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Summary

  1. MEPs debate US travel ban with EU foreign affairs chief
  2. MEPs also discuss EU energy policy
  3. Debate also added on migration in the central Mediterranean
  4. They also debated tariffs on bananas in EU-Ecuador trade deal

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

European Parliament

Brussels

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

MEPs will be back tomorrow from 08.00 GMT, when MEPs will first debate recent changes to anti-corruption laws in Romania.

After this they will discuss a report with recommendations for improving cross-border recognition of adopted children.

A vote on an EU visa waiver for Georgia is due after 10.30 GMT. 

Short speeches begin

European Parliament

Brussels

That’s the debate about the EU’s sports strategy finished.

Finally tonight, there will be a round of short one-minute speeches from backbench MEPs.

This item of business is normally used by MEPs to make points about topical issues or stories of interest to their country or region. 

MEP presents report on EU sport policy

That’s the debate about the Erasmus+ student scheme finished.

Next tonight MEPs are debating another non-binding report from the Culture and Education Committee, this time on an EU action plan for sport.

Among the many recommendations in the report is a call for the Commission to consider making “third party” ownership of sports players illegal under EU law.

Third-party ownership of players is whereby private investors, it can be an individual, company, or fund, own part of a player's economic rights.

The practice was banned by world football governing body Fifa in 2007, although some player agents are believed to have found ways around the regulations.

The practice was banned by the English FA in 2008. 

Carlos Tevez
PA
The FA banned third-party ownership following the discovery that the economic rights of Argentina players Carlos Tevez and Javier Mascherano were owned by two offshore companies when they joined West Ham in 2006

MEPs debate Erasmus student scheme

That's the debate on new rules for fishing authorisations finished. 

Next MEPs are debating a report from the Culture and Education Committee about the EU’s Erasmus+ student exchange programme that will be voted on tomorrow. 

The Commission has said it will present a review of the scheme by the end of this year, which marks its 30-year anniversary.

The MEPs' report recommendations are not binding on the European Commission or EU governments.

Tibor Navracsics addresses a press conference on the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme
AFP

MEPs debate new fishing authorisation rules

With the debate about tariffs for bananas in an EU-Ecuador trade deal finished, MEPs are now debating proposal to change the EU’s scheme for managing fishing authorisations.

The scheme applies to non-EU vessels conducting fishing expeditions in EU waters, as well as EU vessels operating beyond the waters of a member state.

The changes proposed by the Commission would require all boats to have a number granted by the International Maritime Organisation to make it easier to trace.

It would also make the electronic register of authorised vessels publicly accessible.

MEPs have backed the changes at committee stage – they will vote on their “first reading” position tomorrow morning. 

Fishing boat
Reuters

MEPs begin debate on EU banana tariffs

Bananas at a stall
BBC
Ecuador accounts for around a quarter of the EU's banana imports

That’s the debate on the EU Commission’s strategy against female genital mutilation finished.

Next MEPs are debating proposed changes to an EU trade deal with Ecuador that would make it easier for the EU to re-impose higher tariffs on banana imports.

The so-called “safeguard mechanism” was included in the deal to protect banana producers in the EU – largely confined to overseas territories of Spain, France and Portugal.

Producers in EU countries currently produce around 11% of the bananas consumed in the bloc.

Ecuador’s accession to the trade deal, which already covered Colombia and Peru, was ratified by the European Parliament last month.

MEPs will vote on the legal change during the voting session tomorrow.

Tackling FGM 'not an EU matter' - UKIP MEP

Debate on anti-FGM strategy

European Parliament

Brussels

Diane James
BBC

Former UKIP leader Diane James says that she is worried about the apparent prevalence of FGM in Britain, and describes the practice as an "affront to human decency". 

She adds however that because the practice is often based on cultural or religious beliefs it can often be extremely difficult to get rid of. 

She says she welcomes the fact that in the UK, public servants such as teachers and border officers have now been put "at the forefront" of efforts to stamp out the practice. 

