Got a TV Licence?

You need one to watch live TV on any channel or device, and BBC programmes on iPlayer. It’s the law.

Find out more
I don’t have a TV Licence.

Summary

  1. MEPs debated Thursday's summit of EU leaders
  2. At lunchtime they approved new EU rules for ports and awarding railway contracts
  3. In the afternoon they debated releasing further funds from Greece's bailout
  4. They also debated plans to give the EU new emergency powers to suspend visa-free travel rights

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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

MEPs are back tomorrow at 08.00 GMT, when they will be debating petitions received by MEPs during 2015.

They will then debate and vote on this month's three motions on human rights cases.

At the voting session, they will decide whether to approve new EU emergency powers to suspend visa-free travel rights. 

Approval of the new powers is seen as a crucial step before granting visa-free travel to Ukraine and Georgia. 

MEPs debate medicines for children

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on EU support for victims seeking compensation from the side-effects of Thalidomide finished. A non-binding motion will be voted on tomorrow.

Finally tonight MEPs are debating whether the Commission should update an EU regulation passed ten years ago governing research into and authorisation of medicines for children.

An oral question tabled by the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee says a 2013 report into the legislation found a number of shortcomings. 

Commissioner pledges 'political support' for victims

Oral question on Thalidomide compensation campaign

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis says the Commission understands the "exteremly difficult" situation faced by Thalimodime victims.

He adds that it is "difficult to accept" that the manufacturers of the chemical are only prepared to shoulder part of the cost of compensation schemes.

He says that the Commission is keen to help within its "limited competencies" in this area, but is "not in a position to take concrete legal action" itself. 

However he says commissioners are keen to lend "political support" to the campaign for victims to receive compensation, and says he has spoken to EU health ministers to this end.

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

MEPs begin debate on Thalidomide compensation

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on EU recognition of public documents finished.

Next this evening, MEPs are debating financial support for families seeking compensation from the side-effects of Thalidomide.

The chemical was used to treat morning sickness, headaches, insomnia, and colds in the late 1950s and early 1960s – but turned out to have severe side-effects for pregnant women, as well as their babies born with malformations.

Many victims are still seeking financial support to help cover costs linked to their medical and physical condition.

Tomorrow MEPs will vote on a non-binding motion calling for people in EU states outside Germany to get access to a German compensation scheme set up to support disabled victims.

It also asks the Commission to table a “framework protocol” to standardise at an EU level the amount of money that claimants could receive from the scheme. 

Thalidomide capsules
Science Photo Library

MEPs debate document recognition rules

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs are now debating proposals to improve the mutual recognition of public documents in the EU.

From early 2019, EU citizens will no longer need to get authenticated copies made of certain documents – including birth certificates – when they move to another EU state.

The rule change is meant to lower the cost and administrative burden of moving country.

MEPs on the legal affairs committee have tabled an oral question asking whether the Commission intends to extend the scope of the new rules to include civil partnership certificates.

MEPs begin debate on Cairo attack

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate about visa rights granted to eastern European countries by the United States and Canada finished.

Next, MEPs are debating last Sunday’s bomb attack on a church in Cairo in which at least 25 people were killed.

Yesterday the Islamic State (IS) group claimed responsibility for the attack, naming the attacker as Abu Abdallah al-Masri.

Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has declared three days of national mourning for the victims of the blast. 

Vigil for the victims of the Cairo church attack
Getty Images

Commissioner cites 'negative impacts' of visa retaliation

Debate on visa reciprocity

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos tells MEPs that the Commission shares the "same objective" as the Parliament in this matter. 

He says the Commission is obliged to consider the "negative impacts" of re-imposing visa requirements on US and Canadian citizens, which could lead to re-imposition for EU citizens. 

He says that there is "no progress to report" on negotiations with the United States, but that the Commission is determined to keep the issue "high on the agenda". 

However he says that Canada's announcement at a recent EU summit that it is willing to lift visa requirements for Bulgarians and Romanians in late 2017 is proof that diplomacy "can get results". 

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

Visa reciprocity 'a matter of equality' - Labour MEP

Debate on visa reciprocity

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Labour's MEP Claude Moraes, who chairs Parliament's civil liberties committee, says the matter should be "a matter of principle for the whole house". 

He says all EU states should have the right to expect "symmetry and equality" in their relationships with the United States and Canada.  

Claude Moraes
BBC

MEPs debate US and Canada visa requirements for EU states

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate about the data leak from a former Europol employee finished.

Next tonight MEPs are debating how the Commission plans to ensure the United States and Canada grant visa-free travel rights to all EU countries.

Both countries currently impose visa restrictions on citizens of Bulgaria and Romania. In addition, the US also has visa requirements for Croatia, Cyprus and Poland.

In April 2014 the five countries appealed to the EU Commission to start proceedings against the US and Canada for not having reciprocated travel rights they had granted to them.

