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Summary

  1. The sitting began with a debate on this month's summit of EU leaders, including the UK's draft EU renegotiation deal, with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker.
  2. After hearing a speech from Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, MEPs will decided during their voting session not to reject a new EU-wide system for testing car diesel emissions.
  3. MEPs on the Environment Committee had originally objected to plans to initially raise the current limits for nitrogen oxides as part of the changes.
  4. The afternoon saw 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.
  5. In the evening, MEPs discussed the protection of women in public places, following the alleged mass sexual offences in Cologne.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    European Parliament

    That's it from the European Parliament this evening. 

    MEPs will be back at 08.00 GMT tomorrow, when they will debate whether isolated islands in the EU should get a greater share of the bloc’s regional development funds. 

    After this, MEPs will discuss what EU support should be given to local authorities in administering the bloc’s regional investment spending.

    MEPs will debate and vote on motions condemning discrimination against the Crimean Tartars, a death sentence given to a Bahraini citizen, and the case of five missing book publishers in Hong Kong.

    There will also be votes on motions relating to the humanitarian crisis in war-torn Yemen, and the killing of religious minorities by the Islamic State group. 

  2. Sexual violence 'predates Cologne'

    Debate on Cologne sex attacks

    European Parliament

    Clare Moody

    Labour MEP Clare Moody says she condemns the attacks against women in Cologne, but that sexual harassment "predates the events in Cologne and elsewhere". 

    In particular, she says that there were "hundreds of women" who reported sex attacks at a beer festival only weeks before the New Year's attacks. 

    She adds, however, that many of the MEPs on the right "who are shouting now" have undergone a "conversion to the cause of women". 

    In particular, she calls on the UKIP MEPs to call on the UK to sign up to the Istanbul Convention - a treaty which commits countries to taking a number of measures to reduce violence against women.

    It has been signed by 23 out of the 28 EU members, and ratified by 11.  

    "I live in hope", she adds. 

  3. Commission 'won't accept link' with migration

    Debate on Cologne sex attacks

    European Parliament

    UKIP MEP Margot Parker says that the Commission "won't accept that there is any link" between the attacks in Cologne and its migration policy. 

    She adds that following the attacks, there was an "attempted cover-up by police, politicians and the press". 

  4. Police initially 'didn't react' to assaults

    Debate on Cologne sex attacks

    European Parliament

    Jadwiga Wisniewska

    Polish MEP Jadwiga Wisniewska - from the ruling Law and Justice Party in Poland - says that it is "not an accident" that the police in Cologne initially "didn't react". 

    She says the reaction of some in Germany to blame the attacks on the attire of the women shows Europeans will soon be "forced to adopt the rules of other nations". 

    She asks how long the EU will continue to put its common asylum policy above "the good of its women". 

    Austrian Liberal Angelika Mlinar says that "cultural differences" in attitudes towards women shows the need to "integrate people as best we can". 

    She also notes that there have been complaints about public sexual harassment at Oktoberfest events in Germany "for years". 

  5. Sexual harassment 'not an imported crime'

    Debate on Cologne sex attacks

    European Parliament

    Representing the Commission, Regional Policy Commissioner Corina Cretu says that everyone in Europe, regardless of background, must act within the law. 

    She says that the Commission "cannot accept" any type of violence against women - but notes that public security and police forces are not a matter for the EU institutions. 

    She adds, however, that sexual harassment against women is not a "new or imported crime", and cites a study claiming that one in ten women in the EU has been the victim of sexual violence. 

    She says the Commission welcomes stronger provisions for prosecuting sexual crimes introduced in Germany, and that the EU will continue to fund programmes seeking to lower violence against women. 

    Corina Cretu
  6. MEP calls for 'consistent' approach to sexual crimes

    Debate on Cologne sex attacks

    European Parliament

    Monika Hohlmeier

    German Christian democrat Monika Hohlmeier say it is important to be "consistent" when approaching the topic, given that the perpetrators of the attacks in Cologne were of North African origin but sexual attacks are perpetrated by people from all backgrounds. 

    However, she underlines that the crimes must be punished "irrespective of the background of the perpetrators" 

    Belgian Socialist Maria Arena makes a similar point - that sexual violence existed before the current migration crisis. 

