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Summary

  1. The sitting began with a debate on plans to set up an EU-wide agency aiming to get national authorities to co-operate more in combating the black economy.
  2. After this, MEPs debated new anti-tax avoidance measures announced by the European Commission last week. MEPs also heard a speech from Estonian President Toomas Hendrick Ilves.
  3. After the lunchtime voting session, there was a series of debates about the migration crisis, including respect for the "non-refoulement" principle and the future of the Schengen zone.
  4. The evening saw debates on the EU's gender equality strategy, regulation of "endocrine disruptor" chemicals and the transparency and control of clinical trials in the EU.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    That's it from the European Parliament tonight. 

    MEPs will be back tomorrow morning from 08.00 GMT, when they will be debating this month's summit of EU leaders, including the current state of the UK's EU renegotiation, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.

    After hearing a speech from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, MEPs will decide during their voting session whether to reject a new EU-wide system for testing car diesel emissions.

    MEPs on the Environment Committee have objected to plans to initially raise the current limits for nitrogen oxides as part of the changes.

    The afternoon will see debates on the postponed presidential election in Haiti, the recent rejection of a national unity government in Libya, and the current economic turmoil in Venezuela.

    In the evening, MEPs will discuss the protection of women in public places, following the alleged mass sexual offences in Cologne. 

  2. Commissioner: 'certain risk' from all trials

    Debate on clinical trials

    European Parliament

    Commissioner Andriukaitis begins by expressing his condolences for the family of the victim who died.

    He tells MEPs that he is sure the French authorities are "doing their utmost" to clarify what happened, and that the outcome of their investigations needs to be seen before "drawing any conclusions".     

    He adds, however, that it is true there is a "certain risk" with any clinical trial. 

    He says that the European Medicines Agency is working "as hard as possible" to set up a new EU database which will be a source for information about ongoing trials, which will improve the transparency of trials within the EU.  

    Commissioner Andriukaitis
  3. Debate on clinical trials begins

    Debate on clinical trials

    Finally tonight, Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis will remain with MEPs to debate the transparency and control of clinical trials.

    It follows a recent trial in France which left one person dead and others seriously injured.

    The trial, which involved taking the drug orally and has now been suspended, was conducted by a private laboratory in Rennes.

    All those who volunteered for the trial have been recalled and the Paris prosecutor's office has opened an investigation. 

    Hospital in Rennes
    Image caption: Health Minister Marisol Touraine travelled to Rennes to monitor the incident
  4. MEP blames TTIP for assessment delay

    Debate on "endocrine disruptor" chemicals

    European Parliament

    German Christian democrat Jens Gieseke says that MEPs "didn't need to have a court case" to know that the Commission should have already come up with assessment criteria for EDCs. 

    He calls on the Commission to do this "as soon as possible", and says criteria by the summer is a "step in the right direction". 

    Czech social democrat Pavel Poc describes the Commission's claims about a lack of consensus on EDCs as "rubbish". 

    He suggests the Commission has put off drawing up the criteria so as not to "disturb" negotiations for TTIP, the wide-ranging trade deal the EU is currently negotiating with the United States. 

    A report in the Guardian last year claimed that the Commission has delayed assessment of EDCs, amid fears that banning a number of chemicals could trigger a "trade backlash" from the US authorities. 

    The Commission has denied that the EDC assessment process is linked "in any way" with the trade deal. 

  5. Commission pledges new EDC criteria 'before summer'

    Debate on "endocrine disruptor" chemicals

    European Parliament

    Responding for the Commission, Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis tells MEPs that there has been a "misunderstanding" about the intentions of the EU executive. 

    He says that the Commission has "every intention" to comply with court's judgement, but that there was "no requirement" to carry out an impact assessment as part of this. 

    He adds that the science on how the criteria should be defined shows "no consensus" on how EDCs should be identified. 

    "Diverging views still exist", he adds. 

    However, he says the Commission will present "new scientific criteria" for EDCs "before summer". 

    Vytenis Andriukaitis
  6. Commission 'putting off' scientific criteria

    Debate on "endocrine disruptor" chemicals

    European Parliament

    Jytte Guteland

    On behalf of the Parliament's Health Committee, Swedish social democrat Jytte Guteland says that that there are "many people" who are concerned about EDCs. 

