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Summary

  1. Hungarian PM joins MEPs for debate on new law threatening CEU university in Budapest
  2. Frans Timmermans announces EU legal action against Hungary over the measure
  3. MEPs discuss plans to change EU employment rules
  4. Debate follows on constitutional referendum in EU applicant Turkey
  5. Evening sees debates on whether to sign off spending by EU bodies

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

    And with that, today's debates come to a close. 

    MEPs will be back tomorrow from 07.30, when they will debate the European Investment Bank's annual report.

    Dutch finance minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem joins MEPs for debate on the Greek bailout.

    At lunchtime, MEPs will vote on whether to sign off EU spending in 2015. 

  2. MEPs make short speeches

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

    This item of business 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 farmland ownership

    Presentation of "own initiative" reports

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Next tonight there will be a short debate on a non-binding report from the agriculture committee calling on the Commission to set up a task force to examine the ownership of agricultural land in the EU.

    It adds that the concentration of farming land among relatively few owners poses risks for rural development, jobs and the environment. 

    German social democrat Maria Noichl
    Image caption: German social democrat Maria Noichl drafted the report
  4. MEP: EU should be 'engaging on international scene'

    Debate on clothes monitoring rules

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Jean Lambert

    Green MEP Jean Lambert says increased monitoring of clothing imports is  "absolutely crucial", as are efforts to increase workers' rights. 

    This is an area where the EU institutions should be "actively engaging on the international scene", she adds. 

  5. MEPs debate call for clothes monitoring rules

    Rana Plaza disaster
    Image caption: The Rana Plaza disaster killed over 1,000 garment workers

    Next tonight MEPs are debating a motion calling on the EU to introduce mandatory due diligence for imported supplies in the clothing industry.

    The EU Commission promised a “garment initiative” in this area in 2014 following the collapse of the Rana Plaza clothes factory in Bangladesh – but has not yet proposed one.

    The disaster prompted a debate in Western countries about the ethics of importing cheap clothing from countries with lower labour standards. 

  6. MEPs debating fishing in EU 'outermost regions'

    Fishing boat in front of setting sun

    MEPs are now debating a non-binding report from the fisheries committee which recommends regional strategies for “outermost” EU fishing regions.

    These regions include waters around the world belonging to EU members, such as the Canary Islands (Spain), Madeira (Portugal) or Guadeloupe and Martinique (France).

    Fishing boats in these areas have to conform with the EU’s common fisheries policy, with some exceptions.

    The report calls for better data collection on the state of fish stocks, and for the EU Commission to consider providing specific financial support to fisheries in such areas. 

  7. MEP: Council non-co-operation 'biggest issue'

    Debate on EU spending in 2015

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Ryszard Czarnecki

    Polish Conservative MEP Ryszard Czarnecki says a lack of co-operation from the Council is the "biggest issue" facing the proper application of the discharge procedure. 

    He accuses the institution of failing to provide necessary information of respond to written questions submitted by the European Parliament. 

  8. What has the committee recommended?

    The budgetary control committee has recommended that tomorrow MEPs sign off spending for administrative sections of the EU budget.

    It also recommends that spending by the European Commission and all six executive agencies should be signed off as well.

    However it recommends that a decision on whether to grant “discharge” to the Council of the EU and European Council is postponed until October.

    This has happened every year since 2011, with MEPs complaining that the Council refuses to hand over enough information. 

    EU flags outside the Berlaymont building in Brussels
    Image caption: The committee recommends signing off EU Commission spending
  9. MEPs debate EU spending in 2015

    Euro notes handover

    MEPs are now discussing a series of reports from the budget control committee on whether to sign off on EU spending in various areas during 2015.

    This process – known as “granting discharge” – is required by the Parliament’s treaty role to monitor and scrutinise the way the EU budget is spent.

    It usually occurs in the spring, after the European Court of Auditors, the EU's auditing authority, has produced its annual report.

    MEPs will vote on the reports tomorrow morning. 

  10. MEPs debate 'cultural heritage' plans

    MEPs are now debating a proposal to be voted on tomorrow which would designate 2018 as a “European Year of Cultural Heritage”.

    Under the plans, around €8m from the EU budget would be spent on events and campaigns.

    The money for the scheme will come from the Creative Europe budget line, as well as from EU structural, student exchange and research funds.

    The idea was first mooted in 2014 – the European Parliament formally called for it during 2015. 

  11. Commissioner: Previous EU support 'clearly deemed useful'

    Debate on EU support for 'structural reforms'

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Valdis Dombrovskis

    Euro and Social Dialogue Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis says he is confident the programme will help countries strengthen their economies, noting previous EU support was "clearly deemed useful".

    He says that although support provided under the plan will have a "broad scope" but that elements relating to cohesion policy objectives will be "clearly emphasised".

    The assistance plans will be "tailor-made", he adds, and developed in consultation with the country that requests them. 

    He adds that the plans will be transmitted "without delay" to the European Parliament to increase scrutiny. 