  7. Debate on Cologne sex attacks begins

    That's the debate on ISDS arbitration finished. 

    The final debate tonight is on preventing sexual harassment and violence against women in public areas.

    It follows the alleged mass sexual offences in Cologne on New Year's Eve by men of mainly Arab and North African origin.

    Police in Cologne have said over 550 criminal complaints have been filed by women in Cologne, and 45% are for sexual assault.

    The incident has sparked increased anxiety in Germany about Chancellor Angela Merkel's policies to welcome refugees.

    More than 1.1 million people claimed asylum in Germany last year. 

    Women's security point in Cologne
    Image caption: So-called "women's security points" have been set up in Cologne
  8. MEPs begin debate trade cases transparency

    That's the debate on the economic crisis in Venezuela finished - MEPs will be voting on their motion tomorrow.

    Next, MEPs are debating another question tabled by the international trade committee, on what is being done to encourage EU member states to sign up to the UN’s Mauritius Convention.

    The Convention would allow UN-approved transparency rules on court cases between companies and governments to be applied to trade agreements that came in before April 2014.

    The cases – known as investor-to-state dispute settlements (ISDS) – have been criticised for a lack of public scrutiny.

    The European Commission has asked for permission to sign the Convention on behalf of the EU’s 28 member states, but cannot currently due so due to opposition from some national governments. 

    Gavel
  9. Venezuelans have given 'clear mandate' to political leaders

    Debate on economic crisis in Venezuela

    European Parliament

    Bert Koenders thanks MEPs for the "continuing attention" it has been paying to the situation in Venezuela since fatal protests in the country two years ago. 

    He says that recent elections in December - which saw the opposition win a majority in the country's National Assembly - have shown a "clear mandate" to take political decisions to lessen the impact of the economic crisis. 

    He adds that people in Venezuela are suffering from shortage of food and medicine. 

    He says the EU must "step up co-operation" with the country. 

    Bert Koenders
  10. Debate on Venezuela economic crisis begins

    European Parliament

    The third and final foreign affairs debate this afternoon, again with Bert Koenders, will focus on the current economic and political instability in Venezuela.

    The country’s National Assembly recently vetoed a proposal from the government to declare a 60-day state of economic emergency to deal with the country's worsening crisis.

    If passed, it would give the president wider powers to intervene in companies, limit access to currency, and put emergency measures in place to pay for welfare services and food imports.

    Official figures suggest that the Venezuelan economy had contracted by a massive 4.5% in the first nine months of last year. 

    Queues outside supermarket
    Image caption: Venezuela has been suffering from food and basic goods shortages
  11. 'Essential' for EU that unity government formed

    Debate on Libya

    European Parliament

    Spanish centre-right MEP Francisco Jose Millan Mon says that it is "absolutely essential" for the EU that a national unity government is formed in Libya, to aid in the fight against terrorism and for preventing further deterioration in the migration crisis. 

    French MEP Gilles Pargneaux, from the ruling Socialist party, says that EU states should ask the national government when it is formed for permission to engage in airstrikes against Islamic State group. 

    He also stresses that EU financial aid must be given to help the new government engage in economic development projects. 

    Spanish Socialist Elena Valenciano, however, says that with winter increasing the danger to civilians, aid to help Libyans "has not been delivered". 

    Elena Valenciano
  12. EU 'not played positive role' in Libya

    Valencian nationalist Jordi Sebastia tells MEPs that the EU has "not played a positive role in Libya", but nevertheless has an obligation to do all it can to help refugees leaving the country. 

    UKIP MEP James Carver intervenes using the "blue card" procedure to ask whether Mr Sebastia agrees that sorting out the situation in the country is a task best left to the African Union, with UN support, instead of the EU getting involved. 

    Mr Sebastia replies that he agrees the EU should "not get involved militarily", but that its commitment to ensuring respect for human rights around the world means it should participate in diplomatic efforts to resolve the crisis. 

    Jordi Sebastia
  13. EU aid package 'ready' for new Libyan government

    Kicking off the debate on behalf of the Dutch EU presidency, Dutch Foreign Affairs Minister Bert Koenders says that, despite the rejection of the proposed ministerial cabinet, there has been "considerable progress" in the UN-backed talks in Libya. 

    He adds that this is the "sole political process" that can succeed - and that the only alternative is "simply chaos". 