    She adds that the chemicals have been linked to a "long list of illnesses", including cancer and a loss of fertility.

    She tells MEPs that the European Commission has "broken EU law" by "putting off" drawing up scientific criteria to assess the chemicals. 

    She adds that the Commission should "take its full responsibility" to protect EU citizens and draw up the criteria as soon as possible.  

  7. Debate on "endocrine disruptor" chemicals ruling begins

    Next, MEPs will hear a statement from Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis about a recent legal decision relating to potentially harmful "endocrine disruptor" chemicals.

    The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled last month that the Commission has not been quick enough to set criteria for testing the chemicals, which some researchers say may affect human hormones and cause disease.

    In a case brought by Sweden on behalf of other Nordic states, the ECJ judges concluded that such steps should have been taken under EU legislation passed in 2012.

    The chemicals are found in many everyday products, from food and cleaning products to plastic containers and cosmetics.

    The court said that the decision could be appealed within two months. 

    ECJ
    Image caption: The ECJ, which oversees the application of EU law, is based in Luxembourg
  8. Commission engaged in 'practical work' to further equality

    Debate on EU gender equality strategy

    European Parliament

    Standing in for the Commission, Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis says the strategic document published in early December is the "official Commission position".

    He adds that promoting equality between men and women is a priority for the current Commission, and that the EU executive is engaged in "practical work" to make this happen. 

    He says the Commission's document contains "more than 30 actions", including objectives and timelines, in five different areas.  

  9. Women on 'frontline' of economic crisis

    Debate on EU gender equality strategy

    European Parliament

    On behalf of the women's rights committee, Spanish Socialist Iratxe Garcia Perez tells MEPs that the EU "needs" a new strategy after the expiry of the old one. 

    She says a working paper published by the European Commission in December is a "decent document", but falls short of the political commitment to create a new strategy. 

    She adds that women have been at the "frontline" of the economic downturn since the financial crisis, and that gender equality targets should be "mainstreamed" into EU policy. 

    Iratxe Garcia Perez
  10. Debate on EU gender equality begins

    That’s the last of this afternoon’s debates about the migration crisis finished.

    Next, MEPs are debating whether the EU should have a new strategy for promoting the rights of women.

    The previous strategy – which included measures to promote equal pay and reduce pension gaps between men and women – ended last year.

    Parliament’s women’s rights committee has asked the Commission to explain whether it intends to propose any EU-wide legislation in the area.

    MEPs have called in the past for the strategy to be renewed with new laws – but so far, the Commission has only circulated a staff working document to this effect. 

  11. EU 'not there yet' on reception centres

    Closing this marathon debate on behalf of his country's EU Presidency, Dutch foreign minister Bert Koenders says that "European co-operation remains key" to resolving the crisis. 

    However, he says that politicians have to "build a consensus" about how best to integrate large numbers of refugees, and that he agrees how promises are "put into action" is just as important as the promises themselves. 

    He adds that ensuring the success of "well functioning" EU reception centres - known as "hotspots" - will be a crucial part of the bloc's asylum strategy. 

    He says that there is work underway to make this a reality in Italy and Greece, but adds that "we're not there yet". 

    Bert Koenders
  12. EU pushing for 'new relationship' with Turkey

    Debate on migration crisis

    European Parliament

    Johannes Hahn

    Summing up for the Commission, EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn says he would like to thank the more than 150 MEPs who have spoken during the debate. 

    He says that the €3bn in payments to Turkey are "just one aspect" of a wider action plan, that will see the EU establish a "new basis" of relationships with Turkey.

    He urges MEPs not to get "bogged down" in institutional debates about how the EU budget contribution is to be found. 

    Addressing MEPs in Greek, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos says that he wants to make it "absolutely clear" that kicking Greece out of the Schengen zone has "never been a question". 

