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Summary

  1. Irish PM Leo Varadkar debates 'the future of Europe' with MEPs
  2. He warns against 'backsliding' on Brexit pledges over Irish border
  3. Bulgarian PM also speaks during debate on Bulgaria's EU presidency
  4. In lunchtime vote, MEPs call for tougher EU energy targets
  5. Russian propaganda and plastic waste debated in afternoon

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight & Coming up tomorrow

    Finally tonight, MEPs will discuss events planned as part of the European Year of Cultural Heritage.

    That's it for our coverage this evening - MEPs are back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT, when they will debate the EU-wide recognition of professional qualifications.

    After this they will debate human rights cases in Nigeria, China and DR Congo.

    They will also hold a vote to allow the EU to ratify the Marrakesh Treaty, which they debated this evening.

  2. MEPs question application of anti-trafficking rules

    Next up, MEPs are debating whether member states are properly implementing EU rules designed to combat people trafficking.

    Rules adopted in 2011 set standards for prosecuting traffickers and created pan-European investigation teams to prosecute cross-border cases.

    They also established mandatory levels of support services for victims.

    In an oral question, MEPs from several political groups have asked what the Commission is doing in response to reports of rising labour exploitation, particularly in the farming sector.

  3. MEPs debate new treaty on books for the blind

    Blind man reading a braille book

    MEPs are now debating a proposal to allow the EU to implement an international treaty designed to make it easier for blind and visually impaired people to access books.

    The Marrakesh Treaty would oblige EU countries to allow accessible books – such as those in Braille – to be made available to authorised organisations without permission from the rights-holders.

    Implementation of the treaty has been held up after a legal challenge from eight member states who contested that the matter was an exclusive EU competence.

    However, the European Court of Justice said in a ruling earlier this year that the EU should be able to do this since it would affect common rules.

  4. 'From landfills to seafills'

    Debate on EU anti-plastics drive

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Mairead McGuinness

    Irish Fine Gael MEP Mairead McGuinness says finding a destination for plastic waste now banned from China is an "immediate and real problem".

    She predicts that the issue may now lead "from landfills to seafills" as the EU struggles to cope.

    Although she gives her backing to the strategy, she says reductions in plastic bag use following a 2002 levy in Ireland showed national governments "can do things themselves".

    She adds that the "enormous" amount of packaging that comes through internet shopping in particular is "something we've got to deal with".

  5. German MEP: China waste exports cannot end up in Europe

    Debate on EU anti-plastics drive

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Helmut Scholz

    German left-wing MEP Helmut Scholz picks up on China's decision to put restrictions on imports of foreign plastic waste from this year.

    Germany currently has been exporting 570,00 tonnes of plastic waste to China every year, and this must not end up dumped in other parts of Europe, he says.

    The issue is thus one of trade policy as well as environmentalism, he adds.

    However he predicts that stricter targets on reducing waste will be met with the "same old tune" of opposition from industry.

  6. Conservative MEP warns on EU targets

    Debate on EU anti-plastics drive

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Julie Girling

    Conservative MEP Julie Girling says she is a "great fan of plastic" but it is now time to "realise the downsides" of the massive increase in its use over the years.

    However, she calls for new EU legislation to be "as light as possible" in terms of the mandatory targets that are set for member states.

    Another idea in the strategy - creating a more integrated pan-EU market for recycling waste - is a much better idea for reducing waste, she adds.

  7. Timmermans: New law on single-use plastics by summer

    Debate on EU anti-plastics drive

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Frans Timmermans

    Frans Timmermans says there is a "sense of urgency" about the "enormous challenge" of reducing plastic waste.

    Plastic waste is a threat to "several economic sectors", he says, including fishing and tourism.

    Packaging alone accounts for about 60% of waste, he says. The European Commission wants packaging made in such a way that it can be recycled or reused cost-effectively, he adds.

    He pledges that a new EU law on single-use plastics - such as water bottles and food packaging - will be announced by the summer.

  8. MEPs debate new EU plastics strategy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Plastic bottles

    MEPs have now been joined by European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans to debate the EU’s new strategy for reducing plastic waste.

    The European Commission said yesterday that it wants all plastic packaging to be reusable or recyclable by 2030.

    It said that it would announce new EU rules on packaging later this year, and has allocated an extra €100m from the EU budget to help research into better waste management.

    It also pledged to “explore the feasibility” of an EU-wide tax on plastic waste, although none was announced.

    The EU’s budget commissioner recently suggested a new tax on plastic packaging could be used to plug the gap in its budget left by Brexit.

  9. 'Structural reforms' best job creator - MEP

    Debate on Youth Employment Initiative

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Dutch Christian democrat Jeroen Lenaers says the best way to improve youth unemployment rates is through "structural reforms" in EU states.

    He also says that young people should be encouraged to learn other languages.

    "In my region, lots of people are closer to jobs in Germany or Belgium, so it's crucial we have this," he adds.

  10. MEPs criticise impact of jobs scheme

    Debate on Youth Employment Initiative

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Portuguese social democrat Sobia Ribeiro says that some of the programmes funded by the EU's YEI scheme are "completely inappropriate" and have "no impact at all".

