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Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight & Coming up tomorrow

    That's all from today's plenary sitting. MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT , when they will first debate new measures for collecting and managing data on fisheries stocks.

    After this they will discuss and vote on three topical human rights motions.

    From 11.00 GMT, they will vote on new EU rules for monitoring imports of "conflict minerals". 

  2. MEPs debate use of technology in democracy

    Finally tonight, MEPs are debating a report from the constitutional affairs committee which calls on the EU to use the internet and new technologies to boost democratic participation.

    It says that electronic voting can make it easier to vote for those who live in remote areas and suffer from reduced mobility.

    However it says that high-speed internet connections and secure electronic “identity infrastructure” should be prerequisites for considering the measures.  

  3. 'External pressure' on Montenegro growing - Commissioner

    Debate on Montenegro EU application

    Sir Julian King

    UK Commissioner Sir Julian King, who has been representing the Commission in several debates today, says that Montenegro has been making steady progress in its membership talks. 

    In particular, he says they should welcome the country's "complete alignment" with the EU's common security and defence policy. 

    He calls for an end to the political stalemate which has seen opposition parties boycotting the country's "half-empty" parliament. 

    He also expresses concern about the "mounting external pressure" on the country as its membership of Nato draws nearer. 

  4. Montenegro the 'front-runner' among EU applicants

    Debate on Montenegro EU application

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Representing Malta's EU presidency, Ian Borg says Montenegro is a "front-runner" among the countries undergoing the accession process for EU membership. 

    He says the country has made further progress last year, and EU leaders are paying "close attention" to judicial reforms with a view to opening more negotiating chapters. 

    He says that Malta hopes to begin and finish those chapters that are "technically ready" during its time in charge of the EU presidency, which runs until June. 

    However, he says the country needs to work on improving its trade balance and controlling public debt. 

    Ian Borg
  5. MEP: Montenegro has made 'strong progress'

    Debate on Montenegro EU application

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Charles Tannock

    Conservative MEP Charles Tannock, who has drafted the report on behalf of the foreign affairs committee, says that Montenegro has made "strong progress" in its EU accession talks. 

    This includes "genuine reform" to its justice system, he says. 

    Whilst he says that judicial investigations into the alleged Russian assassination plot continue, he adds that there is "growing consensus"  that the threat was "real and credible". 

    This would be in line with Russia's "growing presence" in the Western Balkans, he adds.  

  6. MEPs debate Montenegro EU application

    MEPs are now debating a report on progress made towards EU membership last year by Montenegro, which opened accession talks in 2012.

    Montenegro has started talks on most negotiating chapters, and is also making steps to become a NATO member.

    A report from the foreign affairs committee to be voted on tomorrow says the Balkan country has made “steady progress”, and that negotiations should be sped up this year. 

    However it expresses concern about an alleged Russia-backed plot to assassinate Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic during elections last year and calls for the EU to follow developments closely.

    The Sunday Telegraph quoted UK government sources  as saying the plan had been directed by Russian intelligence officers with the support and blessing of Moscow.

    Russia has dismissed the accusations as “absurd”. 

    Dusko Markovic and Federica Mogherini
    Image caption: EU external realtions chief met Montengrin PM Dusko Markovic earlier this month
  7. MEPs begin debate on EU Arctic strategy

    MEPs are now debating a motion which calls on EU states to try to negotiate a ban on oil and gas extraction in the Arctic.

    The recommendation is included in a report which says climate change could spark geopolitical tensions in the Arctic over new fishing routes and natural resources.

    It says that the EU should ensure “more coherence” between its internal and external policies in the Arctic region. 

    
          Blocks of Arctic sea ice that have been broken up by the Swedish icebreaker Oden.
  8. EU lacks 'social solidarity' for military - UKIP MEP

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Patrick O'Flynn

    UKIP MEP Patrick O'Flynn says the attempt to form a common European defence force is an example of the EU attempting to gain "another element of nationhood". 

    He says that the EU lacks the "sufficient social solidarity" even to bail out Greek banks, let alone permit the "shedding of blood in military conflict". 

    German social democrat Jo Leinen says the EU "is a soft power, and will remain so". 

    He adds that steps to give the EU military powers beyond peacekeeping missions "can certainly not happen" under the terms of the current treaties. 

  9. MEPs voice accountability concerns at report's plans

    Debate on EU defence policy

    Sabine Losing

    German left-wing MEP Sabine Losing claims that some are using the Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump in the US as an "opportunity" to establish a military presence for the EU. 

    She adds that the proposals in the report would "further militarise" the union. 

    She also says that the kind of military co-operation it proposes would be "completely outside the control of the European Parliament". 

    Hungarian Green Tamas Maszerics also says his group supports the general idea of greater defence co-operation but will vote against the report's recommendations as it would create military force without "any accountability whatsoever". 

  10. MEP: European force 'should be back on table'

    Debate on EU defence policy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Jean Arthuis

    Liberal French MEP Jean Arthuis says that, over 60 years after it was thrown out, the idea of a genuine European defence force should be "back on the table". 

