Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Summary

  1. The sitting began at 08.00 GMT with a debate on the annual report of the European Court of Auditors (ECA) on spending of EU funds during 2014.
  2. The report found that 4.4% of EU funds were mis-spent, slightly down on the level for 2013, but once again higher than the ECA's 2% threshold below which errors are considered to be "tolerable".
  3. After that, MEPs debated resolutions on topical human rights cases in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Bangladesh.
  4. The day's short sitting ended with all three resolutions being passed, along with a resolution backing multilateralism in world trade negotiations.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Sitting ends

    And with that, the final day of this week's plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg comes to a close. 

    During the week, MEPs ratified the EU budget for 2016 and gave their backing to a report on tax avoidance compiled by the Parliament's special tax investigation committee. 

    They also debated what the EU's security response should be to the terror attacks in Paris, with Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker telling MEPs on Wednesday that the passport-free Schengen zone is now "comatose". 

    MEPs will next meet for a plenary sitting next Wednesday, when they will hold a day-long "mini-plenary" in Brussels. 

  2. Explanations of votes

    That's the voting session finished. MEPs will now be able to make short speeches to explain how they voted. 

  3. MEPs pass resolution on world trade

    MEPs also pass a resolution expressing their commitment to a multilateralist approach to world trade negotiations.

    It notes, however, that bilateral deals, which are struck between the EU and individual countries, can still “support” the multilateral system, as long as they comply with rules specified by the World Trade Organisation. 

  4. MEPs pass human rights motions

    The resolutions debated this morning are all passed, as expected, given they were “joint resolutions” agreed between the different political groups. 

    MEPs vote to say they:

    • condemn “ethnic and sectarian persecution” against the Hazara Shia minority in Afghanistan
    • express concern about the “worsening climate” for opposition politicians and activists in Cambodia
    • call on the Bangladeshi authorities to investigate violence against secular bloggers and writers by domestic Islamist extremist groups
  5. Voting to begin soon

    That’s the debate on the human rights resolutions finished. MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will begin shortly. 

  6. UKIP MEP: leave it to the UN

    UKIP's Diane James says any actions against Bangladesh should be conducted by the United Nations, not the European Union, given that it is a body that is "acknowledged across the world". 

    Labour's Neena Gill says the "crackdown" against the media is coming from two directions: radicalised groups but also security forces.  

    Diane James
  7. Violence against media 'acts of terrorism'

    Green MEP Jean Lambert, who has acted as one of the "rapporteurs" on the resolution. says she "very much regrets" the need for the resolution.

    She adds that, at the moment, the Bangladeshi press  "feels under attack".

    She says there is a need for a "quality judicial system" in the country to prosecute the attackers. 

    Conservative MEP Charles Tannock says the attacks on journalists and bloggers are "clearly acts of terrorism" perpetrated by groups with a "wider vision" to destabilise secular democracy in favour of Islamist rule. 

    Jean Lambert
  8. Bangladesh debate begins

    That’s the debate on the political situation in Cambodia finished. MEPs will vote on their resolution shortly.

    MEPs’ final resolution condemns rising violence against “dissenting voices” in Bangladesh, including secular bloggers and writers by domestic Islamist extremist groups.

    It quotes the recent case of Faisal Arefin Dipan, a publisher of secular books who was hacked to death in his Dhaka office late last month.

    The country is ranked 146th out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index.

    The resolution also calls on the Bangladeshi authorities to investigate and explain the “disappearance” of opposition politicians in the run-up to elections in January last year. 

  9. Concerns over 'dialogue' commitments

    Commissioner Georgieva sums up the debate by telling MEPs that there are concerns about the commitment of governing and opposition parties to a "culture of dialogue" they made last year. 

    She says that it should be used as an instrument to quell opposition. 

    She says the EU's external action services are using diplomatic channels to try to bring the country's government back to the "path of engagement and co-operation". 