However the Commission has yet to decide to re-impose visas on US and Canadian citizens, despite EU rules stating that this should be done within two years if rights have not been given in return.

MEPs on the civil liberties and home affairs committee have tabled an oral question asking the Commission why it has not yet acted in this area. 

US Passport
AFP/GETTY IMAGES

'Nothing to see here, move along'

Dutch Liberal MEP tweets:

Slovak minister: No cases jeopardised

Debate on Europol data leak

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Representing the Slovak EU Presidency, Slovak Minister Ivan Korcok says that Europol immediately launched an investigation when contacted by a journalist about the information. 

He says that affected member states were also contacted, although he stresses that no ongoing investigations were jeopardised. 

He adds that most of the data was "historical", in some cases over ten years old, and that this was not a "data leak" as Europol's systems themselves were not breached.  

He says the former Europol employee did not comply with the agency's rules, which prohibit sensitive information from being put onto private storage devices. 

Ivan Korcok
BBC

MEPs debate Europol information leak

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on new EU powers to re-impose visa requirements finished. The rule changes will be put to a final vote during tomorrow’s voting session.

Next Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos will stay to debate recent reports of a leak of information relating to terrorism investigations from Europol.

Dutch media reported that a former employee of the EU police co-operation agency had inadvertently published online information relating to 54 cases.

A Europol spokesman has said the cases related to the breach are more than a decade old and that ongoing investigations have not been jeopardised. 

MEP urges 'rapid' visa waivers for Ukraine and Georgia

Debate on visa waiver suspension powers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Agustín Díaz De Mera
BBC

Spanish centre-right MEP Agustín Díaz De Mera, who has acted as Parliament's lead negotiator on the legislation, says the agreed text is "not ideal" but urges his colleagues to back it at the vote tomorrow. 

He says amendments suggested by the Parliament have made the rules "more effective, more operable and more flexible". 

He adds that he hopes the new suspension powers will lead to the "rapid" granting of visa-free travel rights for both Ukraine and Georgia. 

He says both countries have met the EU's requirements for the scheme for "quite a while". 

MEPs debate visa waiver suspension powers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Next MEPs are debating new emergency powers to suspend visa-free travel rights with countries that have signed visa liberalisation deals with the EU.

The new legislation would allow either the Commission or a majority of EU states to suspend a country’s visa exemptions if there is a large increase in asylum requests.

It would also be easier to re-impose the need to apply for a visa if a country’s nationals stay in the EU longer than allowed, or if there is a risk to the bloc’s “internal security”.

Putting in place the new powers has been seen as a crucial pre-condition for finalising arrangements to grant visa-free travel to Ukraine and Georgia.

Agreement on the suspension mechanism among national ministers was reached last week. MEPs will put the new rules to a final vote tomorrow. 

Green MEP: Greek camps are 'horrendous'

Debate on Greek asylum transfers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

German MEP Ska Keller, who is the new co-leader of the Greens/EFA group, says she opposes reintroducing returns with Greece. 

She says the conditions in Greek migrant camps are "horrendous" and must be improved first. 

"We should not send people back into destitution," she adds. 

Ska Keller
BBC

Dutch MEP questions returns timescale

Debate on Greek asylum transfers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dutch Christian democrat Jeroen Lenaers says he agrees that the eventual resumption of the Dublin system will be required to secure the internal operation of the Schengen area. 

The EU Commission has said securing the external borders of the bloc will be important in lessening the need for internal border checks within the passport-free zone. 

However, he questions how realistic it is to do this from next March, noting that the Commission's own report details inadequacies in the country's asylum system. 

Commissioner: Greece has made 'significant progress'

Debate on Greek asylum transfers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

EU Migration Commissioner and former Greek defence minister Dimitris Avramopoulos says the Commission is recommending a "gradual return" to the application of the existing rules.

He says that the Commission is recommending a resumption of transfers back to Greece because of "significant progress" in reforming its asylum system.

He adds that the number of asylum applications processed by the country has increased four times during this year compared to last. 

He tells MEPs that Greece should be praised for its efforts to change its asylum system. 

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

MEPs debate Greek asylum transfers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on the EU’s rule of law probe in Poland finished.

Next MEPs are debating the recent decision from the EU Commission to “gradually” resume transfers of asylum seekers to Greece from March next year.

The Commission said the transfers would eventually allow for the proper functioning of the EU’s Dublin rules, which requires people to claim asylum in the member state in which they first arrive.

Transfers of asylum seekers back to Greece have been suspended since deficiencies in the Greek asylum system were found in 2011. 

The debate was added to the agenda on Monday by the Green/EFA group, which said it was concerned about the conditions in which prospective asylum seekers could be held.  