However, stating that the issue is "not an EU matter", she tells MEPs: 

if zero tolerance is achieved, it will be done by national governments"

MEPs begin debate on FGM strategy

That’s the debate on Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) finished.

MEPs have now been joined by Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jourova to debate the progress made by the EU in its action plan to eliminate female genital mutilation (FGM).

FGM is now illegal in all 28 EU states but very few cases are brought to court.

Although prosecuting cases is a matter for member states, the EU Commission has committed to help raise awareness of the issue among relevant professionals.

It has also said it is working to establish more reliable data about the extent of FGM in the EU – something which has previously proved difficult to measure. 

Joseph Kabila, DR Congo and conflict explained

The Democratic Republic of Congo is beset by numerous challenges, from the extension of President Joseph Kabila's term in office, to the presence of numerous armed groups in the east.

BBC Africa Security correspondent Tomi Oladipo explains.

Joseph Kabila, DR Congo and conflict explained

MEP calls for EU sanctions in Gabon

Debate on DRC and Gabon

European Parliament

Brussels

Italian social democrat Cecile Kashetu Kyenge, who was born in the DRC, says that there is a "growing crisis of democracy in central Africa".

She calls for the EU to impose "targeted sanctions" against those responsible for "electoral irregularities" in Gabon, and reform of the country's voting system. 

Cecile Kashetu Kyenge
BBC

An explanation...

MEP tweets

Debate on DRC and Gabon begins

Protests in the DRC
Reuters
Joseph Kabila's actions have sparked protests in the DRC

That’s the debate on South Sudan finished.

Neven Mimica will stay with MEPs to debate the situations in Gabon and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The opposition in DRC accuses President Joseph Kabila of trying to cling on to power beyond the end of his term, which expired last month.

Earlier this week, negotiators failed to agree on transitional measures required as part of a deal that foresees his departure by the end of this year.

In Gabon, EU observers have disputed the legitimacy of results in last year’s close election which saw the re-election of incumbent President Ali Bongo.

Mr Bongo has accused the EU’s observers of “overstepping their mission”. MEPs will vote on a non-binding motion on the political situation in both countries tomorrow. 

EU 'shocked' by rights violations - Commissioner

Debate on South Sudan

European Parliament

Brussels

Neven Mimica
BBC

Neven Mimica says that since gaining independence in 2005, South Sudan's early hopes "lie in tatters".

He says the EU is "shocked" by violations of international human rights law, which he adds have been "perpetrated by all parties with complete impunity".

He adds that all parties should observe the current ceasefire in full, and that the EU is "engaged" in the response to the massive humanitarian challenges caused by the fighting. 

He says this includes around two million internally displaced people within the country, and around four million who are short of food. 

MEPs begin debate on South Sudan

And with that, the debate on the EU’s energy policy comes to an end.

MEPs have now been joined again by International Development Commissioner Neven Mimica to debate the EU’s response to the situation in South Sudan.

The country’s three-year civil war caused more than 2.2 million people to flee their homes.

At the end of last year a UN human rights commission said that ethnic cleaning was taking place in the country – a charge denied by President Salva Kiir.

The EU has said the country’s government should put an end to human rights violations and uphold its responsibility for the protection of civilians. 

Salva Kiir
Reuters
Salva Kiir became president in 2005

Migration compacts have 'substantially reduced' illegal entries

Debate on central Mediterranean migration

European Parliament

Brussels

Federica Mogherini says that the EU's "migration compacts" with five African countries have "substantially reduced" illegal entries into Europe.

The "compacts" aim to get increased co-operation from African countries on re-admitting failed asylum seekers in return for promises of development aid. 

She says the EU's investment scheme for Africa - branded a "trust fund" - is helping to increase economic opportunities within African countries. 

Federica Mogherini
BBC

MEPs begin debate on central Mediterranean migration

European Parliament

Brussels

And with that, the debate on the EU’s energy policy comes to an end.