    Commissioner Georgieva
  10. Cambodia and foreign aid

    Polish Conservative Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski says the EU must react to those who use "barbarian weapons of criminal law" to destroy opposition in the country. 

    He adds that the EU institutions should make foreign aid payments conditional on "observance of standards". 

    French left-winger Marie-Christine Vergiat says clientelism and corruption is "rife" in Cambodia. 

    She adds that, although the situation is deteriorating, the country's high dependence on foreign aid means it can be brought back to "the path of dialogue". 

    Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski
    Image caption: Kazimierz Michal Ujazdowski
  11. Cambodia debate begins

    That’s the debate on the persecution of the Hazara minority in Afghanistan finished. MEPs will vote on their resolution shortly.

    Next, they move to a resolution condemning the “worsening climate” for opposition politicians and activists in Cambodia.

    The text also calls on the Cambodian authorities to drop an arrest warrant against opposition Sam Rainsy issued by a court in the country earlier this month.

    Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, who has been in power for more than 30 years, threatened Mr Rainsy with legal action for saying the ruling party would "derail" elections in 2018.

    Political tensions have been rising in Cambodia despite a truce between the two politicians last year. 

  12. Killers 'must be held accountable'

    Summing up the debate on behalf of the Commission, Commissioner Georgeiva says those responsible for the recent killings  "must be found and held accountable for their crimes".

    She says instances of violence in Afghanistan risks fuelling wider ethnic conflict in the country. 

    She says that EU countries "need to act" to promote peace in the country, adding that they "directly affected" by what happens there because political instability is a key driver of migration towards Europe. 

    Commissioner Georgeiva
  13. Hazaras under 'permanent threat'

    Swedish Green Bodil Valero says that the developments in Afghanistan are "very worrying".

    She adds that countries in Europe have "turned their attention away" from the country after military withdrawal, but that MEPs should continue to "draw attention" to events in the country. 

    Lithuanian liberal Petras Austrevicius says that the "sharp rise" in civilian deaths in the country means the Hazara population is under "permanent threat". 

    He urges the Afghan authorities to conduct a "comprehensive" investigation into the killings, and end the judicial impunity of those in the armed forces. 

    Bodil Valero
    Image caption: Bodil Valero
  14. Afghanistan resolution kicks off human rights debates

    That’s the debate on errors in EU spending finished.

    Next, MEPs will debate their traditional Thursday morning plenary resolutions on topical human rights cases.

    The first resolution is on persecution against the Hazara, the only predominantly Shia ethnic group in Afghanistan.

    About 2,000 people protested in the eastern Afghan city of Ghazni earlier this month, after the killing of seven Hazaras by unidentified militants.

    MEPs' resolution condemns “ethnic and sectarian persecution” against the Hazara in recent months, and expresses concern at the “serious security situation” in the country. 

    Hazaras mourning
  15. Commissioner: 'more thought' needed on aim of EU projects

    Summing up for the Commission, budgets commissioner Kristalina Georgieva tells MEPs that the "focus on performance" must be maintained. 

    She says EU spending "has been doing good things", and points to rising economic performance in Poland, Lithuania and Latvia in recent years to illustrate her point.

    She adds, however, that sometimes "not enough thought" is put into how EU projects can be "better connected" to the rest of the rest of the economy.

    Although she says she agrees that some rules could be simplified, there is still a need for the authorities to come down "with a hammer" on projects with erroneous spending. 

    Kristalina Georgieva
  16. British MEPs on EU spending

    Derek Vaughan
    Image caption: Derek Vaughan

    There's a quick (near) succession of speeches from UK MEPs. 

    Labour's Derek Vaughan says the report makes clear the accounts "have been signed off", but stresses that more must be done to reduce errors. 

    In particular, he says simplifying the rules on cohesion spending would help bring this rate down. 

    Conservative MEP Richard Ashworth says there is a "depressing familiarity" to this year's report, with the "same areas of spend" responsible for errors as in previous years. 

    UKIP's Jonathan Arnott says that, above all, there is a need to ensure EU money is better spent, and says he is glad the new Commission is "actually talking about doing something about the problem".

