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Summary

  1. MEPs were joined by European Central Bank (ECB) chief Mario Draghi to debate the Bank's activities during 2014.
  2. After this, they debated their position on TiSA, a trade deal currently under negotiation to liberalise the trade in services between the EU and 22 non-EU countries.
  3. MEPs were also joined by Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom to debate whether the EU should grant market economy status to China at the World Trading Organisation.
  4. The evening saw debates on the protection of labour rights in an EU trade deal with several countries in West Africa, and the EU's biodiversity strategy.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    That's our coverage of today's European Parliament sitting finished. 

    MEPs will be back tomorrow from 07.30, when the sitting will begin with plans to set up an EU-wide agency aiming to get national authorities to co-operate more in combating the black economy.

    After this, MEPs will debate new anti-tax avoidance measures announced by the European Commission last week, and hear a speech from Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves.

    After the lunchtime voting session, there will be a series of debates about the migration crisis, including respect for the "non-refoulement" principle and the future of the Schengen zone.

    The evening will be debates on the EU's gender equality strategy, regulation of "endocrine disruptor" chemicals and the transparency and control of clinical trials in the EU.  

  2. Short speeches begin

    That's the debate on the EU's biodiversity strategy finished. 

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

    This item of business, traditionally held during the Monday plenary sitting, is normally used by MEPs to make points about topical issues or stories of interest to their country or region. 

  3. EU 'running out of time' on biodiversity

    Catherine Bearder, the sole Liberal Democrat MEP, says the EU is "running out of time" to take action to prevent further loss of biodiversity. 

    She adds that she fears the EU will miss its 2020 targets, "just like we did in 2010". 

    She says that the "big elephant in the room" is that the existing EU legislation - which she says is recognised as world leading - is not being enforced in the member states. 

    She calls on the Commission to work with national governments to ensure "better delivery" of biodiversity laws, and for an EU-wide framework for environmental protection. 

    Catherine Bearder
  4. Commission will 'carefully consider' new biodiversity measures

    EU Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella says that EU countries are continuing to lose biodiversity, with negative implications for quality of life, the ability of countries to adapt to climate change, and sustainable "social development". 

    He says he hopes the MEPs' report can be used to "steer progress" towards achieving current EU goals. 

    He adds that the Commission will "carefully consider" the call in the draft motion for more action at an EU level in this area. 

    Karmenu Vella
  5. EU falling 'far short' of biodiversity goals

    Belgian Conservative Mark Demesmaeker, who has compiled a motion on EU biodiversity that will be put to the vote tomorrow, says encouraging biological diversity brings many socio-economic benefits. 

    He adds that the benefits of biodiversity measures "far outweigh" the costs - but that, despite some "glimmers of hope", EU countries are falling  "far short" of achieving the current goals, set for the year 2020. 

    Mark Demesmaeker
  6. Debate on EU biodiversity strategy begins

    Next, MEPs are debating possible changes to the EU’s strategy to promote biological diversity, which began in 2011 and underwent a review last year.

    The strategy includes schemes to better manage fish stocks, promote the use of “green” infrastructure development and better restrict “invasive” species in certain ecosystems.

    The Commission’s evaluation concluded that the target of combating invasive species is on track to be met.

    However, other targets – including aspirations to restore ecosystems, ensure sustainable use of fisheries and fully implement EU nature directives – have not been met so far. 

  7. Rights standards 'have been sidelined' in trade agreement

    Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling says that rights standards have "undoubtedly been sidelined" in the EU's Economic Partner Agreement with West African states. 

    She adds that the agreement lacks the tools needed to make rights a reality in practice, which have been included in all of the EU's trade deals "over the last ten years".

    Swedish centre-right MEP Christofer Fjellner, however, tells MEPs that the West African states are not obliged to sign up to a deal framed by the EU. 

    Adding that he believes in the power of free trade, he says that trade can be the most important tool in allowing developing countries to fight poverty, and therefore improve human rights standards. 