    He says that the EU's own €100m aid package to help post-conflict development in Libya has been "ready for a while" - and is ready to be released once a new unity government is agreed. 

    He also underlines that it is important that internal security in the country must be maintained by Libyans themselves. 

    Bert Koenders
  14. Debate on Libya begins

    MEPs are now debating the recent rejection of a national unity government in Libya by the country’s internationally recognised parliament.

    The vote is seen as a major blow to UN efforts to unify the two rival parliaments in the country, which has been in chaos since the 2011 overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

    Western nations hope the formation of the new government will help bring stability and tackle the growing threat of the so-called Islamic State group (IS).

    The Tunisia-based Presidential Council will now have to put forward a new, shorter list of ministers, according to the Reuters news agency. 

  15. Haiti in danger of 'institutional vacuum'

    Corina Cretu

    Regional Development Commissioner Corina Cretu tells MEPs that a UN electoral mission to the initial election vote last October found that "no massive fraud" had taken place. 

    She says that they found the result - in favour of the current President's nominated successor, Jovenel Moise - was "substantially correct", despite some "irregularities". 

    She adds that the confusion about the election results has created  a "phase of instability" that could lead to an "institutional vacuum" that could jeopardise the country's economic recovery after the massive earthquake in 2010. 

    He says that the Commission is following developments "closely" and will do all it can to work for a swift resolution of the situation. 

  16. Debate on Haiti election deadlock begins

    Protester in Port-au-Prince
    Image caption: There have been recent marches in Haiti in favour of the ruling party candidate, Jovenel Moise

    That's the debate on Kosovo finished - MEPs will vote on a motion on its progress towards potential EU membership. 

    Next, MEPs will be joined by Regional Development Commissioner Corina Cretu - standing if for EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini - to debate the recent decision in Haiti to postpone a presidential runoff election for a third time.

    The current Haitian President, Michel Martelly, is constitutionally barred from seeking re-election.

    There have allegations of voting fraud in November's first round elections, and street protests calling for the runoff to be postponed have turned violent at times.

    Opposition candidate Jude Celestin has vowed to boycott the vote because of the fraud claims.

    President Martelly's term ends in less than two weeks, and correspondents say if there is no election it could push Haiti over the edge into more political instability. 

  17. Debate on Kosovo begins

    That’s the debate on Serbia’s EU accession talks finished – MEPs and Commissioner Hahn will stay on familiar territory, however, with a debate on the state of Kosovo’s application.

    Kosovo is not an official EU candidate country, and the latest report from the Commission on the country says it is at an “early stage” of preparing to make an application.

    The country signed a Stabilisation and Association Agreement with the EU last October – a commitment to deepen ties that is seen as an early step towards making an application.

    It requires the country to open up its economy in return for EU help, and improve its governance and judicial standards to EU norms.

    However, the country saw violent protests and tensions last year, and a request for its citizens to get visa-free travel to the EU was rejected last month. 

  18. Debate on Serbia to begin soon

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

    Shortly, MEPs will be joined by EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn to debate the current state of play in Serbia’s attempts to join the EU.

    The country opened the first two of 35 negotiating chapters last year, two years after having started formal accession talks.

    The country’s bid to join the EU depends on implementing a 2013 EU-brokered agreement on normalising ties with Kosovo, which split from Serbia in 2008.

    The EU has said that further steps towards membership will require further implementation of the terms of the agreement, as well as political and economic reforms.

    EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said no new countries will join the EU during the term of the current EU executive, which ends in 2019. 

  19. Explanation of votes begin

    That’s today’s voting session finished. MEPs will now have the opportunity to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

    There will then be a short break, after which the sitting will resume with a debate on Serbia’s attempts to become a member of the EU. 

  20. MEPs approve position on TiSA trade deal

    After a long round of voting on amendments, MEPs approve a non-binding motion setting out their position on the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA), a wide-ranging deal to liberalise trade in services that has been under negotiation since 2013.

    The agreement is being negotiated in stages between the 28 EU countries and 22 non-EU nations, including Canada, Turkey, Australia, Norway and the United States.

    The European Parliament is not participating formally in the talks, but will be able to veto the final deal. 

    The final text of the resolution will eventually appear here on the European Parliament website.