  13. Dublin regulation 'collapsed from lack of solidarity'

    Debate on migration crisis

    European Parliament

    Danish social democrat Jeppe Kofod tells MEPs that the EU's Dublin directive - which says refugees must claim asylum in the first country they arrive in - has collapsed as a "direct result" of a "lack of solidarity" among EU states. 

    He says that Northern European states such as his own, as well as Germany and Sweden, are in the process of drawing up harsh laws to deal with new arrivals in an effort to "keep up" with the huge numbers they are receiving. 

    The Danish Parliament recently passed a controversial proposal to confiscate asylum seekers' valuables to pay for their upkeep.

    Police will be able to seize valuables worth more than 10,000 kroner (1,340 euros; £1,000) from refugees to cover housing and food costs.   

    Jeppe Kofod
  14. Delaying Turkey payments would 'undermine refugees'

    Debate on migration crisis

    European Parliament

    Greek centre-right MEP Georgios Kyrtsos, says that there are "justified reservations" about the EU deal with Turkey, but that delaying payment to the country - as mandated by the plan - would "undermine the position of millions of refugees".

    He tells MEPs: 

    Quote Message: the more we delay, the more the migrant crisis will get out of control"
  15. Labour MEP predicts 'horror stories' in coming weeks

    Debate on migration crisis

    European Parliament

    Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs the Parliament's Home Affairs and Civil Liberties Committee, picks up on a recent report from Europol, the EU policing agency, which found that at least 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children are now missing in Europe. 

    He says that the report is "just a snapshot" of the situation, and predicts new "horror stories" in the weeks and months to come. 

    He calls on national governments to "work with the Commission" and implement EU-wide schemes, and that those states who are not relocating refugees or properly policing their borders need to be responsible.

  16. Background on EU-Turkey deal

    The deal would see the EU step up talks on visa liberalisation for Turkish citizens and “re-energise” the country’s EU accession talks, in return for help stemming the flow of migrants to Europe.

    The country would also get €3bn (£2.1bn) from EU states to put towards providing humanitarian assistance for Syrian refugees.

    The deal has been controversial with some MEPs, who have criticised the Turkish government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan for restricting press freedom and judicial independence. 

    In an attempt to get national governments to contribute, the Commission has said that financial pledges will not count towards their deficit targets included in the EU's Stability and Growth Pact. 

    EU and Turkey flags reflected in window at summit
  17. Which EU countries have the most asylum applications?

    Asylum seekers chart
  18. EU 'looking the other way' over migration

    Debate on migration crisis

    European Parliament

    Sophia in't Veld

    Dutch Liberal MEP Sophia in't Veld tells MEPs that, when it comes to the sex attacks in Cologne over the new year, "testosterone has no religion". 

    She says that history could remember 2016 as the year that the EU, the world's biggest economy, "looked the other way", and "sat on its hands" without acting. 

    Sinn Fein's Martina Anderson denounces what she calls the "continued inhumanity" of EU countries' asylum policies, which she calls "Fortress Europe". 

    She adds that this approach has seen asylum seekers detained, and "pushed into the criminal claws of human traffickers". 

  19. Merkel inviting 'everyone with Syrian passport' to Europe

    European Parliament

    Paul Nuttall

    UKIP MEP Paul Nuttall says that the migration crisis is the "single biggest catastrophe" to befall the EU in its entire history.

    He says the EU has "made the same mistakes over and over again", and that only "proper border controls" will improve the situation. 

    He also has critical words for Angela Merkel, whose open-door policy he describes as "cultural suicide", and effectively inviting "everyone with a Syrian passport" to come to Europe. 

  20. Struggling states 'must accept help from Frontex'

    Debate on migration crisis

    European Parliament

    Spanish centre-right MEP Esteban Gonzalez Pons says that there is "still too much work that remains unfinished".

    He notes that he could be giving the same speech he made on this subject in any one of the past three months, and that the Parliament appears "stuck in time".

    Conservative MEP Timothy Kirkhope makes a similar point to his group leader Syed Kammall, telling MEPs that the EU already has the tools to improve the situation but must ensure they are being used. 

    He adds that "contributions as well as assets are needed" from EU states, and that countries that prove themselves incapable of managing their borders "must accept help from Frontex". 

    Timothy Kirkhope