  12. Labour MEP: Funding method 'should not set precedent'

    Debate on EU support for 'structural reforms'

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Derek Vaughan

    Labour MEP Derek Vaughan makes a speech on behalf of German MEP Constanze Krehl, one of Parliament's two lead negotiators on the new law.

    He tells MEPs that structural reforms are "too often" associated with privatisation and budget cuts, rather than promoting research, education and training.

    "Those are the kind of structural reforms I think we should be supporting," he adds.

    He says that taking money from cohesion funds to support a new project should not "set a precedent" - and that the assistance should still comply with "cohesion policy aims".

  13. MEPs debate EU support for 'structural reforms'

    Office workers at night

    MEPs are now debating legislation to increase the amount of EU administrative support offered to member states undertaking “structural reforms” to their economies.

    The new law was proposed in late 2015 as part of a drive to encourage countries to better comply with reform recommendations issued by the Commission.

    The new scheme would see the Commission offer increased research, advice and training to countries that requested assistance.

    The proposed budget of €142m is to be redirected from a section of the EU budget called European Structural and Investment (ESI) funds.

    MEPs will vote tomorrow on whether to approve a final draft of the legislation they agreed with national ministers in February.

  14. UKIP MEP: Yes-voting Europe-based Turks should go back home

    Debate on Turkish referendum

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Gerard Batten

    UKIP MEP Gerard Batten says the results of the referendum signal the "end of democracy" in Turkey. 

    He notes the "disturbing" level of support among Turks living in Europe for the changes. 

    The "logical conclusion" of this enthusiasm, he adds, is that those Turkish nationals who approved the changes should have the "courage of their convictions" and migrate back to Turkey to live under such a system. 

  15. Liberal MEP backs new EU relationship for Turkey

    Debate on Turkish referendum

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Guy Verhofstadt

    Guy Verhofstadt, who leads the Liberal ALDE group, adds his voice to those calling for the EU to call off the current accession talks with Turkey. 

    He also says the EU should not continue to send €650m a year to the country to support its "pre-accession" efforts.

    He calls for a new relationship with the country based on an association agreement - to focus on an "upgraded" customs union in exchange for measures to boost democracy.   

  16. Tory MEP calls for relationship based on 'co-operation'

    Debate on Turkish referendum

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Syed Kammall

    British Conservative Syed Kammall, who leads the ECR group, says the EU needs to perform a "balancing act" in its relations with Turkey. 

    He says the bloc should "be honest" about the unlikelihood of membership but warns that "completely turning our back" on the country is "not an option". 

    He calls for a new relationship based on co-operation rather than the "more distant goal" of membership. 

  17. MEP warns against anti-Turkish feeling

    Debate on Turkish referendum

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Kati Piri

    Dutch Labour Party MEP Kati Piri, who is Parliament's "rapporteur" on Turkish matters, says there are "serious questions" about the conduct of the referendum. 

    She says she welcomes the Commission's call for an independent investigation into the matter. 

    If President Erdogan's proposals are "implemented unchanged", she adds, then the EU should suspend the accession process. 

    However, she says that criticism of the current Turkish leadership should not turn into anti-Turkish sentiment. 

  18. EPP chief: EU should stop accession talks with Turkey

    Debate on Turkish referendum

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Manfred Weber

    German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who chairs the centre-right EPP group, says it is now time for the EU to "reassess" its relationship with Turkey. 

    It is clear, he says, that the country is "going in the wrong direction".

    He says his group takes the view that full EU membership is "no longer realistic" for Turkey - and that accession negotiations should end. 

    However, the EU should seek to continue co-operation in areas such as security, academic exchange and on the current customs union. 

  19. Turkey’s EU membership: The end of the road?

    Debate on Turkey's constitutional referendum

    EU flag in Turkey

    This month’s referendum marks the latest stage in the deterioration of relations between the EU and Turkey – which has been an official candidate country since 2005. 

    Last month President Erdogan accused Germany and the Netherlands of "Nazi" tactics after they refused to let Turkish ministers hold referendum rallies in their countries.

    EU leaders have also reacted with concern to the closure of media outlets and mass arrests in the country since the failed coup last July.

    In November, the European Parliament called on the European Commission to “freeze” Turkey’s EU accession talks due to the government’s clampdown.

    Austria’s foreign minister is among those to call for accession talks to end completely.

    So far the Commission has not cancelled accession talks but has reportedly called on EU foreign ministers to consider a new format for relations when they meet on Friday. 

  20. Referendum result 'a matter of concern' to EU

    Debate on Turkish referendum

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Johannes Hahn

    Johannes Hahn tells MEPs that the conduct and content of the referendum are a "matter of concern" to the European Commission. 

    He says the EU executive is concerned that the additional presidential powers will move Turkey "even further" from European standards on issues such as the separation of powers. 

    He adds that the OSCE has noted there was no "level playing field" between the two sides in the referendum.