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Summary

  1. Sitting began with debate on xenophobia and homophobia
  2. MEPs heard speech from Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi
  3. Later they voted to ratify the EU's budget for next year
  4. They also signed off on new rules for EU data transfers to US police
  5. They rejected calls for them to be examined first by the EU's top court

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

European Parliament

Brussels

And, after a short round of explanatory speeches, this plenary sitting of the European Parliament comes to an end. 

MEPs's next plenary meeting will be in Strasbourg between 12-15 December. 

Voting session ends

European Parliament

Brussels

And with that, the voting session comes to an end. MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted. 

MEPs call for budget flexibility for after Italian earthquakes

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Amatrice
EPA
Homes are being rebuilt in the Italian town of Amatrice

MEPs back a non-binding motion calling for spending on infrastructure resilience and earthquake preparation measures in Italy to be excluded from EU debt and deficit calculations.

The country has already been granted additional flexibility in its deficit calculations relating to the emergency measures taken after tremors last summer.  

Italy was named earlier this month as one of eight countries whose national budgets for next year were “at risk” of not complying with the Stability and Growth Pact.

The motion says the flexibility should be extended due to the “exceptional and very serious situation” the country is facing.

MEPs approve EU aid to Germany

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

MEPs also approve €31.5m in EU aid to fund clean-up operations and restore essential infrastructure after damaging floods in Bavaria over the summer.

The aid package was approved by national governments earlier this month.

The money would come from the EU’s Solidarity Fund, which uses additional money provided by governments outside the formal EU budget.

Commissioner welcomes 'solid' ratification vote

EU Budget Commissioner tweets:

MEPs ratify EU budget for next year

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

President Schulz signs EU budget
BBC
Parliament President Martin Schulz signs the budget after the vote

By 438 votes to 194 with seven abstentions, MEPs ratify the EU budget for next year.

The ratification vote grants final approval to a provisional deal on the 2017 spending plans that Parliament’s negotiators reached with member states earlier this month.

It follows lengthy negotiations between the European Commission, MEPs and EU governments – which approved the deal on Monday.

The final text sets €157.9bn in budgetary commitments, with payments made during the year to total €134.5bn. 

MEPs ratify EU-Ghana interim trade deal

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Cocoa farmers
AFP/GETTY
Cocoa is one of Ghana’s biggest exports to EU countries

MEPs also vote to ratify an interim trade agreement between the EU and Ghana, which was signed in July and is already being provisionally applied.

Their ratification vote means it can now come fully come into force.

The agreement is meant to provide legal certainty to exporters on quotas and product rules whilst a full agreement between the EU and 15 West African countries awaits signature. 

MEPs approve EU-US data transfer agreement

Voting session

European Parliament

Brussels

Laptop user
PA

By 481 votes to 75, with 88 abstentions, MEPs vote to ratify an agreement to protect personal data exchanged between EU and US police authorities in their efforts to detect and prosecute serious crimes or terrorism.

The so-called umbrella agreement includes agreed standards on how such data should be used, who has access to them, and the obligation to get prior consent before any onward transfers.

The agreement was signed by the EU and US authorities in June. Ratification from MEPs today means it can now come into effect.

They vote to reject a motion from Liberal and left-wing MEPs questioning whether the deal complies with EU fundamental rights law and asking for the EU’s top court to examine it first. 

Voting to begin soon

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the speech from Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi finished. MEPs are now taking their seats for today’s voting session, which will start shortly.

President Essebsi calls for Tunisian debt conversion

European Parliament

Brussels

President Essebsi
BBC

President Essebsi says Tunisia "consciously adopted" principles included in the EU's Charter of Fundamental Rights when developing its new constitution, adopted in 2014. 

However he says that the transition to democracy "carries a cost", and that this year the country's economic growth is only expected to be 1.5%.

He says the government is "working hard on the big reforms" that will allow the country to create sustainable economic growth. 

He says the EU is now the country's "principal source of support", although he says the "unprecedented" nature of the country's transformation will require more than traditional levels of backing. 

