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Summary

  1. MEPs kicked off the sitting with a debate on eurozone debt and deficit rules
  2. At lunchtime they gave their support to new information sharing rules for EU tax authorities
  3. MEPs also debated the situation in Syria
  4. They debated relations with Turkey, ahead of Thursday's vote on whether to suspend its EU accession talks
  5. In the evening they debated a proposed EU skills guarantee scheme

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goognight & coming up tomorrow...

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That's it from the European Parliament tonight. 

MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT, when they begin with a debate on new emissions limits on five pollutants, to apply from 2030.

At lunchtime they will vote on whether to call for the European Court of Justice to examine an EU-Canada trade deal.

In the afternoon, they will debate proposals to send loans worth €200m to Jordan.

They will also debate the EU VAT system and sanctions against wildlife traffickers. 

MEPs debate trade deal on 'environmental goods'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the use of professional sign language interpreters finished.

Finally tonight, MEPs are debating negotiations on a trade agreement between the EU and 16 member countries of the World Trading Organisation (WTO) on co-called environmental goods.

The Environmental Goods Agreement would lower trading barriers on products that contribute to environmental protection and fighting climate change.

It would cover tariffs and standards on products such as carbon dioxide scrubbers, recycling machinery, wind turbines and solar panels.

The international trade committee has tabled an oral question expressing concern that the most “environmentally sensitive” products are being excluded from the terms of the deal. 

Man installing solar panels on a roof
PA

Debate on sign language begins

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the EU’s skills guarantee scheme finished – MEPs will set out their position on the scheme in a motion vote at a future plenary session.

Marianne Thyssen will remain with MEPs for a statement on the use of professional sign language interpreters.

Commissioner: Scheme to provide 'a true second chance'

Debate on EU skills scheme

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Employment Commissioner Marianne Thyssen tells MEPs the skills scheme would give adults a "true second chance" to boost their skills, alongside other responsibilities. 

She says that reading and writing are "a problem" for one fifth of adults,and up to 40% lack digital skills - something that makes it harder for them to find good employment. 

Marianne Thyssen
BBC

MEPs begin debate on skills scheme

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That's the debate on anti-EU "propaganda" finished - MEPs will vote on their motion tomorrow. 

MEPs are now debating proposals announced in June to create an EU “skills guarantee” scheme to boost literacy and numeracy skills among low-skilled adults.

The scheme would target those who have not received a formal secondary education but are too old to be eligible for the EU’s youth guarantee scheme for under-25s.

The employment and social affairs committee has tabled an oral question asking the Commission how it intends to involve countries in the scheme, which is not legally binding.

They have also asked whether any additional funding is required for the scheme, or whether it will be financed by re-jigging existing budgets in this area. 

MEPs denounces 'caricature' of Russia

Debate on 'anti-EU propaganda'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Lithuanian Liberal Petras Austrevicius says that Western values have been "chosen as a strategic target" by media services backed by the Kremlin. 

He gives his backing to the EU's East StratCom unit that his been set up to counter disinformation spread by Russia, and says it should be backed with sufficient funding. 

Spanish left-wing MEP Javier Couso Permuy however criticises tomorrow's motion, accusing the draft of presenting a "caricature of Russia".

He takes exception to the fact that the resolution focuses jointly on Islamic State (IS) group and Russia, which he notes is a member country of the Council of Europe. 

However Green group co-leader Rebecca Harms says the resolution deals with the two entities separately, set out in "two different chapters". 

MEPs debate motion on anti-EU 'propaganda'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the EU’s common security and defence policies finished – MEPs will vote on their motion tomorrow.

MEPs are now debating another non-binding motion, this time expressing support for EU efforts to counter “disinformation and propaganda” from Russia and Islamic State (IS) group.

The draft text criticises Russia for expanding its presence in the European media for the purpose of "undermining the coherence of the EU foreign policy".  

The draft text also calls for the financing of “anti-European propaganda” to be closely monitored by EU institutions.

The motion will be put to a vote at lunchtime tomorrow.

TV remote controls
AP

Labour MEP urges action on defence spending

Debate on EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Afzal Khan
BBC

Labour MEP Afzal Khan points out that currently only four out of 28 EU states are living up to Nato's target of a 2% of GDP minimum spend on defence. 

He also says that European investment in defence is characterised by inefficiency and a "lack of interoperability" between different states' equipment. 

The bloc must show the political will to increase military investment, he says, instead of simply "issuing declarations".

MEP: Security the 'main concern' of EU citizens

Debate on EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Romanian social democrat Ioan Mircea Pascu, who has drafted tomorrow's draft motion, says that no EU state can "face the current security challenges on its own".

He says calls for a boost to Europe's military are "no longer a cry for help from the defence industry", but is now the "main concern" of people in the EU.

