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Summary

  1. Today's short sitting, from 09.00 BST, was taken up exclusively by the traditional slot for debates on topical human rights cases.
  2. MEPs first debated the case of Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and rights activist who has been jailed by the regime for more than three years.
  3. This was followed by a debate on abortion rights in EU trade partner Paraguay, following a case last month in which a 10-year-old rape victim was denied access to an abortion.
  4. The final debate saw MEPs discuss relief efforts following April's devastating earthquake in Nepal.
  5. Today's session ended will votes on resolutions on all three cases, as well as a resolution on EU-Russia relations.
  6. MEPs also approved a resolution calling for Fifa President Sepp Blatter to leave his post immediately, and for an "interim leader" to replace him as soon as possible.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Thanks for watching

And with the short round of explanations over, this month’s Strasbourg plenary session draws to a close.

MEPs will meet for committee meetings next week – the international trade committee will meet on Monday, possibly to pick over the details of this week’s shelved vote on TTIP.

Parliament will next meet for a plenary sitting on Wednesday 24 June.

Explanation of votes

With the voting finished, MEPs will now have the chance to make short explanations to explain how they voted. 

MEPs call for Blatter to leave post immediately

Sepp Blatter
AFP
Sepp Blatter has led Fifa for 17 years, through numerous corruption and bribery scandals

MEPs pass a resolution on Fifa calling for President Sepp Blatter to stand down “forthwith”, and for an “appropriate interim leader” to be appointed immediately.

Mr Blatter tendered his resignation last week, but said he would remain in office until his successor was elected – something the resolution notes might not happen for another nine months.

It was reported yesterday that the likely date for Mr Blatter’s successor to be named is 16 December this year.

However, the resolution notes Mr Blatter should go as soon as possible, since required reform of the governing body “cannot begin in earnest until a new leadership is appointed”.

It also calls on Fifa to publish the full version of the Garcia report, and describes corruption within the organisation as “systemic, widespread and persistent”. 

EU-Russia resolution

After a long bout of voting on amendments to the text, MEPs pass their second resolution of the week on EU relations with Russia.

The text, prepared by the Parliament’s Foreign Affairs Committee, again repeats  MEPs’ non-recognition of Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

It also expresses concern at Russia’s “defensive and offensive military build-up in the Black Sea”. 

Concern over Nepal aid

They also approve their final resolution from the human rights debate, which expresses concern at reports of discriminatory distribution of humanitarian aid in Nepal, and calls for the country to guarantee financial support  to ”those who need it”.

Abortion rights

MEPs also give their backing to a resolution supported by five groups calling for Paraguay to provide, “as a minimum”, the legal right to abortion for rape victims and women whose health is in danger.

Journalist's release called for

MEPs pass their resolution calling for the immediate release of Syrian journalist Mazen Darwish.

Voting session

With the human rights debates over, MEPs will now take their seats for this morning’s voting session.

As well as resolutions on the human rights cases, MEPs will vote on two resolutions on a relation on EU relations with Russia, as well as a resolution calling on Fifa President Sepp Blatter to leave his post immediately following corruption allegations at world football’s governing body.

Nepal update

Latvian EU Affairs Secretary Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica makes the final speech of the debate on Nepal, again on behalf of EU Foreign Affairs Chief Federica Mogherini.    

She tells MEPs that that EU countries were "quick" in their efforts to help the Nepalese people, with the European Commission also providing €6m in aid in the country. 

She adds that the Commission is also envisaging further support to difficult to reach locations. 

She says that "initial confusion" in the country over whether humanitarian aid items should be exempt from custom duties was "overcome". 

Protecting everyone

Czech Liberal Dita Charanzova says she is concerned by the possibility that aid might be distributed in accordance with the country's caste system. 

She underlines the duty of the country to protect "all of its population". 

Dita Charanzova
BBC

What’s in the resolution?

Perhaps unsurprisingly, a high degree of consensus has been found on this issue – and the joint resolution that will shortly be put to the vote has the support of all seven of Parliament’s political groups.

It welcomes the aid provided by the European Commission and EU member states to Nepal, and calls on the international community to continue to assist the country’s government.

It expresses concern, however, at reports of discrimination in the way in which aid funds are distributed. 

The resolution calls for the Nepalese government to ensure that aid reaches ”those who need it”.

Nepal earthquake debate

That’s the debate on abortion in Paraguay finished.

MEPs will now turn their attention to the final debate this morning, which is on relief efforts following April’s devastating earthquake in Nepal.

The 7.8 category quake is believed to have left more than 8,000 people dead, with thousands more injured.