  8. Commission will pay 'particular' attention to right monitoring

    Commissioner Malmstrom, representing the Commission again in this debate, says that the overarching sustainable developments goals of the Cotonou Agreement will apply - including labour standards and human rights. 

    She tells MEPs that a special observatory will monitor enforcement of these standards, something the Commission will pay "particular" attention to. 

    She also says that the final EPA will undergo a review every five years.

    Commissioner Malmstrom
  9. Debate on West Africa trade standards begins

    Next, MEPs are debating how clauses to protect labour rights will be enforced in an EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with several states in West Africa.

    It is hoped that the agreement, which has been signed by several states already, will boost trade between West Africa and the 28-nation bloc.

    MEPs on the international trade committee have asked how the Commission aims to enforce terms in the Cotonou Agreement, an EU agreement with several African states to guarantee certain labour and environmental standards. 

  10. Commissioner: China should not 'pump out cheap steel'

    EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom sums up the debate by telling MEPs that regardless of the decision on WTO status, China cannot be allowed to continue to "pump out cheap steel" that is dumped on the European market.

    She says that the impact on jobs will be studied very closely, and pledges to keep MEPs informed of developments within the Commission on the debate. 

    Cecilia Malmstrom
  11. 'Not protectionist' to defend EU from 'unfair' competition

    Labour MEP David Martin says he also is surprised this question has not been addressed until now, and says the Parliament has "woken the Commission from its slumber" in its demands for updates. 

    He adds that it is "clear" that China is not a market economy, and that the economic impact is "much wider" than just the steelmaking industry. 

    He adds that it is "not protectionist" to defend EU countries from competition that is unfair - and that China should not be allowed to "solve its overcapacity problems" by dumping state-subsidised products on the European market. 

    David Martin
  12. Commissioner: economic impact 'impossible' to predict

    EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom says that China is not a market economy "as we understand it", but that the debate is not about description but status at the WTO. 

    She says that the Commission has not taken a final decision yet, but that it is examining the three broad options - acceptance, rejection or a compromise - outlined by Mr Lange. 

    She tells MEPs, however, that anti-dumping measures are only applied to 1.38% of EU imports from China. 

    She says the risk of job losses as a result of the change should be taken "seriously into account", but that a precise evaluation of the economic impact of granting status will be "impossible" to produce in advance. 

    Cecilia Malmstrom
  13. 'Leeway' to find compromise solution

    Bernd Lange is on his feet again to represent the International Trade Committee during this debate on China's WTO status. 

    He says the issue of market status is "very sensitive", and it is important to work out what will happen when China's current status at the WTO expires later this year.

    He adds that any agreement will take time to work out and agree, and that perhaps the EU institutions should have started examining this question earlier than now. 

    He says that allowing China market status would have a "clear detrimental effect", but equally that a firm rejection could trigger an objection from China at the WTO. 

    He says, however, that there might be "a little bit of leeway" to find a third solution. 

  14. Debate on China economy status begins

    That's the debate on the TiSA trade deal finished - for the time being at least, the vote on the motion is scheduled to take place on Wednesday. 

    Next, MEPs are debating a question tabled by the international trade committee on whether the EU should grant “market economy status” to China at the World Trading Organisation (WTO).

    China argues the terms of its WTO membership mean it will automatically get market status at the end of this year – meaning the EU will have to soon decide whether it agrees.

    Any change to China’s status will require approval by the European Parliament and the 28 national governments of the EU.

    Supporters of the measure have said it could boost EU trade with China and increase the ability of EU countries to import cheaper products for consumers.

    However, critics argue it will make it harder for the EU to impose anti-dumping duties on China for putting government-subsidised products, such as steel, on European markets.

    Steelworker in Redcar
    Image caption: State-subsidised Chinese steel has been blamed for the rapid decline of steelmaking in Europe
  15. MEP calls on EU negotiators to avoid 'lazy compromises'

    Debate on TiSA trade deal

    German social democrat Bernd Lange, who chairs the Parliament's International Trade Committee, says he hopes the motion will send a "clear yes" to the idea of a deal, but a "clear no" to what he calls "lazy compromises".

