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Summary

  1. In the morning, Luxembourg Prime Minister Xavier Bettel joined MEPs to discuss his country's six-month tenure of the EU presidency.
  2. After the lunchtime voting session, Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker spoke in a debate to review last month's summit of EU leaders in Brussels.
  3. New Polish prime minister Beata Szydło then spoke in a debate during the afternoon on an EU inquiry into whether new Polish laws break EU democracy rules.
  4. The evening saw debates on the current state of talks to end Colombia's civil war, the situation in Syria and the breakdown in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    That's it for our coverage of the European Parliament this evening. 

    MEPs will be back in the hemicycle tomorrow morning from 08.00 GMT, when Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte is due to speak in a debate on his country's presidency of the EU.

    After lunchtime votes, French Foreign Affairs Minister Laurent Fabius will join MEPs to debate last month's UN climate deal in Paris.

    In the evening, MEPs  will discuss the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen, the killing of religious minorities by the Islamic State group, and the recent upturn in violence in south-eastern Turkey.

    There will also be debate on the practical implications of France's decision to trigger an EU mutual defence clause, ahead of a vote on a non-binding motion on Thursday. 

  2. Debate on internal market rules begins

    That’s the debate on the presumption of innocence finished. MEPs will set out their initial position on the changes tomorrow.

    Next, MEPs are debating proposals to revise three EU directives relating to safety equipment at work, gas-burning appliances and ski lifts.

    The Commission has proposed to revise the laws in order to ensure they comply with a 2008 initiative aiming to simplify and strengthen EU internal market rules.

    The Parliament’s internal market committee has signed off on a deal MEPs reached with national governments on the changes last September.

    MEPs will vote on whether to give final approval to the changes at lunchtime tomorrow. 

    Ski lifts
  3. Commissioner: 'great disparities' in how principle is enforced

    Justice Commissioner Vera Jourova tells MEPs that there are "great disparities" in how well EU states enforce the presumption of innocence principle. 

    She says that the changes enshrined in the new EU regulation will make sure the principle is "effective in all the member states". 

    She adds that the Commission "regrets" the position taken by MEPs on the burden of proof clause - noting that exceptions already exist in national legal systems. 

    Otherwise, however, she says the Commission finds the Parliament's compromise position "highly satisfactory". 

  4. Where do MEPs stand?

    MEPs on the civil liberties committee have given their general approval to the moves to strengthen the presumption of innocence in EU law.

    However, they have pushed for the clause allowing the burden of proof to be reversed in certain circumstances to be removed.

    Instead, they have stated that the burden of proof should always rest with the prosecution.

    They have also added amendments seeking to prevent disclosure to the media of information that might undermine a suspect’s innocence during a trial. 

  5. 'Absolute' right of silence

    French Liberal Nathalie Griesbeck, who acted as lead negotiator for the legal affairs committee on its position, says that the new EU regulation will enshrine the principle that "any doubt" in a case must work in favour of the accused. 

    She says it will make the right to silence an "absolute" right in EU law - adding that in some countries this has been found to be taken as evidence against defendants. 

    Nathalie Griesbeck
  6. Debate on changes to 'presumption of innocence' begin

    That's the debate on Iran-Saudi relations finished. 

    Next, MEPs are debating proposed changes to EU rules that aim to strengthen the presumption of innocence during court proceedings in member states.

    The proposals aim to ensure that suspects are not presented as convicted in pre-trail appearances in the media, and that no inferences are drawn if a suspect chooses to remain silent.

    It also seeks to clarify that the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution, although it says that in some circumstances this can be reversed if certain safeguards are met.

    Although the presumption of innocence is already meant to be guaranteed by certain aspects of international and EU law, it has reportedly been repeatedly violated.

    European Court of Human Rights has claimed there were 26 such violations between 2007 and 2012.

    MEPs will set out their “first reading” position on the new law at a lunchtime vote tomorrow, before they continue negotiation with national governments. 

    Scales of Justice above the Old Bailey in London
  7. Questions over legality of arms sales to Saudi Arabia

    SNP MEP Alyn Smith says that, bearing in mind international law, there are questions over the legality of arms sales from EU countries - including the UK - to Saudi Arabia.

    He says this is "especially" necessary given that UK arms are being used in the conflict in Yemen. 

    He asks Ms Mogherini whether she has conducted assessments in this area - and if not, whether she intends to do so. 

    The UK Foreign Secretary has already pledged to "work with the Saudis" to establish whether UK arms sales have broken international humanitarian law. 

    Alyn Smith
  8. What's behind the tension between Saudi Arabia and Iran?

    Video content

    Video caption: Saudi Arabia and Iran - The tension explained
  9. Diplomatic dispute 'a new stage' in Sunni-Shia relations

    Romanian centre-right MEP Christian Dan Preda says he fears the developments between the two countries represent a "new stage" in tensions between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

    Dutch Conservative Bas Belder says that "neither country" is making a contribution towards efforts to promote stability in the Middle East.  

    Bas Belder
  10. Need to stop 'further destabilisation' in Syria and Yemen

    EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini says that EU authorities "reacted immediately" to the executions in Saudi Arabia earlier this month. 

    She says that the EU believes that execution is not a "sustainable response" to crime, and that the bloc will continue to "consistently advocate" its abolition worldwide. 

    She tells MEPs that the "main message" of her phone calls for foreign ministers of both countries was on the need to manage tensions and prevent  "further destabilisation" in Syria and Yemen.