The United Nations has said that one month on from the quake, the world needed to provide more food and shelter for those left homeless.

The Nepalese government - which has been criticised for being slow to respond – has also called for more direct aid funding. 

Nepal
BBC
Thousands of schools damaged during April's devastating earthquake in Nepal have begun to re-open.

Akin to 'torture'

Italian social democrat Alessia Maria Mosca says that denial of an abortion in this case should be considered equivalent to "torture". 

She also says that the denial of abortion in such cases is "widespread" across South America. 

Alessia Maria Mosca
BBC

The EU and Paraguay

The EU is one of the country’s biggest trading partners, with Paraguay benefitting from preferential trading ties with the bloc since 2008.

Under the so-called General System of Preferences (GSP) scheme, the country can export its goods with reduced tariffs in return for agreeing to comply with fundamental rights obligations. 

No protection

Speaking in favour of the majority resolution, Catalan nationalist Ernest Urtasun says that in denying the victim an abortion, Paraguay is not "living up to international obligations" to protect children. 

Ernest Urtasun
BBC

What’s in the resolution?

A joint motion agreed between five of Parliament’s political groups calls for Paraguay to conduct an “independent and impartial investigation” into the rape and to bring the perpetrator to justice.

It also calls on Paraguay to legalise abortion, "at a minimum, when their health and life are in danger", and in the case of rape. 

Paraguay debate begins

That’s the debate on Syria finished – MEPs will now move on to the next of this morning’s debates, which is on abortion rights in Paraguay.

A group of UN human rights expertssaid last monththat the country had “failed to protect” a pregnant 10-year-old rape victim by denying her an abortion.

Paraguay bans abortion except in cases where the mother's life is at risk – with no exceptions made for rape victims or very young girls.

The experts said the decision had resulted in "grave violations" of the girl's rights, and called for her to have access to "all necessary healthcare". 

Paraguay protests
AP
The case has prompted protests both within and outside Paraguay

Efforts to stop artefact trade

Latvian EU Affairs Secretary Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica rounds off the debate by making a statement on behalf of EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini.  

She tells MEPs that IS has been weakened in past weeks but the challenges in the region "remain huge". 

She adds that IS actions in Palmyra, a "crossroads of civilization", may amount to a war crime in international war. 

She tells MEPs that the EU taking "all appropriate steps" in line with existing conventions to prevent the trade of cultural artefacts that contributes to the financing of terrorist groups. 

Zanda Kalnina-Lukasevica
BBC

Letting the West 'off the hook'

French MEP Marie-Christine Vergiat, from the left-wing GUE group, says her group could not support the text of the resolution agreed between the other six groups. 

Saying that it does not make enough mention of the role of arms sales and oil in propping up corrupt regimes, she says the agreed text is guilty of "letting certain Western governments off the hook". 

Marie-Christine Vergiat
BBC

Palmyra capture of 'huge concern'

British Conservative and member of the Parliament's Foreign Affairs Committee Charles Tannock is first out of the blocks, telling the chamber that although coalition has made "some progress" with its air campaign, the efforts being made against IS on the ground have "some way to go". 

He says the capture of Palmyra is a matter of "huge concern", and says he deplores the fact that such a culturally important site has fallen into the hands of "barbarian philistines".  

What’s in the resolution?

A joint motion calls for the “unconditional” and immediate release of Mr Darwish, and condemns the capture of Palmyra.  

It also urges the international coalition to step up their efforts towards a “multi-dimensional and long-term strategy” to weaken IS in the region.

It encourages EU member states and the European Commission to make “all necessary financial and human resources” available to assist refugees in the country.

Syria debate begins

MEPs open the session with a debate on Mazen Darwish, a Syrian journalist and rights activist who has been jailed by the regime for more than three years.

Mr Darwish, a founder of syriaview.net, an independent news site banned by Syrian authorities in 2006, was arrested along with two colleagues for "promoting terrorist acts". 

UNESCO, the UN’s cultural body, recently awarded him this year’s Guillermo Cano Prize for efforts to promote press freedom.

MEPs will also discuss the situation in Palmyra, the ancient Syrian city and world heritage site that was captured by the so-called Islamic State (IS) last month. 

Palmyra
BBC
The ancient ruins are situated in a strategically important area on the road between the Syrian capital, Damascus, and the contested eastern city of Deir al-Zour.

Good Morning

Hello and welcome to BBC Democracy Live’s coverage of today’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

As is tradition, today’s (short) sitting will see debates on three topical human rights cases, before the day’s voting session gets underway at around 11.00 BST.

The session will see resolutions on all the rights cases, plus a resolution on allegations of corruption at Fifa.