    He says it is important that the eventual deal contains clauses that will guarantee a "fair, level playing field" for EU workers, including guarantees that it will secure equal pay for men and women. 

    He adds that the deal should not lead to "social dumping" - where labour standards are threatened by companies moving production abroad or employing migrant workers on law wages. 

    Bernd Lange
  16. Background on threat to delay motion vote

    Debate on TiSA trade deal

    Syriza MEP Stelios Kouloglou picks up on something that was discussed at the opening of the plenary earlier - whether the vote on Wednesday might be postponed. 

    There was some talk that, due to the large number of amendments added to the motion and requests for electronic votes to record the results, the motion might be sent to the International Trade Committee first. 

    A large number of amendments might make voting on the motion prohibitively long. 

    Labour MEP Richard Corbett said earlier that this would allow the Committee to "weed out" those amendments unlikely to get plenary support, by deleting ones that could not get 10% support from the members of the committee. 

    Mr Kouloglou, however, claims that Parliament President Martin Schulz would only consider such a move to hide the continuing dissent in his own group - the Socialists and Democrats - over how to vote on some of the clauses. 

  17. EU 'needs to regulate globalisation'

    Debate on TiSA deal

    Jude Kirton-Darling

    Labour MEP Jude Kirton-Darling says she is glad that six out of the eight political groups in the Parliament have agreed on the motion to be put to the vote on Wednesday. 

    She calls on remaining MEPs to support to the motion to give the Parliament the strongest hand possible in influencing the talks. 

    She adds that the vote will not be "for or against" the idea of a trade deal, but to set out the "red lines" that they will insist on for their support. 

    "We need to regulate globalisation", she says, adding that current services trade rules are from an "analogue era". 

    Conservative trade spokeswoman Emma McLarkin also says that Wednesday's motion has "broad support", and says that, given its large services sector, the UK has a "keen interest" in seeing the talks progress. 

    She says she is confident that the language on protecting public services "offers the guarantees that people need". 

    Emma McLarkin
  18. What’s in the MEPs’ motion?

    Debate on TiSA trade deal

    The motion gives general backing to the TiSA deal, which it says has “the potential to boost job creation” in the 28-nation bloc.

    It backs the EU’s call for public services and the TV industry to be excluded from further market liberalisation, and says the deal should not automatically lower domestic regulation.

    In addition, it says a “gold standard” clause should be added that would define a public service as anything “considered to be public services by European, national or regional authorities”.

    MEPs are also pushing to be given access to all negotiating documents, and support China’s request to join negotiations – provided they do not aim to change what has already been agreed.

  19. Trade Commissioner: vote will send 'strong signal of support'

    Debate on TiSA trade deal

    EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom thanks MEPs for their motion this week, which she says will send a "strong signal of support" to the EU negotiators. 

    She repeats her support for concluding a deal, saying that a trade deal in services will "redress the balance" between the fact that services make up around 70% of the EU economy but only 25% of its external trade. 

    She repeats her support for China being included as part of the deal, adding that including the country will bring it close to the "critical mass" required to push for the deal to become a multilateral deal eventually involving all WTO members. 

    She seeks to reassure MEPs that the Commission will "never" support a deal that would undermine EU countries' ability to provide public services, adding: 

    Quote Message: this is our approach, and that will remain"
    Cecilia Malmstrom
  20. MEP calls for transparency to be 'taken further'

    Debate on TiSA trade deal

    Centre-right Luxembourg MEP Viviane Reding, who used to be EU Justice Commissioner, says that she would like the Commission to  "take transparency one stage further" in terms of the number of negotiating documents it makes public. 

    She says that the motion she has drafted on behalf of the International Trade Committee - and which will be put to a vote on Wednesday - should give a "clear mandate" from the Parliament to the negotiators. 

    She says that a "red line" for MEPs will be an explicit commitment to maintain the right of public authorities to regulate in the public interest, and that the TV sector is excluded from the deal. 

    Viviane Reding