He tells MEPs that they should remember that Nato is a "defence alliance", and not a "company whose profitable parts could be shut down".

Ioan Mircea Pascu
BBC

MEPs begin debate on EU defence co-operation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the situation in the West Bank finished. MEPs will set out their position in a vote at a future plenary session.

MEPs are now debating a motion calling for a “thorough and substantial revision” of the EU’s common security and defence policies.

It also calls for member states to co-ordinate military investment and for increased funds to finance defence research at an EU level.

The motion, which is not binding on the national governments or on the EU Commission, will be put to a vote at lunchtime tomorrow. 

Mogherini: New Israeli bill could 'cross new threshold'

Debate on West Bank settlements

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Federica Mogherini
BBC

Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that the EU remains a "clear position" in favour of a two-state solution in the Middle East.

However, she says the preparation of the so-called "regularisation bill" in the Israeli Parliament to retroactively legalise a number of settlements poses a threat to this process. 

She adds that it risks "crossing a new threshold" compared to previous action. 

She says the EU frequently disagrees with Israeli settlement policy, but also notes that there have been "some positive steps" to bear in mind as well, including plans for Palestinian construction within the region known as Area C in the West Bank. 

MEPs to debate West Bank settlements

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Israeli settlement in the West Bank
AFP/GETTY IMAGES

That’s the debate on EU relations with Turkey finished. The vote on the draft resolution to call for the country’s EU membership talks to be frozen will be put to a vote on Thursday.

Federica Mogherini will stay with MEPs to debate developments in the West Bank.

In August, Israel approved the construction of 285 new homes at Jewish settlements in the occupied territories.

About 570,000 Israelis live in more than 100 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem.

The settlements are considered illegal under international law, though Israel disputes this. 

MEP criticises 'lack of support' for Turkey

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Geoffrey van Orden
BBC

British Conservative MEP Geoffrey van Orden, however, says it would be a "gross strategic error for the EU to slam the door in the face of Turkey".

He says the country has been a Nato ally, and is also at the forefront of the migration crisis in the Mediterranean.

He says it is in many ways not surprising to expect a turn away from the West given many in the country feel there has been a "lack of support" from EU allies. 

UKIP MEP criticises cost of accession talks

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

UKIP MEP Raymond Finch picks up on the cost of the current accession talks, saying at the moment the EU is spending €650m a year to support the current process.

He questions whether this is a "responsible way to spend taxpayers' money".

He crticises the bloc for having supported Mr Erdogan's "dictatorship". 

Raymond Finch
BBC
Boris Johnson with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in September in Ankara

UK Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is accused of arrogance over Turkey by a senior German Euro MP.

Read more

MEP criticises Turkey migrant agreement

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German Green MEP Ska Keller also criticises the EU's migration deal with Turkey, which she calls "an instrument we have given to Erdogan to use against us".

Under the deal, migrants arriving in Greece are expected to be sent back to Turkey if they do not apply for asylum or their claim is rejected.  

She says that instead of sending people to the country, there should be greater solidarity among EU states to redistribute asylum seekers and migrants amongst themselves.

Ska Keller
BBC

MEP urges 'cautious' language in motion

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Romanian centre-right MEP Christian Dan Preda says the Parliament "shouldn't be understood as the institution that wants to put an end to negotiations".

He calls for a "cautious" approach to how Thursday's motion is drafted. 

In particular he says the text should include a "list of criteria" which the Parliament would consider acceptable to allow negotiations to resume.

Christian Dan Preda
BBC

Turkey’s stalled EU membership bid

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Turkey applied for full membership of the EU in 1987, although it wasn’t until 1999 that the country became an official membership candidate and not until late 2005 that it started accession talks.

Its long road to potential membership has been beset with political difficulties, not least its relationship with EU member Cyprus.

Tensions remain over the breakaway ethnic Turkish administration in northern Cyprus, which is only recognised by Ankara. 

So far only 16 of Turkey's 35 negotiating chapters have been opened (i.e. started), and only one has been provisionally closed (completed).

The EU has said negotiation on eight chapters will not be started until Turkey removes obstacles to the free movement of goods, including direct transport links, with Cyprus.

Negotiations have also been overshadowed by concerns about freedom of speech and democracy in Turkey, treatment of religious minorities, and women's and children's rights. 

Turkish flag with smoke billowing around it
AFP/GETTY IMAGES

'No other choice' but to freeze talks - MEP

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Kati Piri
BBC

Dutch social democrat Kati Piri says MEPs have "no other choice" but to call for membership negotiations to be frozen, with the chance of "meaningful" talks becoming untenable. 

However she says that the Parliament is still committed to keeping Turkey "anchored" to the EU, and recalls that MEPs have in the past called for membership chapters to be opened. 

