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Summary

  1. The sitting began at 16.00 GMT with debate on the week's agenda
  2. European Central Bank chief Mario Draghi joined MEPs for debate on monetary policy
  3. MEPs then discussed proposed changes to the 'Basel III' banking regulations
  4. The evening saw short debates on three advisory reports

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight

European Parliament

Strasbourg

And with that, tonight's sitting come to an end. 

MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT, when the sitting will begin with a debate on eurozone debt and deficit rules.

At lunchtime, they will vote on new information sharing rules for EU tax authorities.

In the afternoon, they will debate relations with Turkey, ahead of Thursday's vote on whether to suspend EU accession talks with country. 

They will also debate the situation in Syria, and the EU's common defence policy.

In the evening, they will debate a proposed EU skills guarantee scheme. 

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. 

MEP presents motion on development co-operation

Presentation of advisory motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Centre-right Romanian MEP Cristian Dan Preda’s motion outlines a series of suggestions for improving EU co-operation on development policies.

He tells MEPs that most EU states are "far from" living up to a UN target to spend 0.7% of their national wealth on overseas aid.

The UK is one of only four out of the 28 EU states that meet the target. 

Cristian Dan Preda
BBC

Green MEP presents motion on ferry sector

Presentation of advisory motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Green MEP Michael Cramer presents a report on behalf of UK Green MEP Keith Taylor on ways to boost the EU’s ferry and cruise sectors.

The non-binding motion, tabled by the transport committee, advocates steps to improve passenger safety and encourage the sector to lower CO2 emissions.

It also says that greater integration of ticketing systems between different modes of transport could boost passenger numbers on tourist river cruises.

Michael Cramer
BBC

MEP: Increased EU co-operation 'does not threaten NATO'

Presentation of advisory motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Estonian Liberal MEP Urmas Paet outlines his motion backing greater military co-operation between EU states.

The draft text calls for a common EU defence policy, backed up with additional funding in the EU’s next long-term budget from 2020 to 2027.

Mr Paet says EU states should also live up to a commitment to spend at least 2% of their GDP on defence, adding that the continent still "relies heavily" on solidarity from the United States.

He adds that it is "simply not true" to say that increased EU co-operation over defence would threaten the role of NATO. 

Urmas Paet
BBC

MEPs to debate advisory motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That's the debate about changes to the Basel banking rules finished - MEPs will set out their position in a motion vote on Wednesday. 

Next tonight, there will be short debates on three non-binding “own initiative” motions prepared by the Parliament’s committees that will be put to the vote tomorrow.

These motions do not carry any legal force and are not binding on the Commission or on member states – but serve as policy suggestions from MEPs.

Commissioner: Basel rules should not 'significantly' raise capital requirements

Debate on 'Basel III' banking rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Commissioner for the Euro Valdis Dombrovskis tells MEPs that the Commission backs the "general approach" taken by the Basel committee. 

However he says the EU executive would not like to see new rules which "significantly" raise the capital requirements for banks. 

He says that this would "have an adverse effect on lending to business, at least in the short term". 

He adds that this approach is not just that of the Commission - but is also backed by "all member states". 

Valdis Dombrovskis
BBC

MEPs begin debate on Basel banking rules

Debate on 'Basel III' banking regulations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on EU financial services legislation finished – MEPs will vote on their motion tomorrow.

MEPs are now debating proposed changes to international banking requirements by the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision.

Regulators are considering whether to strengthen the required amount of capital banks have to hold in reserve under the existing rules, known the ‘Basel III’ regulations.

The economic and monetary affairs committee has tabled an oral question asking the Commission whether the new rules will maintain a “level playing field” between EU and non-EU banks.

MEPs will set out their position on the proposed changes in a non-binding resolution on Wednesday.

Frankfurt skyline
Reuters
Frankfurt is Germany's banking capital

Mixed reaction to motion from Conservative MEP

Debate on retail banking

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Conservative MEP Ashley Fox says his group supports the call in the motion that a "single approach" to regulation in this area is not appropriate at the moment.

He says he also supports the calls for simplification of financial services legislation and for increased digitalisation of the sector. 