    He gives an example of a project described in the report of a sewage plant receiving EU funds in Greece, which hadn't been connected to people's homes after six years, despite the fact it had been connected to the network. 

    He says this underlines the need for proper "failure criteria" on assessing EU-funded projects. 

    Jonathan Arnott
    Image caption: Jonathan Arnott
  17. Error rate 'still high'

    Austrian centre-right MEP Claudia Schmit says she regrets that EU spending still seems "full of errors".

    Polish Conservative - and on of the Parliament's vice-presidents - Ryszard Czarnecki, agrees that the error rate is "still high".

    He adds that the EU budget still needs to be "more responsive" in a crisis. 

    Dutch Socialist Dennis de Jong says there is need to press the need for "added value" on what EU money is spent on. 

    Ryszard Czarnecki
    Image caption: Ryszard Czarnecki
  18. Have the EU’s account’s been ‘signed off’?

    The publication of the ECA’s report in November each year normally leads to a number of media reports relating to whether the EU’s accounts have been “signed off” or not by auditors.

    This year, the ECA concluded that overall spending of EU funds included an “error rate” of 4.4%, mainly related to spending in agriculture and cohesion policies that violated EU rules. 

    This figure is different to the one that relates specifically to fraud, which is a deliberate criminal activity.

    The ECA gave “a clean opinion on the reliability of the accounts” – but also stated that the this error rate meant spending had been “materially affected by error”.  

    This was because, for the 21st year in a row, the error rate was above the ECA’s 2 % threshold for “materiality”, below which errors are considered "tolerable”.

    However, this leaves a fair bit of leeway when it comes to reporting how accurately EU funds have been spent.

    For example this year, the Times newspaper concluded that the ECA had “failed to give the EU budget a clean bill of health for the 21st year running”.

    This contrasts markedly with the European Commission’s own press release, which said the ECA had given the EU accounts a clean bill of health for the 8th year in a row”.

    Confused? You can read the ECA’s full report here

    Euro notes
  19. 'Every single euro matters'

    For the European Commission, budgets commissioner Kristalina Georgieva says that the Commission has “made progress” in improving financial management, but that there is “more work to be done”.

    She adds that the Commission has "embraced" the thrust of the ECA's recommendations. 

    She tells MEPs that the Commission is committed to improving budget transparency, which she calls "the taxpayer's best friend". 

    She adds that, particularly at the moment, “every single euro matters". 

    Kristalina Georgieva
  20. Management issues 'need to be addressed'

    ECA President Vitor Caldeira tells MEPs that he would like to make it "absolutely clear" that the 2014 accounts are "reliable" and "have been signed off".

    He says the error rate of 4.4% has been "stable for the last three years". 

    However, he says that the account nevertheless showed "longstanding financial management issues that need to be addressed". 

    On the issue of where money is being spent, he says EU spending should "better match" its aims, and  "could be invested better to face the many challenges that Europe faces".

    He says an upcoming mid-term review of the EU's current long-term budget will provide a "crucial opportunity" to rethink spending priorities. 

    Vitor Caldeira
  21. Background on ECA report

    First this morning, MEPs will be joined by European Court of Auditors (ECA) President Vitor Caldeira to discuss levels of mis-spending of EU funds last year.

    The ECA reported two weeks ago that found that 4.4% of EU funds were mis-spent – slightly down on the level for 2013.

    The European Commission says most "errors" take place at national level, where 80% of EU funds are managed.

    As in previous years, the biggest spending areas were agriculture and rural development (€57.5bn) and cash for poorer regions, known as "cohesion" funds (€55.7bn). 

  22. Good Morning

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

    This morning, MEPs are going to be debating levels of fraud and misspent funds in the EU’s budget last year.

    After that, MEPs will be debating resolutions on recent human rights cases in Afghanistan, Cambodia and Bangladesh.

    The sitting will close with the lunchtime voting session.