MEPs have now been joined again by EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini to debate migration policy in the central Mediterranean, which particularly affects EU members Italy and Malta.

EU leaders are meeting to discuss the issue at a summit in Malta on Friday.

'Growing anxiety' at US stance - Commissioner

Debate on EU energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

Maros Sefcovic
BBC

Summing up the debate, Energy Union Commissioner Maros Sefcovic tells MEPs that commissioners are following developments in the United States with "growing anxiety".

He says that the Paris climate agreement is a "binding treaty" and "historic agreement" - and notes that he can "hardly think" of a country more affected by climate change than the US.

"Europe is ready to lead in this effort," he adds. 

Swedish MEP raises concern over pipeline extension

Debate on EU energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

Gunnar Hokmark
BBC

Swedish centre-right MEP Gunnar Hokmark criticises plans to increase the capacity of the Nord Stream gas pipeline running from Russia to Germany via the Baltic Sea.

The consortium behind the project includes a number of European energy companies, as well as state-owned Russian energy giant Gazprom.  

The EU Commission is examining whether the project could fall foul of the same EU competition laws that scuppered the South Stream pipeline project in 2014.  

Mr Hokmark calls on the Commission to take "clear action" on the pipeline plans, which he says will increase dependence on Russia and is "in conflict" with the EU's overall energy strategy.

MEP calls for more use of smart meters

Debate on EU energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

Kaja Kallas
BBC

Estonian Liberal Kaja Kallas says that consumers have a low opinion of the competition in the energy markets.

She adds that this suggests that protecting national energy production is "not the right answer", and calls for the European energy market to be brought "up to speed" with the 21st century. 

She suggests that one way to do this might be to promote the greater use of smart meters - devices which send information on energy usage directly back to the energy supplier.

She says the EU should discuss whether the use of such meters should be made mandatory.

MEP highlights air pollution downsides

Debate on EU energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

Julie Girling
BBC

British Conservative MEP Julie Girling says she welcomes the fact that the latest report on the energy union mentions the risks of air pollution.

She adds that not only does it mention the risks to health, but also causes lost work days which imposes a knock-on cost on the EU's economy. 

She says the need to promote green transport is "ever more evident", and a "clear preference" should be given to a strategy to lower pollutants alongside greenhouse gases.

MEP expresses worry at US climate stance

Debate on EU energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

Jerzy Buzek
BBC

Polish centre-right MEP and former Parliament President Jerzy Buzek says that Donald Trump's energy policy seems to cast doubt over the Paris climate agreement reached last year. 

Belgian Socialist Kathleen van Brempt agrees that there is a "negative wind" from from across the Atlantic on climate policy.

She says that the European Parliament will try to strengthen renewable energy targets proposed by the European Commission, and calls for greater use of binding targets.

Reports UKIP file complaint

UK political editor of Business Insider tweets

MEP makes a point...

Brussels correspondent from the FT tweets

Labour MEP Seb Dance appears to be the member behind a cheeky sign held up Nigel Farage whilst he was speaking...   

View more on twitter

MEPs begin debate on EU energy policy

European Parliament

Brussels

With the debate on the US travel ban finished, MEPs will now get on with their first scheduled debate – on the EU’s energy policy.

The so-called “energy union”, unveiled in 2015, is a raft of measures intended to promote greater competition in energy markets and reduce Europe’s dependence on Russian energy imports.

The European Commission issued its second annual report on the plans this morning.

It would give the Commission greater opportunity to scrutinise energy contracts that EU governments negotiate with countries outside the bloc.

At the moment, the EU imports around half of its energy from non-EU countries.

Gas pipeline
AFP

Farage calls on MEPs to invite Trump to speak

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Nigel Farage
BBC

Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage says the travel ban is merely a case of an elected president "doing what he was put in to do", and an example of "genuine democracy".