However he adds the group will be voting against clauses in the motion backing the establishment of an EU-wide common tax identification number. 

He also says they will vote against proposals to give greater powers to EU supervisory authorities, telling MEPs they should be careful about backing measures that would duplicate the work of national bodies. 

Ashley Fox
BBC

Liberal MEP: EU 'should not sit on hands'

Debate on retail banking

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Swedish centre-right MEP Gunnar Hokmark says the EU should attempt to create "liquid markets" for credit across national borders. 

Dutch Liberal Sophia in't Veld says her Liberal ALDE group will support the motion at the vote tomorrow.

However she says she regrets that the Commission has pushed back the timescale for its "action plan" on retail banking from this autumn to early next year, adding: 

as long as we sit on our hands, we'll be overtaken by developments in other parts of the world"

Sophia in't Veld
BBC

MEP: Retail banking facing 'major border obstacles'

Debate on retail banking green paper

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Swedish social democrat Olle Ludvigsson, who has drafted tomorrow's motion, says he welcomes the EU's green paper in this area, which he notes has come at a "timely moment".

He says the retail banking sector in Europe is still held back by "major border obstacles" that are bad for consumers and companies.

Olle Ludvigsson
BBC

MEPs begin debate on retail banking

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the ECB finished – MEPs will vote on their motion tomorrow.

They are now debating a non-binding motion on the EU’s green paper on how to improve retail banking services across the bloc. 

The consultation was launched at the end of last year to solicit responses on how the EU could create a “truly integrated” EU market in this area.

The draft motion urges EU financial legislation to be simplified so that it is more “comparable” in different member states.

It also says the European Commission should monitor closely how EU financial laws are implemented by national authorities to avoid “duplication and overlap”. 

Draghi: ECB 'defending eurozone recovery'

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Responding to the debate, ECB chief Mario Draghi says that "things are better today" than they were before the 2008 financial crisis and this should be borne in mind. 

He defends the Bank's monetary policies, which he says are "basically defending euro area recovery".

He says the actions have helped boost low lending to firms - something to the benefit of small companies and not just multinationals. 

He adds that the ECB's policies do not differ substantially from policies being pursued by central banks in the US, the UK and Japan. 

He says that it is "very difficult" to predict what effect the election of Donald Trump might have on ECB policy - but notes that markets have "shown their resilience" since the vote. 

Mario Draghi
BBC

What is the ECB’s QE programme?

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

ECB headquarters in Frankfurt
Reuters

Quantitative easing is when a central bank buys assets, usually government bonds, with money it has "printed" - or, more accurately, created electronically.

The ECB started doing this in March last year, having previously launched programmes to buy covered bonds – backed by public sector loans or mortgages – in the autumn of 2014.

The current QE programme is due to continue until March next year, but could be extended until the Bank sees a “sustained adjustment” in eurozone inflation towards its 2% target.

Although the annual rate of inflation in the currency bloc has risen in recent months, it still stood at only 0.5% in October, well below the Bank’s target. 

Polish MEP: QE 'may be reaching limits'

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Danuta Maria Hubner
BBC

Polish centre-right MEP Danuta Maria Hubner says the ECB has "done a lot" to enhance fragile growth in the eurozone, but it may be "reaching its limits".

French Socialist Pervenche Beres says that "there are some things" that need to be reviewed in the ECB's monetary policy, although the motion gives general backing to the QE programme. 

She adds that MR Draghi should "not lose faith" in attempts to pass further legislation to deepen the eurozone's banking union. 

What’s in tomorrow’s draft motion?

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

The draft motion to be voted on tomorrow gives broad backing to the ECB’s monetary policy, describing it as “consistent with the terms of its mandate”.

However, it also warns the Bank not to use its new supervisory powers over large banks in a way that would go beyond its powers in the EU treaties.

It backs the ECB's calls for “structural reforms” in eurozone countries to help boost productivity, which it says has slumped as a result of declining investment.

But it also says persistently low interest rates pose a threat to the profitability of banks and the value of private savings. 