    Belgian MEP Helga Stevens, from the conservative Flemish nationalist party, says the scheme should not be put on a permanent footing.

    The scheme makes it harder for regions to adapt to local circumstances, she adds - whilst imposing a uniform strategy for the whole of Europe is "impossible".

  11. Green MEP: EU must define 'quality' offers

    Debate on Youth Employment Initiative

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Terry Reintke

    The assembly's youngest member, German Green MEP Terry Reintke, says that despite some success many young people have been left "disappointed" by the YEI.

    There has been a "big gap" in how the scheme has been implemented in different member states, she adds.

    She calls on the European Commission to come up with a definition to ensure training and apprenticeships funded by the scheme are "quality" offers.

    This should include the requirement that positions are paid, she adds.

  12. Commissioner defends YEI scheme

    Debate on Youth Employment Initiative

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Marianne Thyssen

    Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen says some of the EU schemes struggled to gain ground because of a lack of funding in member states.

    However the Commission's decision to ensure advance payments for YEI programmes is now "bearing fruit", she says.

    She tells MEPs she believes the YEI scheme, along with EU structural funds and the youth guarantee, have contributed to a fall in youth unemployment since 2013.

    However, she admits that "not all young people have benefited equally", and high youth joblessess rates remain a "reality" in a number of EU countries.

  13. Debate on EU jobs scheme begins

    Sign outside a job centre in France

    Next up MEPs are debating a report from the employment committee into the EU’s main scheme for tackling joblessness among young people.

    The report says a current lack of data makes it hard to assess the impact of the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI), which was set up in 2013.

    The report recommends that EU-funded apprenticeships and training schemes should be better advertised to European businesses.

    MEPs will vote on the report during the voting session tomorrow.

  14. Italian MEP: 'No evidence' of Russian interference

    Debate on Russian propaganda

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Italian independent MEP Barbara Spinelli says there is "no evidence" of Russian interference in European or American elections.

    She also says the concept of "fake news" is problematic - and says "lies" about the presence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq were spread by mainstream media in the West.

    UKIP's Gerard Batten says Vladimir Putin is a "gangster" but accusations about Russian electoral interference are the EU looking for a "scapegoat for your own unpopularity".

    However Danish social democrat Jeppe Kofod says multiple EU countries have been the targeted by Russian "disinformation campaigns".

    He is among those who call for the EU's StratCom force to be strengthened.

  15. Dutch MEP: I've seen fake photos of myself on internet

    Debate on Russian propaganda

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Johannes Cornelis Van Baalen

    Dutch Liberal Johannes Cornelis Van Baalen says fake news "has always been there" but in the age of the internet, the origins of fake news are "unclear" to readers.

    He says he has seen photos of himself on the internet mocked up to show him holding guns in Maidan Square in Kiev, the site of protests against the government of president Viktor Yanukovych.

    He tells MEPs he is "sympathetic" to a bid by French President Emmanuel Macron to increase the transparency of where news comes from and "who sponsors it".

  16. King: Commission must prevent EU 'fragmentation' in response

    Debate on Russian propaganda

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Sir Julian King

    Sir Julian King says there is "little doubt" about the deliberate nature of a "pro-Kremlin disinformation campaign" from Russia.

    The Russian authorities are "not exactly shy" about the ambitions of this, he tells MEPs, adding that the country's military regards false information as "another type of armed force".

    The role of the European Commission is to head off "fragmentation" in response, he adds.

    He praises the "important" work of the EU's StratCom force, which he says can reach up to 2 million people per month through its Twitter account.

  17. MEPs debate impact of Russian propaganda

    The sitting has now resumed, and MEPs are debating the influence of Russian propaganda in EU countries with UK Commissioner Sir Julian King, whose brief includes responsibility over security.

    In a motion vote last year, MEPs said the country was using a combination of think tanks, social media and “pseudo-news agencies” to “challenge democratic values”.

    They called for the EU to beef up its special StratCom team, which documents what it calls Russian "disinformation".

  18. MEPs call for tougher clean energy targets

    Voting session

    Wind Farm

    MEPs have also voted to toughen up a number of clean energy targets included in legislation they debated on Monday afternoon.

    The new laws would revise targets included in the EU’s 2012 energy efficiency directive and the 2009 renewables directive.

    Notably, they called for the EU to aim to get 35% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030, instead of the 27% target put forward by the European Commission.

    MEPs decide to begin informal negotiations on the targets with national energy ministers, without putting their position to a formal vote at this stage.

  19. MEPs give initial approval to new EU export controls

    Voting session

    Man on a laptop

    MEPs take an initial position on proposals to add a number of cyber-surveillance tools to a list of products subject to additional EU export controls.

    They decide to enter into informal negotiations national ministers based on this position, rather than putting it to a first position vote at this stage.

    The additions, including mobile phone interception devices, were suggested by the international trade committee list as part of a scheduled review.

    They said the products could be used to violate privacy rights if they fell into the hands of authoritarian regimes.