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Summary

  1. MEPs debate new rules for using and disposing of mercury
  2. They also discuss new EU rules giving shareholders greater rights to vote on director pay
  3. Debate on gender equality marks last week's International Women's Day

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight & Coming up tomorrow

    And with that, today's plenary sitting comes to an end. 

    MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT, when they will first debate tighter EU regulations for gun ownership, to be voted on at lunchtime.

    They will also debate and vote on their initial position on new EU-wide recycling targets.

    In the afternoon, they will debate the recent US executive order banning federal funds from international groups which perform abortions.

    In the evening they will discuss rules for food safety inspections, and next year's EU budget. 

  2. Short speeches begin

    That's the short debates on the "own initiative" reports finished. 

    Finally this evening, there will be a round of short one-minute speeches from backbench MEPs.

    This item of business, traditionally held during the Monday plenary sitting, is normally used by MEPs to make points about topical issues or stories of interest to their country or region.

  3. MEP presents report on horse handling

    Presentation of "own initiative" reports

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Julie Girling

    British Conservative MEP Julie Girling has drafted a report from the same committee which calls on the EU to draw up guidelines for horse and donkey handling.

    The report recommends that the guidelines cover responsible breeding, animal health and welfare standards and how the animals should be used in tourism.

    It says the EU should also collate and provide information on examples of “good practices” in the different member states.

    However, Ms Girling tells MEPs that the report stops short of calling for new EU legislation, adding that it is not clear how new EU-wide rules would "add value".  

  4. National governments 'best placed' on rabbit welfare - Commissioner

    Presentation of "own initiative" reports

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Vera Jourova

    Again responding for the Commission, Vera Jourova says that "all farmed animals" are already covered by EU legislation passed in 1998.

    She adds that these rules already prohibit causing "unnecessary pain, suffering or injury" to farmed animals. 

    Telling MEPs that rabbit meat production takes place mainly in Italy, Spain and France, she says the Commission is not minded to adopt new EU-wide legislation specifically for rabbits. 

    These countries, she adds, will be "better placed" to address the issues raised in the report. 

  5. MEP presents report on welfare for farm rabbits

    Presentation of "own initiative" reports

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Stefan Eck

    Left-wing German MEP Stefan Eck presents his report on behalf of the agriculture committee, which calls for specific EU animal welfare guidelines for farm rabbits.

    The EU currently has general provisions for farm animals, as well as specific rules for pigs, calves, laying hens, broiler chickens – but not rabbits.

    The report says there are currently “grave concerns” about the welfare standards of farm rabbits in Europe, and variable national rules for battery cage sizes.

    He adds that consumers are demanding "higher welfare standards" in the production of rabbit meat. 

  6. Commissioner: EU privacy standards 'highest in world'

    Presentation of "own initiative" reports

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Vera Jourova

    Replying for the Commission, Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says that new technologies bring "significant challenges that we must deal with".

    She says that protection of personal data should be a priority - and says the EU's new data protection regime , which was approved last year, will bring the "highest data protection standards in the world". 

    She says that the Commission will be working with member states to ensure the new rules are "well understood" before they are due to come into effect in May 2018. 

  7. MEPs presents report on smart devices

    Presentation of "own initiative" reports

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Ana Gomes

    Portuguese Socialist Ana Gomes has compiled a report on behalf of the civil liberties committee about privacy protections in the use of so-called smart devices connected to the internet.

    The report says that the benefits of smart devices will only be felt if accompanied by “strong enforcement” of fundamental privacy rights. 

  8. MEPs to present committee reports

    That's the debate on gender equality finished. 

    Next tonight, there will be short debates on three non-binding “own initiative” motions prepared by the Parliament’s committees that will be put to the vote tomorrow.

    These motions do not carry any legal force and are not binding on the Commission or on member states – but effectively serve as policy suggestions from MEPs. 

  9. MEP urges greater ratification of Istanbul Convention

    Debate on gender equality

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Ernest Urtasun

    Catalan nationalist Ernest Urtasun, who has drafted one of the three motion that will be voted on tomorrow, says more EU states need to ratify the Istanbul Convention. 

    The Convention, which came into force in 2014, is an international treaty proposed by the Council of Europe aiming to reduce violence against women and girls.

    Signatories commit to providing 24/7 helplines, giving the police the power to remove perpetrators from their homes, and setting up an adequate number of shelters and refuges.

    All EU states have signed the Convention, but so far only 14 have fully ratified it. 

  10. 'Huge differences' on pay levels - MEP

    Debate on gender equality

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Noris Marias

    Noris Marias, an MEP from the Independent Greeks party, says that there are "huge differences" between member states when it come to pay equality among men and women. 

    However he says that the "biggest challenge" facing the EU is to combat violence against women. 