German left-wing MEP Martina Michels accuses EU governments of "looking the other way" whilst Nato ally Turkey "drifted into dictatorship".

She calls for an end to the EU's migrant deal with Turkey, which she says has driven the EU into "political imprisonment" with Turkish President Erdogan.

Verhofstadt: 'Broad majority' in favour of freezing talks

Debate on EU-Turkey relations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Guy Verhofstadt, the former Belgian prime minister who leads the Liberal ALDE group, says the EU is "losing credibility" by continuing the "illusion of accession talks".

He says that to continue the talks whilst Turkey takes an increasingly autocratic turn "fooling ourselves and fooling our citizens", as well as the people of Turkey. 

He predicts that a "broad majority" will vote to freeze talks at the vote on Thursday, along with approving conditions under which they could be re-started. 

Mr Verhofstadt, who is also the European Parliament's observer at Brexit talks, uses the speech to take aim at Donald Trump's suggestion that Nigel Farage could be made UK ambassador to the US, joking:

I think one clown in Washington is more than enough."

Guy Verhofstadt
BBC

Turkey and the EU: The end of the affair?

By Selin Girit BBC News, Istanbul

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Turkish President Erdogan
AP

The European Parliament will vote this week on whether to suspend Turkey's talks on joining the EU, and the Turkish government is giving a good impression of looking the other way.

"Turkey should feel relaxed about the EU and not be fixated about joining it," President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the weekend.

Instead he repeated his idea of joining Russia and China in the Eurasian security group Shanghai Co-operation Organisation. "Why shouldn't Turkey be in the Shanghai 5?" he suggested.

Turkey's long journey towards the European Union has never been a bed of roses; rather a bumpy road of twists and turns.

Read more

Debate on Turkey's EU accession talks begins

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the situation in Syria finished – MEPs will vote on their motion on Thursday.

Ms Mogherini is staying to debate relations with Turkey, ahead of a motion vote on Thursday at which MEPs could call for the country’s EU membership talks to be frozen.

It comes after increasing criticism in the EU after a crackdown against opposition politicians, civil servants and journalists following the failed coup against the government in July.

Last month Parliament President Martin Schulz said that the detention of several writers at opposition newspaper Cumhuriyet had crossed a “red line”. 

Good afternoon

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Man in front of destroyed buildings in Aleppo
Reuters
The UN said this week that almost one million people are under siege in Syria

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

Today’s afternoon sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to discuss the situation in Syria.

It comes as the Syrian government last week renewed airs strikes and shelling on rebel-held parts of Aleppo, according to activists.

Foreign ministers also added 17 ministers and the Governor of the Central Bank of Syria to the list of those targeted by EU sanctions, bringing the total number to 234.

MEPs will set out their position on the situation in a motion vote on Thursday. 

David Davis and Guy Verhofstadt

David Davis calls his meeting with the European Parliament's chief Brexit negotiator "useful".

Read more
David Davis says his meeting with the European Parliament negotiator had a "good start".
The UK's Brexit Secretary David Davis says European Parliament negotiator Guy Verhofstadt is a "very nice man" and says their "constructive conversation" was a "good start".

Explanatory speeches begin

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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

This will be followed by a short break, after which the sitting will resume at 14.00 BST, when MEPs will be joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to discuss the situation in Syria.

Advisory motions backed

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs approve a non-binding motion backing greater military co-operation between EU states.

They also pass non-binding motions on ways to boost the EU’s ferry and cruise sectors, and suggestions for improving EU co-operation on development policies.

MEPs back bank info sharing obligations

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Voting graphic
BBC

MEPs give their backing to EU legislation they debated this morning to oblige tax authorities to share bank account information to tackle money laundering.

Under the proposals, authorities would automatically exchange information on account balances, interest income and dividends.

MEPs do not have the legal powers to change the agreed text, although they must state their position on it before it can come into force.

Their approval means the new rules would come into effect immediately – with EU governments obliged to implement it before the end of next year. 

MEPs approve Europol-Ukraine agreement

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Europol headqaurters
AP
Europol is headquartered in the Hague

MEPs vote to give their approval to a co-operation agreement between Europol, the EU’s police agency, and Ukraine.

They do not have the power to change the agreement but the EU’s treaties state they must express their position on it.

Under the agreement, the country exchanges personal data, strategic analysis and information on criminal investigations as part of efforts to clamp down on organised crime.

Votes shortly

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the end of the debate on new information sharing obligation for EU tax authorities finished.

MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will get underway shortly.

EU institutions 'on same wavelength' on tax - Moscovici

Debate on bank information sharing rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Pierre Moscovici
BBC

Taxation Commissioner Pierre Moscovici gives his reply to the debate, telling MEPs that the different EU institutions are "on the same wavelength" when it comes to boosting tax transparency.

