brussels airlines planes
Reuters
MEPs have previously refused to sign off on the PNR deal

Good afternoon

Welcome back to coverage of this afternoon’s sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will first be debating new EU data protection rules, which they are due to put to a final vote tomorrow.

Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova will be representing the EU Commission during the debate, whilst Dutch defence minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert will speak on behalf of the Dutch EU presidency. 

It follows agreement on the legislation between MEPs and national ministers at a meeting last Friday, which was endorsed yesterday by the Civil Liberties Committee.

The new law, which has been under negotiation for years, aims to replace current rules – which date from 1995 – with an updated EU-wide framework for protecting consumer data.

The legislation is aiming to give clarity and legal certainty for businesses, as well as giving people more control over how their internet data is used.

Phone
Getty Images
The new rules will govern the use of personal data by apps

Votes finish

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

Following a short break after this, the sitting will resume at 14.00 GMT, when MEPs will debate an agreement to update the EU’s data protection laws, due to be put to a final vote tomorrow. 

MEPs pass glyphosate motion

MEPs pass a non-binding motion recommending to the European Commission to only renew an authorisation for glyphosate, a herbicide used in farming, for a maximum of seven years.

The motion is not binding on the Commission. 

Some MEPs had previously called for an outright ban on the chemical, citing concern about its potential carcinogenic effects. 

#glyphosate - #EPlenary calls for 7 yr only authorization, adopts resolution w. 374 votes to 225, 102 abs. Press conf @giovannilavia 14.30

MEPs approve extra EU funds for humanitarian aid

Voting session

MEPs give their approval to plans to provide an extra €100m from the EU budget to provide humanitarian support to migrants and refugees within the EU.

The funding comes in the form of an “amending budget” for this financial year, which will also see €2m given to EU police agency Europol to hire staff at a new counter-terrorism centre. 

Migrants living in tents
Getty Images