  11. Diane James rejects 'positive discrimination'

    Debate on gender equality

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    German left-wing MEP Stefan Eck says that there is a growing "feminisation" of poverty in the EU due to the disproportionate effect of austerity cuts on women. 

    UKIP MEP Diane James says that moves to promote better equality should not include so-called "positive discrimination" to "satisfy quotas". 

    This would be "just as unjust", she adds, as other forms of discrimination. 

    Diane James
  12. MEP urges EU spending on gender equality

    Debate on gender equality

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Iratxe Garcia Perez

    Spanish social democrat Iratxe Garcia Perez says that despite being "an example" to other countries around the world, the EU has "moved backwards" in giving women access to certain services. 

    She adds that there should be greater efforts made to look at the EU budget "from a gender point of view". 

    Polish MEP Jadwiga Wisniewska, from the ruling Law and Justice party, says greater efforts should be made in areas such as reducing gaps in average salaries and pensions. 

    However she accuses the women's rights committee of engaging in "ideological matters" instead of simply encouraging adherence to "good practice". 

  13. 'Work to be done' on equality - Commissioner

    Debate on gender equality

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Vera Jourova

    Justice and Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jourova says that despite "progress" in this area, there remains "a lot of work to be done" in the field of gender equality. 

    She says the EU has an "important role to play" in this area - highlighting the need for action in the areas of "employment, pay and decision-making", and lessening violence against women. 

    She adds that EU legislation setting binding targets for the number of women on boards remains "blocked" by a lack of agreement among national governments. 

    However she says she hopes the governments will eventually come round to the Commission's position. 

  14. Gender equality 'fallen down agenda' - Labour MEP

    Debate on gender equality

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Clare Moody

    Labour MEP Clare Moody, who has drafted the report on the spending of EU funds in this area, says the EU is still "a long way" from achieving gender equality, despite 15 laws relating to it. 

    She adds that gender equality appears to have "fallen down the political agenda", and that the EU's Daphne programme seen falls in funding since 2011. 

  15. MEPs debate equality between sexes

    
          Protest rally marking the International Women"s Day in Turin
    Image caption: Rallies marking Women's Day were held across Europe last week

    MEPs are now debating the success of EU policies to promote gender equality, to mark International Women’s Day last week.

    There is EU legislation which aims to guarantee women equal pay and access to services, but some studies have suggested that it is not being properly implemented.

    The women’s rights committee has produced three non-binding reports which:

    • recommends new EU gender equality legislation
    • repeats MEPs’ call for the Commission to adopt a new gender equality strategy
    • says member states should use EU regional funds to boost childcare provision
    • advocates more money for schemes to combat violence against women 
  16. MEPs give backing to new rules

    Debate on shareholder rights

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Axel Voss

    German Christian democrat Axel Voss says he would like to thank Parliament's negotiator for having taken out a number of "unnecessary points" from the Commission's original proposal.

    He says the final text to be voted on tomorrow is one his group is "happy to support". 

    The new rules are also backed by Labour MEP Anneliese Dodds, who says the new rules should encourage greater transparency for corporate pay.  

    She adds that doing something about "excessive" pay for directors is "not anti-business". 

  17. Commissioner: Time to adopt new rules

    Debate on shareholder rights

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Vera Jourova

    Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova says that the compromise position reflects a "balanced outcome" and that the time has now come to pass the legislation. 

    She adds that the new rules will effectively implement lessons learned from the 2008 financial crisis. 

  18. MEPs 'can be satisfied' with compromise deal

    Debate on shareholder rights

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Sergio Cofferati

    Italian social democrat Sergio Cofferati, who has acted as the Parliament's lead negotiator on the new rules, says the compromise reached last December is one MEPs "can be satisfied with". 

    He says the changes represent "a significant step forward" and will "lay the foundations for further progress" in the area of director pay. 

    He adds that the fact negotiations have taken three years before agreement was reached shows the "very sensitive" nature of the topic. 

  19. MEPs debate EU rules for shareholder 'say on pay'

    Euro notes being handed over

    MEPs are now debating new EU legislation that would give shareholders in large EU companies greater rights to have a say on director pay.

    The rules would mean pay policies would have to be voted on by shareholders every four years. Individual countries will be able to determine whether the votes should be binding or advisory.

    According to the European Commission, only 13 EU countries currently give shareholders any kind of “say on pay”, either through a vote on directors’ remuneration policy or a report.

    MEPs have reached agreement on the new legislation with national ministers last December, which will be put to a final vote tomorrow. 

  20. UKIP MEP calls for national response to Convention

    Debate on use of mercury

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Julie Reid

    UKIP MEP Julie Reid says the health dangers of mercury are "well known" and she supports the scope of the UN's Minamata Convention.

    However, she says that she believes the aims of the of the Convention should be legislated for "on a national basis".