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Summary

  1. Parliament President Martin Schulz opened the sitting with a speech to mark Europe Day.
  2. After this, MEPs debated support for small businesses and mountainous regions in the EU's cohesion policy.
  3. They then debated a controversial proposed extension to the Nord Stream gas pipeline, which runs between Russia and Germany.
  4. In the evening they discussed a motion calling for a clearer system for labelling the origin of fish in restaurants.
  5. They also debated whether to renew a wide-ranging fisheries agreement between the EU and Mauritania, and approve the EU’s first-ever fishing deal with Liberia.

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

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

    MEPs will be back from 08.00 BST tomorrow, when they will begin the sitting by debating whether the EU should grant market economy status to China.

    After a debate on youth unemployment, the day's voting session will begin at 11.00 BST.

    After lunch, the afternoon session begins with a debate on yesterday's meeting of eurozone finance ministers, over further cuts demanded of Greece to unlock funds from its EU-IMF bailout.

    MEPs will also debate preparations for this month’s World Humanitarian Summit and the state of EU trade negotiations with the Mercosur bloc of Latin American countries.

    In the evening, they will also discuss the continuing economic and political crisis in Venezuela.  

  2. Short speeches begin

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    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. Commissioner predicts 'strong support' for deals

    Debate on EU fisheries agreements

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella again outlines his support for the deals, calling them "significant steps forward". 

    He says he is confident that both are "strongly supported in this house". 

    Karmenu Vella
  4. UKIP MEP: Fisheries agreements are 'Euro-colonialism'

    Debate on EU fisheries agreements

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Linnea Engstrom

    Swedish Green MEP Linnea Engstrom says the agreement with Liberia is a "good agreement in many respects", and says there will be greater transparency requirements on the fishing deals struck. 

    UKIP MEP David Coburn, however, says EU fisheries agreements are a "form of Euro-colonialism", that amount to "plundering the fish from other people's water". 

    He says the financial contributions given to countries in return for implementing the deals are "conscience money". 

  5. Commissioner backs deals

    Debate on EU fisheries agreements

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella kicks off the debate by telling MEPs that the agreement with Liberia "is not one of the largest" the EU has struck but is still "significant" in that it will extend EU fisheries activity into West African waters. 

    He says the agreement shows a "strong signal that Liberia is open for business". 

    He says the agreement with Mauritania is a "significant improvement" on previous agreements with the country.  

    Karmenu Vella
  6. MEPs urge support for agreement votes

    Debate on EU fisheries agreements

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Polish centre-right MEP Jaroslaw Walesa - who has acted as Parliament's lead MEP on the Liberia agreement - says that the deal also hopes to promote a "sustainable fisheries policy", and says he hopes his colleagues will back it at the vote tomorrow. 

    Spanish centre-right MEP Gabriel Mato - who has played the same role on the Mauritania deal - says its four-year extension "is greatly welcome". 

    He adds that a joint commission will propose improvements to the agreement at the end of this month. 

    Gabriel Mato
  7. MEPs begin debate on fisheries agreements

    Debate on EU fisheries agreements

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Next, MEPs are debating whether to approve the renewal of a wide-ranging fisheries agreement between the EU and Mauritania, and the EU’s first-ever fishing deal with Liberia.

    The agreements will see the two countries grant access to fishing vessels from EU states, in return for “financial contributions” from the 28-nation bloc.

    Both agreements have been applied provisionally since the end of last year, but require ratification from the European Parliament before they can fully come into effect.

    The Fisheries Committee has recommended that both agreements are approved.

    However, the deal with Mauritania has been criticised for a requirement that all EU vessels must land their catches in the country’s ports, which some have argued may have an adverse effect on employment in the Canary Islands port of Las Palmas. 

    Fishing boat
  8. MEPs begin debate on fish labelling report

    Debate on fish labelling

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    That’s the debate about a planned extension to the Nord Stream gas pipeline finished – MEPs are now debating a motion calling for a clearer system for labelling the origin of fish.

    It comes after an environmental group published a report based on DNA sampling which showed that around a third of fish sold in Brussels restaurants was mislabelled.

    The group’s survey was based on samples from 150 restaurants in the Belgian capital, including the restaurants of the European Commission and European Parliament.

    The Fisheries Committee has tabled an oral question asking the Commission to explain this, saying that cases of mislabelling could undermine consumer confidence in European fisheries. 

    Plate of food
  9. Commissioner: Deal 'will increase dominance' of Gazprom in Western Europe

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Replying for the Commission, Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete tells MEPs that after the Paris climate agreement, the EU is "on a path" to decarbonising its economy. 

    However, he says it is evident that this will "take some time" and in the meanwhile the "cleanest fossil fuel" is gas.

    He says that "it is clear" that the deal will "further increase the dominance of Gazprom in the Western European gas market". 

    He says the Commission is in contact with German regulators as part of its attempt to assess the impact of the project. 

    He says he agrees that any energy project must be "fully aligned" with the EU's energy objectives. 

    Miguel Arias Canete
  10. More criticism of line extension

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Jeppe Kofod

    The tone of the debate continues, with Danish social democrat Jeppe Kofod branding the scheme "unnecessary, unwanted and dangerous". 

    He says an extension to the line is not necessary, adding that the current maximum capacity of the existing pipeline is "nowhere near fully utilised". 