Low interest rates 'destroying culture of savings' - German MEP

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Bernd Lucke
BBC

German Conservative MEP Bernd Lucke replies first to Mr Draghi's speech, saying there is a "crisis in the eurozone".

He criticises low interests rates, which he says it "destroying a culture of savings".

He adds that the ECB's policies have lead to "increased inequalities" in the eurozone by purusing policies which disproportionately favour those who have assets. 

Draghi: Eurozone recovery 'moderate but steady'

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Mario Draghi
BBC

Mario Draghi has now joined MEPs and apologises for his tardiness - which he attributes to problems with transport. 

He tells MEPs that the eurozone recovery is continuing at a "moderate but steady pace" and that unemployment rates are falling. 

He says the ECB remains committed to continuing "the current unprecedented level" of monetary support in an attempt to get inflation rates back towards the Bank's 2% target. 

Spanish MEP: 'Structural reforms' required

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Jonas Fernandez
BBC

It appears that Mario Draghi is running late, so the debate begins with representatives from the Parliament's political groups. 

Spanish social democrat Jonas Fernandez backs the motion's call for "structural reforms" and "serious fiscal policies" to end a reliance on QE for building a recovery. 

EU states using ECB policies 'to avoid reforms'

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ramon Tremosa i Balcells
BBC

Spanish Liberal Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, who has written the motion to be voted on tomorrow, suggest the ECB should be a "safe pair of hands" in an uncertain world. 

However he says the bank's asset-buying programme is being "used by some member states to avoid necessary reforms". 

He suggests the ECB should "try harder" to buy stakes in investment projects rather than buying sovereign debt. 

MEPs to debate ECB monetary policies

Debate on ECB annual report for 2015

European Parliament

Strasbourg

ECB headquarters in Frankfurt
Reuters

With the week’s agenda now approved, MEPs will shortly be joined by European Central Bank (ECB) President Mario Draghi to debate the Bank’s annual report for 2015.

Last year saw the ECB launch a massive bond-buying programme, known as quantitative easing (QE), in a bid to boost borrowing in the eurozone.

Bank chiefs have said the programme has supported a still-fragile eurozone recovery, but critics have said it hits savers and widens inequality by boosting asset prices.

2015 was also the first full year when the Bank took on additional responsibility for supervising the health of the eurozone’s largest banks via the Single Supervisory Mechanism (SSM).

Tomorrow MEPs will vote on a non-binding motion to set out their position on Bank policies. 

MEPs reject debate on CETA motion

Debate on the week's agenda

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Heidi Hautala
BBC

On behalf of the GUE and Green groups, Finnish Green MEP Heidi Hautala asks for a debate tomorrow on whether the investor protection measures in the EU’s trade deal with Canada, known as CETA, comply with EU law.

MEPs are due to vote on Wednesday on a draft motion which calls for the issue to be examined by the European Court of Justice (ECJ).

Ms Hautala says MEPs should “have the opportunity to express their views before this important vote”.

The agreement was signed last month after seven years of negotiations - but still needs to be ratified by the European Parliament before it can fully come into force.

Her request for a debate tomorrow is however rejected, by 184 votes to 170 with nine abstentions. 

MEPs keep debate on West Bank settlements

Debate on the week's agenda

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Zdzislaw Krasnodebski
BBC

On behalf of the Conservative ECR group, Polish Conservative MEP Zdzislaw Krasnodebski requests that tomorrow’s debate on Israeli settlement-building in the West Bank is broadened to a more general debate on “challenges facing the peace process” in the Middle East.

The request is however rejected by 172 votes to 156, with 15 abstentions. 

Good afternoon

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Hello and welcome to coverage of today’s plenary sitting of the European Parliament in Strasbourg, which will begin shortly.

The sitting will begin with administrative announcements, after which MEPs will have the chance to request additions or changes to this week’s agenda or make points of order.

Proposals to add a debate to the agenda have to be made to the President at least one hour before the sitting opens, and can be tabled by one of the Parliament’s committees, one of its political groups, or a group of 40 MEPs.

In order to be formally added, an item must be approved by a simple majority – and can be done on a show of hands.