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Summary

  1. MEPs opened the sitting by debating the EU's controversial migration deal with Turkey.
  2. After this, they discussed - and later approved - measures to change EU law relating to management of the railways.
  3. More controversial measures - forcing governments to introduce mandatory competitive tendering for rail contracts - will be debated at a future plenary sitting.
  4. At the voting session, they also approved measures to give final approval to new EU rules to increase regulation of so-called financial benchmarks, following the 2013 Libor scandal.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Sitting ends

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    MEPs also pass the two non-binding "own initiative" resolutions they debated yesterday, calling for increased regulation for carers and domestic workers and increased opportunities for women in the ICT sector. 

    And with that, today's voting session comes to an end. Owing to the lengthy voting, there will be no explanatory speeches allowed - something which normally occurs during plenary sittings. 

    MEPs will next meet for a plenary sitting in Strasbourg between 9-12 May. 

  2. MEPs back motion on EU infrastructure lending

    Voting session

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    MEPs also back a motion from the Budgetary Control Committee which calls on the European Investment Bank (EIB) to give “increased technical support” to countries where projects are less likely to be approved.

    It also says that the “dramatically high unemployment rates in many member states, in particular among young people” should be taken into account when allocating lending.

    The Luxembourg-headquartered EIB is an EU institution that lends money on low-interest, long-term deals for big infrastructure projects.

    It is financed partially through money given by EU member states, but mostly by money it raises on the international capital markets, mainly through issuing bonds. 

    EIB headquarters
  3. MEPs begin votes on budget 'discharge' motions

    Voting session

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    MEPs are now beginning what is likely to be a very long bout of voting on motions proposed by the Budgetary Control Committee on whether to sign off on spending during 2014 made by a number of EU institutions.

    This process – known as “granting discharge” – is required by the Parliament’s treaty role to monitor and scrutinise the way the EU budget is spent.

  4. MEPs pass new EU rules on 'financial benchmarks'

    Voting session

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    MEPs give their final approval to new EU rules to increase regulation of so-called financial benchmarks - sets of figures used to determine the value of financial contracts such as mortgages.

    The measures are approved by 505 votes to 113, with 31 abstentions. 

    Increased regulation of benchmark setting was proposed in 2013 following much-publicised scandals involving the manipulation of the Libor benchmark rate and Euribor, its eurozone equivalent.

    EU regulators hit a number of banks with record fines totalling €1.7bn later that year for their involvement in fixing the rates to boost their profits.

    Under the new rules, the most important benchmark rates will be monitored by a "college" of supervisors, including the Paris-based European Securities and Markets Authority (ESMA). 

    Banker
  5. MEPs approve new railway management rules

    Voting session

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    MEPs give final approval to the measures they debated earlier this morning to change EU law relating to management of the railways.

    The changes were proposed in 2013 by the previous Commission under Jose Manuel Barroso, in an attempt to simplify rules relating to the compatibility of different national rail networks.

    More controversial proposals linked to the Commission’s plans – including legislation to force governments to introduce mandatory competitive tendering for rail contracts – will be debated and voted on at a future plenary sitting. 

  6. Voting to begin soon

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    That’s the debate about measures to change EU law relating to management of the railways finished – the proposals will be put to the vote during today’s voting session, due to begin shortly. 

  7. Debating 'inter-operability'

    Debate on EU railway regulations

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Karima Delli

    French Green Karima Delli says improving the ability of trains to operate across borders - to make it as easy as for trucks within the Schengen zone - could prove a key tool in helping EU countries meet emissions reduction targets. 

    She also adds that improving "interoperabilty" could improve passenger safety. 

    Labour MEP Lucy Anderson also says that encouraging a "shift to rail travel" could improve environmental standards. 

    UKIP's Jill Seymour says that the UK "will not benefit" from the ability of its trains to cross borders - and says she worries that high UK standards could be watered down in the drive "to suit 28 member states". 

  8. Background on the EU’s ‘railway package’

    Debate on EU railway regulations

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    The technical elements of the Commission's aim of creating a “single European rail area” relating to safety and technical standards have proved relatively uncontroversial.

    However, other proposals in the package to open up competition in the railways market have stoked greater political division and have faced opposition from unions and some governments.

    MEPs reached agreement with national ministers on this part of the deal last week, which will oblige governments to introduce mandatory competitive tendering for rail contracts from 2020.

    The text will have to put to a final vote at a future plenary sitting of the Parliament before it can come into effect.

    Attempts by the SNCF – the publicly-owned railway company in France – to redraw workers’ contracts in anticipation of the changes has already prompted some strikes.

    However, the new legislation is unlikely to have much of an effect in the UK, where rail franchises are already subject to bidding from private companies. 

    Strikes in Paris
    Image caption: Paris saw strikes from railway workers earlier this week
  9. Commissioner lauds authorisation reduction costs

    Debate on EU railway regulations

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    EU Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc tells MEPs that the process for agreeing the legislation has been "long and complex". 

    She says the new rules will make the railway sector in Europe more attractive to passengers, operators and businesses. 

    She says that the administrative changes being debated and voted on this morning should lead to a 20% reduction in the cost of granting authorisations for cross-border rolling stocks. 

    The adds that the ERA will now play a "key role" in developing and updating safety standards. 

    Violeta Bulc
  10. What are the new measures being voted on today?