He says that "political pressure" from the European Parliament's committees can help the Commission push for new rules in this area. 

He reiterates his call for MEPs to express support for the proposals at the vote, calling them an "important step" in the creation of a "fairer" taxation system. 

Post-meeting thoughts

The Guardian's Brussels correspondent tweets

'Liberty and privacy' should be preserved - Woolfe

Debate on bank information rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Steven Woolfe
BBC

In his first plenary speech since quitting UKIP last month, newly non-attached MEP Steven Woolfe says it is "quite right" that governments should seek to prevent tax avoidance and the illegal financing of terrorist groups. 

However, he says this must not come "at the hands of privacy and liberty of individuals doing nothing wrong". 

He says he is concerned that the legislation MEPs are debating this morning will make banks "an extension of the tax authorities". 

There are no provisions in the regulations, he adds, to prevent tax authorities conducting "phishing exercises" against legitimate individuals. 

Green MEP expresses concern at 'loopholes' in rules

Debate on bank information sharing rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Molly Scott Cato
BBC

UK Green MEP Molly Scott Cato says she welcomes the "cross-party" support for the new rules. 

However she adds that her Green/EFA group is concerned that the regulations still contain "several loopholes" that could be used to avoid the obligation to automatically share information. 

In particular, she expresses concern over the use of so-called synthetic tax certificates in jurisdictions such as Panama. 

She says that the European Parliament, whilst welcoming the changes, agrees that the Commission could have been "more ambitious" in its proposals.

Moscovici: EU making 'great leap forward' on tax avoidance

Debate on bank information sharing rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Pierre Moscovici
BBC

Taxation Commissioner Pierre Moscovici tells MEPs that the Commission is making a "great leap forward" in its efforts on tax avoidance and evasion. 

He adds that EU countries are becoming "pioneers" of new transparency standards. 

He says the new rules will give important access to information on the so-called beneficial - or ultimate - owners of shell companies. 

He says that greater information is an important tool to tackling "opaque" tax structures. 

MEP: Tax authorities should have 'direct access' to infomation

Debate on bank information sharing rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Emmanuel Maurel
BBC

Parliament's chief negotiator on the legislation, French Socialist Emmanuel Maurel says the greater sharing of information is a key tool in the fight against tax evasion. 

He says it is only right that national tax authorities should get "direct access to all the information necessary for their investigations". 

Even though the Parliament does not have the legal powers to change the draft legislation, he calls on MEPs to make their approval vote "as unanimous as possible".

This would "send a clear signal" to the national governments about the importance of the issue, he adds. 

MEPs begin debate on bank information sharing obligations

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Bank statement
BBC

That’s the debate on the EU’s debt and deficit rules finished.

MEPs are now debating EU legislation that would oblige tax authorities to share bank account information to tackle money laundering.

Under the proposals, authorities would automatically exchange information on account balances, interest income and dividends.

Member states agreed a provisional deal on the new rules in September, which MEPs will vote on at lunchtime.

MEPs do not have the legal powers to change the agreed text, although they must state their position on it before it can come into force.

If they give their approval, the new rules would come into effect immediately – with EU governments obliged to implement it before the end of next year.

'Ownership' of recommendations must improve - commissioner

Debate on the European Semester

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Valdis Dombrovskis
BBC

Responding to the debate, Euro Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis tells MEPs that they should remember the Semester is a "package of measures" designed to boost eurozone co-operation. 

It is therefore unwise, he adds, to pick out individual policies without being mindful of "the overall context" in which they are proposed. 

He adds however that there is a need for "deeper engagement" on the EU side to boost the "ownership" over implementation of the Commission's economic recommendations. 

UKIP MEP criticises 'betrayal' of high youth unemployment

Debate on the European Semester

European Parliament

Strasbourg

UKIP MEP Patrick O'Flynn says the semester programme "always fails to meet its targets".

He says MEPs should focus on the effect of the single currency on rates of youth unemployment in the eurozone, which he brands the "betrayal index".

He tells the chamber that although the rate stands at 13% in the UK, it is "far, far worse" in a number of countries using the single currency, and over 40% in Spain and Greece, adding: 

In these countries, whatever the time of year, it's always the winter semester"

Patrick O'Flynn
BBC

MEP calls for focus on poverty reduction

Debate on the European Semester

European Parliament

Strasbourg

British Green MEP Jean Lambert asks what "progress is being made" on reducing poverty within the EU.

She says that a focus in this area would require "dealing" with issues such as corporate taxation and income tax levels for top earners. 

She also asks what the EU Commission what is being done to ensure the payment of a "genuine minimum wage" to workers, aside from the legally-mandated minimum wages. 

Jean Lambert
BBC