Refugee camp in Greece
EPA

I am also a 'Polish commissioner' - Timmermans

Debate on EU rule of law probe in Poland

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Replying to the debate, EU Commission deputy chief Frans Timmermans says history has taught Europe the lessons of the importance not to "use democracy against the rule of law".

He says the separation of powers and independence of the judiciary comprise part of the "context" in which the modern European Union works. 

He says that as an EU representative, his is "also a Polish commissioner" and would never wish to undermine the country's interests. 

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Conservative MEP: EU trying 'to lecture Poland'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Conservative MEP Syed Kammall, who leads the ECR group, is also critical of the decision to hold another debate on the probe today. 

The Parliament, he says, has "no real role" in the process. 

He also has critical words for the Commission, which he accuses of trying to "lecture Poland on how to run a democracy".

He also says that the previous Civic Platform government in Poland "packed the constitutional court" with its supporter when in power but the EU executive did not intervene then. 

Syed Kammall
BBC

Polish MEP dismisses debate as 'unfair'

Debate on EU rule of law probe in Poland

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Ryszard Antoni Legutko
BBC

Ryszard Antoni Legutko, a Polish MEP from the ruling Law and Justice party, says the decision to debate the probe in the European Parliament again is "unfair" and "doesn't make sense". 

He accuses the Commission of not "reacting" to changes made to the court by the previous government of the pro-EU Civic Platform party. 

He says there are "no issues" with the bills being debated in the Polish parliament last night. 

The EU's executive, he says, wants to "keep the monopoly of the single political family". 

Timmermans: Situation has not improved

Debate on EU rule of law probe in Poland

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Frans Timmermans
BBC

Frans Timmermans tells MEPs that in its July communication, the Commission identified three main "issues of concern" about changes made to the Polish constitutional court. 

He says this included how the court is composed, how the court's judgements are published, and its effectiveness. 

He says the situation has "not improved" since then - despite a request to remedy the situation within three months of the communication. 

He says the position of the Commission was "fully supported" by an opinion issued in October by the Venice Commission, the body that advises the Council of Europe on this matter. 

He says three new laws in this area voted on in the Polish parliament last night "address some of the issues" but raise "new areas of concern", and he urges the Polish government not to implement them. 

He says the Commission will soon consider how the matter should be resolved. 

He denies EU interference, adding that the independence of the constitutional court is essential to the functioning of the European single market. 

MEPs begin debate on EU rule of law probe

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on negotiations over releasing funds from Greece’s EU/IMF bailout finished.

MEPs have now been joined by deputy EU Commission chief Frans Timmermans to debate the EU’s ongoing probe into the rule of law in Poland.

The probe was launched at the start of this year after Poland’s new government made controversial changes to the set-up of the country’s constitutional court.

In July, the Commission said the changes presented a “systemic threat” to the rule of law in Poland and asked for the country to take measures to remedy the situation.

Poland has questioned the legitimacy of the review.

In theory the Commission could ask for Poland’s EU voting rights to be suspended, although this would require agreement from the 27 other states and has never been used. 

Polish and EU flag
AP

Greeks 'not second-class citizens' - Syriza MEP

Debate on Greek bailout

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Greek Syriza MEP Dimitrios Papadimoulis says the opposition to the collective bargaining powers is "shameful".

"We're not second-class citizens," he adds. 

Highlighting progress made by the country in areas demanded by creditors, he says there is "no excuse" not to close the second review of the programme. 

Dimitrios Papadimoulis
BBC

MEPs clash on collective bargaining

Debate on Greek bailout

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Agnes Jongerius
BBC

German Christian democrat Burkhard Balz expresses his support for opposition from creditors to Greek demands to reintroduce collective bargaining powers abolished under previous bailouts.  

He says a loosening of labour laws is needed to "make Greek people employable", which will improve the long-term prospects for jobs in the country. 

However Dutch social democrat Agnes Jongerius says the changes being demanded by Eurozone finance ministers risk making collective bargaining "practically non-existent" in Greece. 

She says the changes could mean Greece is "excluded from the European social model", and questions the legality of the changes. 

'All sides' hoping for conclusion - Commissioner

Debate on Greek bailout

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis says the new bailout programme is designed to address "structural" problems with the Greek economy.

He says a successful implementation of the bailout programme will show that Greece has "come a long way to securing sustainable growth". 

He adds that "all sides" in the negotiation are "working for a positive conclusion" of the ongoing second review in the bailout programme. 

Vytenis Andriukaitis
BBC

Welcome back

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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

First this afternoon, MEPs have been joined by Slovak minister Ivan Korcok and Health Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis to debate the implementation of the bailout programme in Greece.

Greece hopes to close a second review of its third bailout package, agreed in August 2015, by the end of the year.

Under the bailout programme Greece will receive new loans of up to €86bn over the next three years in return for commitments to loosen labour laws and cut public spending.