    She reiterates that finding "negotiated solutions" to the conflicts in the Middle East remains the only long-term option.  

    Federica Mogherini
  11. Debate on Saudi-Iran relations begins

    That’s the debate on the situation in Syria finished.

    The third and final foreign affairs debate this afternoon is on the breakdown in relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

    Diplomatic links between the two were severed earlier this month amid a row over the Saudi execution of a prominent Shia Muslim cleric.

    Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr and 46 others were executed after being convicted of terror-related offences.

    Protests taking place in Lebanon against the executions
    Image caption: Protests taking place in Lebanon against the executions
  12. Syria: The story of the conflict

    More than 11 million others have been forced from their homes as forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule battle each other - as well as jihadist militants from Islamic State. 

    This is the story of the civil war so far, in eight short chapters.  

    Read more here

    Injured Syrian man
  13. Debate on Syria begins

    That’s the debate on the talks to end the Columbian civil war finished.

    Ms Mogherini will remain in the chamber for the next debate, which is on the Syrian civil war.

    More than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in four-and-a-half years of armed conflict between the government of President Bashar al-Assad and those opposed to his rule, including jihadist militants from Islamic State. 

    EU countries are currently participating in UN-led talks to find a political solution to end the conflict, known informally as the Vienna process. 

    The UK and France are contributing to a US-led bombing campaign against Islamic State (IS) group in the country. 

    The Dutch Parliament has also voted to extend the country's bombing of IS targets into Syria. 

    Syria conflict
  14. Peace process should 'follow Northern Ireland model'

    Labour MEP Richard Howitt says he believes peace in Colombia "can and will be achieved".

    He says he says the process should "follow the model" of the peace deal in Northern Ireland, and supports Ms Mogherini's "deep commitment" for EU involvement in post-conflict reconstruction. 

    Richard Howitt
  15. Centre-right MEP hopes for 'huge majority' for motion

    Spanish centre-right MEP Luis de Grandes Pascual says he hopes MEPs' motion on the peace talks - to be put to the vote tomorrow - will command a "huge majority". 

    The text, agreed between seven of Parliament's eight political groups, welcomes progress in the talks and praises the "important role" played by Cuba and Norway as guarantor countries to the negotiations. 

    It also salutes the role played by Pope Francis, Chile and Venezuela in supporting the peace process. 

  16. Background on the peace talks

    The two sides have now reached agreement on four key issues established at the start of talks: victims' rights, land rights, the political participation of the rebels, and how to deal with the problem of drug trafficking.

    However, they have yet to agree on how the rebels will disarm once a final agreement is signed.

    The latest agreement reached in December will see special tribunals established to try former combatants, once a final peace deal is signed.

    Combatants will be covered by an amnesty, but war crimes and crimes against humanity will not fall under it.

    Victims will have a right to compensation for damages, and a unit will be set up dedicated to searching for those who disappeared as a result of the conflict. 

    Peace talks
    Image caption: A delegation from the government met in Cartagena earlier this month
  17. EU foreign policy chief hopes for 'good news' this year

    EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini says she hopes that "this year can be the year we have good news" on the peace talks in Colombia. 

    She says the December agreement on reparations marks an important stage in the talks so far. 

    "We all know that reconciliation is the only base for a peace process to move froward in a sustainable way", she adds. 

    She notes, however, that implementing peace agreements are "the most difficult part", and pledges that EU involvement will increase if a deal is signed. 

    She says preparatory work towards a "trust fund" to help with post-conflict policies is already underway and needs to be ready for when an agreement is reached. 

    Federica Mogherini
  18. MEPs debate peace process in Colombia

    Next, MEPs will be joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to debate the current state of talks to end Colombia’s civil war.

    Talks to end the conflict that began in 2012 are due to produce a final agreement in March this year.

    Fighting between the government and armed guerrilla groups – including Farc rebels – has lasted over fifty years and left an estimated 220,000 people dead.

    Rebel leaders reached a deal with the government last month on reparations and justice for victims, boosting hopes that a final deal can be reached in the spring.

    The EU has pledged €26m towards making the peace plan work, including €21m for economic development projects for regions affected by the conflict.

    Farc rebels
    Image caption: The Farc is the oldest and largest group among Colombia's left-wing rebels
  19. Poland has 'greater sovereignty in EU'

    Gunther Oettinger

    German Commissioner Gunther Oettinger, whose portfolio includes regulation of the media, says the EU Commission "has a right" to ensure respect for media plurality.

    He says the changes made to Polish media law mean that "all three" of the new directors of the public media company can be appointed by the finance minister.

    He does not comment further - saying that this will be one of the areas the Commission will examine as part of its probe.

    Summing up for the Commission, deputy Commission chief Frans Timmermans says that Poland is more sovereign in the EU than "in the thousand years" before in became a member, because its borders are "no longer disputed by its neighbours". 

    "That is true sovereignty", he says, before adding: 

    Quote Message: you can never use democracy as an argument against the rule of law"
    Frans Timmermans
  20. Polish PM: I don't want Poles to be critical of Europe

    Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydło says she will not hide the fact that disagreement exists on the matters under discussion, but that this disagreement is the essence of democratic debate. 

    She calls for the EU to take steps to become a "community of sovereign, well-governed countries", and adds that she "doesn't want Poles to be critical of Europe". 

    Beata Szydło