    Debate on EU railway regulations

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    The package of measures - to be put to a vote just before lunchtime - includes three separate legislative measures: 

    Firstly, a proposal to revise EU rules to give the European Railway Agency (ERA) the power to issue EU-wide authorisation permits for control-command and signalling systems.

    Under the changes, the France-based ERA would also get the right to issue EU-wide safety certificates and get a greater role in monitoring the performance of national rail authorities.

    Secondly, there is proposal to amend EU rules to improve the ability of trains to run on railways in different countries, known as “interoperability”.

    A third proposal would also seek to harmonise railway safety rules across the EU. 

  11. MEPs begin debate on railway regulations

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    That’s the debate about implementation of the EU’s migration deal with Turkey finished.

    MEPs are now debating three measures to change EU law relating to management of the railways.

    The changes were proposed in 2013 by the previous Commission under Jose Manuel Barroso, in an attempt to simplify rules relating to the compatibility of different national rail networks.

    For a number of years, the EU has tried to make it easier for train companies to run services between countries by harmonising safety and technical standards.

    MEPs reached a deal on the changes with member states in June last year, which will be put to a final vote at lunchtime today. 

    Waiting train passengers in Paris
  12. Timmermans: 'Suffering has been limited' by deal

    Debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Summing up the debate for the Commission, European Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans says he agrees that "many things that need to be improved" with the deal.

    However, he says that the deal's critics should "at least acknowledge that human suffering has been limited through joint action with Turkey". 

    He adds that the "years of not engaging with Turkey" have done "nothing" for the cause of human rights and press freedom in Turkey. 

    He tells MEPs that opening negotiations on membership accession chapters 23 and 24 - relating to the judiciary and press freedom - would be an opportunity to "take the Turks to task" in these areas. 

    He adds: 

    Frans Timmermans
    Quote Message: If they want to come closer to the European Union so badly, let them prove that they can."
  13. Nuttall: EU membership could lead to 'Turkish-dominated' Europe

    Debate on the EU-Turkey

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Paul Nuttall

    UKIP deputy leader Paul Nuttall crticises the EU for making a "multi-billion pound" deal with Turkey, calling the country "barely democratic", with a "disgraceful human rights record".

    Like his party colleague Patrick O'Flynn earlier in the debate, he picks up on the pledge in the deal to "re-energise" Turkey's stalled bid for EU membership.

    He says that this would mean accepting a country into the EU that shares borders with states "that clearly want to harm us".

    Predicting that around 15 million Turks would "drift west" in the first years of membership, he says EU membership would lead not just to an economic shift in power, but a cultural one too. 

    He adds that eventually, a "German-dominated" Europe might be replaced with a "Turkish-dominated" one. 

  14. Returns to Turkey 'absolutely marginal' - Green MEP

    Debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    German Green Ska Keller says the agreement is a "sham", with the number of people being returned to Turkey "absolutely marginal". 

    She asks what protection is being offered under the deal to non-Syrians who are nevertheless also fleeing persecution. 

    She also criticises efforts made so far by member states to send administrative workers such as interpreters to Greece, stating that "very few have been sent so far". 

    Ska Keller
  15. Migrant crisis: Have EU promises been kept?

    By Hugo Bachega, BBC News

    Thousands of migrants and refugees continue to arrive at Europe's borders, but many are not going anywhere.

    New barriers are in place - and violence flared up this week at the Greece-Macedonia border. The EU is split over how to tackle the crisis, before even more migrants arrive as the weather improves.

    Syrians form the largest group by nationality - among the millions who have fled the country's civil war.

    Despite some progress, the European Commission said in a report in February that full implementation of the promised measures "has been lacking". 

    So what promises have been kept or broken? Read more here

    Migrants at a fence
  16. Liberal MEP: Deal 'extremely fragile'

    Debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    On behalf of the Liberal ALDE group, Dutch Liberal Sophia in't Veld says the fact that the deal has taken the form of a 'statement' rather than an 'agreement' means its legal force is "not much more than a joint press statement".

    Adding that the legal status of the text is "extremely fragile", she warns the Commissioner not to expect the visa liberalisation provisions to be automatically "rubber-stamped" by MEPs from her group.  

    Sophia in't Veld
  17. Socialist group leader: EU 'needs' Turkey deal

    Debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    Gianni Pitella

    The leader of the Socialist and Democrat group, Italian MEP Gianni Pitella says the EU's deal with Turkey "is working" and was "needed" by the 28-member bloc. 

    However, he adds that the agreement must be monitored to ensure it complies with international human rights law. 

    On behalf of the ECR group, Dutch Conservative Peter van Dalen says Turkey is an "unreliable partner", and says he worries that migrants may simply be "re-routed" and find other ways to Europe. 

    UKIP MEP Patrick O'Flynn intervenes to ask Mr van Dalen whether granting EU membership to Turkey might create a migration crisis as bad as the one with which Europe is trying to cope. 

    Mr van Dalen says he finds the point "incomprehensible", saying that given the human rights situation, the country is "miles away" from meeting membership criteria and that opening accession talks is "not on the table". 

  18. EU 'making progress' on migration

    Debate on the EU-Turkey migration deal

    European Parliament

    Brussels

    German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right EPP group, says the EU is finally "making progress" as a result of the deal, although more needs to be done to reduce migrant flows. 

    He adds that those who criticise Turkey must remember that the country is hosting around 3 million refugees. 

    He adds that it is "very important" to highlight that visa-free travel to the EU can be suspended if certain conditions do not continue to be met. 

    Manfred Weber