Eurozone countries are reportedly at odds with the IMF over the size of projected budget surplus they should demand from the country after the bailout deal ends in 2018. 

The IMF has yet to debate whether to join the programme. 

Voting session ends

European Parliament

Strasbourg

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

This will be followed by a break for lunch, after which the sitting will resume at 14.00 GMT for a debate on the implementation of the bailout programme in Greece. 

MEPs pass motion on EU defence co-operation

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs pass a non-binding motion prepared by the foreign affairs committee calling for the EU’s common defence and security policies to be strengthened.

The draft motion, prepared by veteran German MEP Elmar Brok, says only this would allow the bloc to “use its full potential as a global power”.

It also calls for “creative solutions” to allow the UK to co-operate with the EU’s common security policy after Brexit. 

UKIP's Nigel Farage hails a 'momentous' year

Nigel Farage says 2016 was a "momentous" year in which the nation state was reborn.

European Parliament approves new railway contract rules

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Train stopping at a station in France
AFP/GETTY IMAGES

MEPs pass three pieces of legislation aiming to increase competition in the awarding of domestic train contracts in the EU.

The proposals would introduce mandatory competitive tendering for public service rail contracts, representing the biggest share of passenger services, from 2023.

Authorities would still be able to directly award contracts but would have to comply with stricter performance criteria on punctuality and customer satisfaction.

Negotiators from the European Parliament reached a provisional deal on the legislation with national ministers in April, which has now been given final approval. 

MEPs approve retraining funds for Spanish workers

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also give their approval to grant Spain €856,800 in EU aid to help retrain and find work for 250 people laid off at car-part factories in the Valencia region.

Most of the job losses were due to the closure of a plant owned by part-maker Bosal.

The money will come from the EU’s Globalisation Adjustment Fund, a fund to retrain those who lose work due to the effects of globalisation. 

MEPs ratify trade agreement with Ecuador

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Bananas being shipped from Panama City
AP
Ecuador supplies around a quarter of the EU's banana imports

MEPs also vote to ratify an EU trade agreement with Ecuador.

Ecuador’s accession to a trade deal already covering Colombia and Peru was signed last month but needed to be approved by MEPs before it can fully come into effect.

The deal would eliminate EU tariffs on Ecuadorian fish and industrial products, and increase market access for certain agricultural products.

However, lower tariffs on bananas would still be subject to annual import limits.

MEPs approve Uzbekistan textiles trade changes

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs approve a proposal to liberalise trade in textiles with Uzbekistan as part of the EU’s Partnership and Cooperation Agreement with the country.

The proposal was tabled five years ago, but initially rejected by MEPs over concerns about forced and child labour in the Uzbek cotton-picking industry.

They also pass a resolution noting that the country has now almost totally eradicated child labour in the cotton harvest.

It adds that lowering trade barriers in the textiles trade would send a “positive sign of encouragement” to Uzbekistan to fully get rid of both child and forced labour.

Human Rights Watch had urged MEPs not to back the proposal until there is “demonstrable and verifiable evidence” the practices have been fully abolished. 

Weaver in Uzbekistan
BBC

Voting begins

European Parliament

Strasbourg

With the statement from Martin Schulz finished, MEPs will now move to today’s round of voting.

Schulz bows out

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Martin Schulz
BBC

Martin Schulz tells MEPs that "together", they have achieved the goal of making the European Parliament "more prominent, visible and influential". 

He says this was one of his goals when he took the post five years ago. 

He pledges that, whatever office he holds, he will continue to oppose the "destructive tendencies" of "hatred and "ultra nationalism".

View more on twitter

Votes shortly

European Parliament

Strasbourg

That’s the debate on this week’s EU leaders’ summit finished. 

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

First however, Parliament President Martin Schulz will be making a statement about his decision not to seek a third term in the post.

He announced at the end of last month that he would instead be standing for election as an MP in the German Parliament.

MEPs will hold an early election next month to appoint his replacement. 

Commissioner calls for Georgia and Ukraine visa waivers

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Dimitris Avramopoulos
BBC

Replying to the debate, Migration Commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulos says that EU countries "need to play their part" for the Commission's migration policies to succeed.

He cites the recently-established EU border and coast guard agency as an example of advances that have been made in its plans when co-operation has been achieved. 

He says he is glad the Parliament has now approved a deal on new visa suspension powers, which MEPs will put to a final vote tomorrow. 

The new legislation, which would give the EU increased powers to suspend visa waivers, has been seen as crucial as a step towards granting waivers to Ukraine and Georgia. 

The two countries should be granted the travel rights "as quickly as possible", he adds. 

Coming up at 11 GMT

European Parliament President tweets:

MEP threatens separate Brexit talks for European Parliament

MEP Guy Verhofstadt threatens parallel Brexit negotiations if the Parliament is sidelined.