    The world has become a more dangerous place, he adds, and a number of countries lack the required resources and equipment to cope with the challenges. 

    He says the original six founding EEC members "should go it alone" if it becomes impossible to find EU-wide agreement. 

  11. MEPs debate report on EU defence policy

    MEPs are now debating a report recommending the EU take steps to strengthen its common security and defence policy.

    Among its recommendations, the report calls for a new format for EU defence ministers to meet for co-ordinating common policies to make them more “efficient”. 

  12. UKIP MEP in 'Orwell' warning

    Debate on European party funding

    Jonathan Arnott

    UKIP MEP Jonathan Arnott says that he feels many political views should be defeated, but through "public democratic debate", adding: 

    Quote Message: State funding those you like and defunding those you don't - that's not Voltaire, that's Orwell"
  13. Background: UKIP under investigation

    UKIP is currently under investigation from the Electoral Commission over its finances after allegations it misspent EU funds.

    It comes after an earlier European Parliament investigation claims that the UKIP-dominated grouping - the Alliance for Direct Democracy in Europe - broke rules banning the use of the funds on "financing of national political parties, financing of national election campaigns and candidates or referendum campaigns".  

    European Parliament Bureau said money spent on opinion polls in the UK ahead of the 2015 general election and EU referendum last year breached European party financing rules. 

    A UKIP spokesman said: "We are confident we will be found to be in the clear" - with UKIP MEP Roger Helmer adding: "Call it revenge for Brexit if you like."

    Read more here

  14. 'Hard to see' EU requirement to fund Eurosceptics - MEP

    Debate on European party funding

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Gyorgy Schopflin

    Hungarian Fidesz MEP Gyorgy Schopflin says that whilst a plurality of views is important in a democracy, it is "hard to see" why the EU should finance parties that wish the end of its existence. 

    Yesterday German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right EPP group, said that the EU should not be funding its "enemies". 

  15. New powers to check parties included in regulations

    Debate on European party funding

    Sir Julian King

    UK Commissioner Sir Julian King, whose brief includes responsibility over security, tells MEPs that the new funding criteria includes respecting "the values on which the EU is founded". 

    He adds that this included respect for the rule of law and for human rights. 

    He adds that the new regulations include powers to check if European political parties are continuing to meet these criteria. 

  16. MEP: EU funds misused 'far too often'

    Debate on European party funding

    Danuta Maria Huebner

    Polish centre-right MEP Danuta Maria Huebner, the chair of the Constitutional Affairs Committee, says new criteria for qualifying as a European political party came into force this year. 

    She says the new criteria are "not about banning parties with critical opinions" of the EU. but rather not financing parties with "racist or discriminatory" platforms.

    She adds that misuse of European funds is "happening far too often". 

  17. MEPs debate political group funding

    Euro notes

    MEPs have now been joined by Security Commissioner Sir Julian King to debate the funding arrangements for EU-wide political groups and foundations.

    It follows calls last year from the leaders of the Parliament’s three largest political groups for a review of the arrangements to ensure recipients respect the EU’s “fundamental values”.

    Last year a number of MEPs said the Parliament should stop paying €600,000 in grants to the far-right Alliance for Peace and Freedom (APF) group.

    The Parliament’s constitutional affairs committee is due to make a recommendation about whether the group meets the criteria for receiving EU funding. 

  18. Conflict minerals law: A lengthy negotiation

    Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

    Most of the political debate on this piece of legislation has centred on whether the new due diligence requirements should be mandatory or voluntary – and for whom.

    The Commission’s initial proposal, announced in March 2014, was for the scheme to be voluntary for all companies.

    MEPs on the international trade committee then said monitoring should be made mandatory for smelters and refiners – whilst remaining voluntary for those further down the supply chain, such as mobile phone manufacturers.

    However this demand was strengthened further when it was first put to a vote in the full Parliament, with MEPs in the left-leaning groups teaming up to demand mandatory checks for nearly all firms.

    Over the course of the negotiations, the final text has changed to fit more closely to this position. 

    Man on his phone outside the European Commission in Brussels
  19. MEP points to 'loopholes' in final legislation

    Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    However Green MEP Molly Scott Cato points to what she calls the "important loopholes" in the legislation.

    Among these, she says, is the requirement that monitoring will only be mandatory for companies importing the four relevant metals in their raw form. 

    She says this could exclude companies that import the metal as part of components. 

    The final text, she says, is a "watered down" version of the one that had originally had the support of the Parliament. 

  20. Commissioner: Final text 'ambitious'

    Debate on EU monitoring rules for conflict minerals

    Cecilia Malmstrom

    EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom tells MEPs she thinks the final text represents a workable and "ambitious" policy. 

    She says the Commission will ensure the due diligence guidelines are translated into all the EU's official languages.

    Adding that trade "must be based on values", she says the new rules should help divert funds away from rebel groups towards the development of "well governed states" in affected countries. 

    She says that the EU is also working with international partners such as India and China to ensure they adopt more transparent reporting practices.