He adds that he "sincerely hopes" that other EU institutions back an idea recently suggested by MEPs to allow the country's debt to be converted into investment in infrastructure projects. 

Tunisian President: Europe a 'natural beacon'

European Parliament

Brussels

President Essebsi
BBC

Speaking in French, President Essebsi says he would like to express a "message of trust" in the EU on behalf of the Tunisian people. 

He says he would like to thank MEPs for "expressing solidarity" with Tunisia in its efforts to move towards a democratic model of governance after the Arab Spring. 

He says Tunisia has always seen the European continent "as a natural beacon", whilst the country's destiny has been closely liked to the continent. 

He says this should be used as the basis for developing an "ever-stronger strategic relationship". 

MEPs to hear speech from Tunisian president

European Parliament

Brussels

Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi meets European Parliament President Martin Schulz
AFP/GETTY IMAGES
President Essebsi met European Parliament President Martin Schulz earlier today

That’s the debate on delayed presidential elections in the DR Congo finished. MEPs will vote on a motion at the voting session, due to begin shortly after 10.30 GMT.

Shortly, however, MEPs will hear a speech from Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi, who became president in late 2014 after winning the country's first free election.

He was previously speaker of parliament under President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, who was ousted in 2011 in the first "Arab Spring" uprising.

The country is receiving EU loans to support its economy, which has struggled since the Arab Spring and following terror attacks which have hit its tourist industry.

MEPs begin debate on stalled elections in DR Congo

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate on xenophobia and homophobia in the EU finished.

MEPs have now been joined by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to debate the delaying of presidential elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The opposition accuses President Joseph Kabila of trying to cling on to power beyond the end of his term, which is due to expire on December 20.

Earlier this month President Kabila appointed opposition politician Samy Badibanga as prime minister following a controversial agreement criticised by the main opposition coalition. 

Protests against President Kabila
AFP/GETTY
Protests against President Kabila have led to numerous deaths

MEPs clash on EU role

Debate on xenophobia and homophobia

European Parliament

Brussels

Claude Moraes
BBC

Labour MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs the Parliament's civil liberties committee, says it is "legitimate" for the EU to legislate in this area, as the bloc is a "union of values". 

"This is not a time to retreat from these values", he adds. 

However Dutch MEP Vicky Maeijer, from the anti-EU Freedom Party (PVV) of Geert Wilders, says a European elite is "painting patriots as xenophobic".

Mr Wilders is currently undergoing a trial for alleged hate speech in the Netherlands relating to a chant for fewer Moroccans at a rally 18 months ago.

She says that concerns about Islamic extremism should not be ignored, but an "elite" is "encroaching upon freedom of speech". 

Commission outlines EU action against discrimination

Debate on xenophobia and homophobia

European Parliament

Brussels

Sir Julian King
BBC

UK Commissioner Sir Julian King, whose brief includes responsibility over security, tells MEPs that they have a duty to fight discrimination "collectively and individually".

He says this is also a priority for the current Commission, adding that this was demonstrated by the fact that it made it the subject of its first colloquium on fundamental rights last year. 

He says the EU executive is working with governments to ensure that EU rules are "effectively enforced" in criminal law. 

He says an expert group within the Commission is helping EU states develop "sound methodologies" to record hate crimes, which he says are often confused with other offences. 

Slovak Minister: Governments 'share concerns' over discrimination

Debate on xenophobia and homophobia

European Parliament

Brussels

Representing the Slovak EU Presidency, Slovak Minister Ivan Korcok, says governments "very much share" MEPs' preoccupation with combating intolerance and hatred. 

He says data has shown an "alarming increase" in intolerance and hate crimes in Europe. 

He says that EU anti-discrimination legislation, passed by governments more than 15 years ago, is an "important tool" for tackling discrimination. 

He says work is also ongoing with internet providers to tackle online hate crimes. 

Ivan Korcok
BBC

Good morning

European Parliament

Brussels

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

The sitting will be getting underway shortly, when MEPs will be debating “xenophobia, homophobia and other forms of intolerance” in the EU.