    There's some support from Austrian nationalist Barbara Kappel, who says the project is being back by a "highly respectable consortium" and could boost the supply of energy to Europe. 

  11. Extension 'goes against' EU energy aims

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    There's more criticism from a Polish MEP, with Conservative Zdzislaw Krasnodebski saying that the deal could end up depriving Ukraine of around €2bn in gas pipeline transit fees. 

    Swedish Green Peter Erikson says the EU Commission's has a "very important vision" - known as the energy union - to promote greater use of domestic energy in Europe rather than some countries being "totally dependent on energy imports".

    He adds, however, that the planned extension to Nord Stream "goes against every single big idea in the Commission's vision". 

    Peter Erikson
  12. Background to ‘Nord Stream II’

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    The consortium behind the project includes a number of European energy companies – including Eon, BASF and Shell – as well as state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom.

    The pipeline will allow Russia to pipe gas into Germany whilst bypassing Ukraine, which critics have said will deprive the cash-strapped country of pipeline transit fees.

    However, supporters of the extension have said it will reduce gas prices in Eastern Europe, and should enjoy a different legal status from the South Stream project which collapsed in 2014.

    South Stream – which would have run to Europe via the Black Sea – was abandoned after the European Commission ruled it may break EU competition rules. 

  13. Pipeline extension 'poses threat to European solidarity' - MEP

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Jerzy Buzek

    Polish centre-right MEP - and ex-Parliament President - Jerzy Buzek says the deal poses a "threat to European solidarity". 

    He adds the extension "runs counter to the principle of diversity in supply of gas". 

    Italian social democrat Flavio Zanonato makes a similar point, telling MEPs that the increased capacity on the pipeline will give Gazprom a "dominant market position".

  14. Commissioner: deal 'has to fully comply' with EU law

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete tells MEPs that he understands there are "legal, geopolitical and economic" concerns about the extension among Central and Eastern European states. 

    He says the deal has the potential to "alter the landscape" of the European gas market, and will be examined by the Commission. 

    He says he would like to repeat that the project will only go ahead if it "fully complies" with the "applicable European Union law".

    At the same time, he says the European Commission has provided "strong support" to such countries in helping them to diversify their sources of energy. 

    He says it is in the interest of Central and Eastern European countries that Ukraine "remains a successful gas transit corridor". 

    Miguel Arias Canete
  15. MEPs begin debate on Nord Stream pipeline

    Debate on Nord Stream pipeline extension

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    That’s the debates on EU Cohesion Policy finished – MEPs will vote on their motions tomorrow.

    Next they are debating plans to double the capacity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea with Energy Commissioner Miguel Arias Canete. 

    Last December, MEPs passed a motion expressing concern that the proposal could undermine the EU’s attempts to reduce the dependency of the bloc on Russian energy imports.

    A number of EU countries have also set out their opposition to the extension in a letter to the Commission, which is due to assess whether the project complies with EU law.

    Last week, Manfred Weber – who heads the largest EPP group – wrote to Mr Canete setting out his opposition to the plan. 

    Gazprom sign
    Image caption: Russian state-owned energy giant Gazprom is part of a consortium behind the extension
  16. Commissioner sets out EU cohesion support

    Debate on EU cohesion policy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Replying for the Commission, Fisheries Commissioner Karmenu Vella says that improvements have been made to the way EU cohesion funds are allocated. 

    He says "new territorial tools" have been added to the current 2014-2020 period, with national governments obliged to set out an "integrated approach" for geographically handicapped regions. 

    He adds that the newly-created structural reform support service produced by the Commission will help nation states with such a task. 

    Karmenu Vella
  17. West Midlands has 'valleys of despair' - MEP

    Debate on EU cohesion policy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    UKIP MEP Bill Etheridge says they "don't have many mountains" in his West Midlands regional constituency but "mountains of debt" and "valleys of despair" due to economic hardship. 

    He says his constituents can "thank the EU and its cohesion policy for much of it", adding that the region has been "subjected to mass immigration" which puts pressure on school places. 

    Bill Etheridge
  18. Governments 'shouldn't be afraid' of local control

    Debate on EU cohesion policy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Matthijs Van Miltenburg

    Dutch Liberal Matthijs Van Miltenburg says that national governments should "trust local partners" in their implementation of cohesion policy, and "shouldn't be afraid" of devolving control over projects to more local areas of government. 

    From the Five Star Movement, Italian MEP Isabella Adinolfi says her group agree that mountainous regions should be "recognised as deserving special care" due to their natural handicaps.

    However, she says, they object to this criterion being included in the investment plan launched by the EU Commission towards the end of 2014.  

  19. MEP calls for 'better training' on cohesion funds

    Debate on EU cohesion policy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Constanze Krehl

    German social democrat Constanze Krehl says that "better training" for those applying for and disbursing cohesion funds may make the policy "more user-friendly".

    Croatian Liberal Ivan Jakovcic says that the local population of mountainous regions "really do get involved" in the implementation of development projects. 

    They deserve "more effective and efficient procedures", he adds, to allow them to get access to funding. 

  20. Commissioner: 'Long tradition' of special support for regions

    Debate on EU cohesion policy

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    On behalf of the Commission, Environment Commissioner Karmenu Vella tells MEPs that there is already a "long tradition" within EU cohesion policy for providing extra support to regions with "specific geographical features". 

    He adds that it is important to "make the most" of existing tools in this area when it comes to allocating and financing development projects. 

    Karmenu Vella