He says the reaction to the travel ban has shown "genuine anti-Americanism" as the "true nature of the European project". 

He accuses MEPs of "faux outrage" - and says there was not equivalent level of protest when President Obama put in place a six-month ban on travel from Iraqi citizens in 2011.

He adds that "not a single one of you" criticised travel bans on Israeli citizens. 

He says the EU needs an "open dialogue" with the new "most powerful man in the world", and calls for President Trump to be invited to speak at the European Parliament.

Green MEP: US ban 'targets Muslims'

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Green group co-leader and German MEP Ska Keller say the travel ban on the seven Muslim-majority countries is a policy which "targets" Muslims. 

"It is directed against people because of their religion", she adds. 

However she says that EU has also built "walls and fences" - and says EU leaders must be clear "on which side they stand". 

Ska Keller
BBC

Verhofstadt: EU facing 'fifth columnist' threats

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Guy Verhofstadt
BBC

Guy Verhofstadt, the Parliament's observer at Brexit talks who leads the Liberal ALDE group, accuses former leader Nigel Farage of aiding a "fifth column" of right-wing American politicians who want to break up the EU. 

He says that faced with many opponents, the EU must united to "fight back" against "nationalists and populists that want to destroy us". 

Tory MEP: Ban 'plays into hands' of extremists

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Syed Kammall
BBC

British Conservative Syed Kammall, who leads the ECR group, calls the travel ban "arbitrary" and says it the move  "plays into the hands" of co-called Islamic State (IS), which he refers to as Daesh.

However, he says that the EU "must accept" that the policies are the result of a "growing tide of discontent" and have been enacted by an elected president. 

Travel ban 'nothing to do with fighting terrorism' - Pittella

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Gianni Pitella
BBC

The leader of the Socialist and Democrat group, Italian MEP Gianni Pitella, says the EU "continues to strongly admire" the United States. 

He adds that it is for this reason that the latest US immigration rules - which he describes as an "attack on legal civilization" - are particularly "painful".

The travel ban, he says, has "nothing to do with fighting terrorism".  

He adds that the "doors of Europe" should remain closed to Mr Trump for visits until the issue has been resolved. 

Weber: Suspicion 'can lead to hatred'

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Manfred Weber
BBC

German Christian democrat MEP Manfred Weber, who leads the centre-right EPP group, says he welcomes the statement from Ms Mogherini. 

He says that a "suspicion of certain countries and certain peoples" could "lead to hatred".  

He accuses the US President Donald Trump, as well as Prime Minister Theresa May, of "looking out for their own national interest" and not "the freedom of the world". 

Trump travel ban: acting Attorney General fired

CNN tweets

EU foreign policy chief: EU disagrees with US travel ban

Debate on US travel ban

European Parliament

Brussels

Federica Mogherini
BBC

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that the EU has an "old and deep friendship" with the United States, which is still a source of "great respect and admiration".

However, she adds that the EU "certainly disagrees" with the latest US travel restrictions. 

She says that after talks with US officials, she can confirm that EU citizens, even those holding dual citizenship of the seven countries, will not be affected.

However, she says that this does not change the Commission's "overall assessment" about the exectuive order - which she says has the "potential to increase mistrust among peoples and nations". 

The EU, she adds, "will not turn back anyone who has the right to international protection". 

MEPs add debate on Romania

Debate on the agenda

European Parliament

Strasbourg

A woman holds a sign reading "Bars, not pardon" during a protest in Bucharest
Reuters

There's also a proposal to add a debate to tomorrow's agenda on the judicial system in Romania. 

It comes after the EU warned Romania against "backtracking" in its efforts against corruption after Bucharest decriminalised some offences.

Last night, the new government passed a decree that could free dozens of officials in jail for corruption.

The proposal is approved on a show of hands. 

Tajani confirms two added debates

Debate on the agenda

European Parliament

Brussels

President Antonio Tajani
BBC

Chairing his first plenary sitting in Brussels, new President Antonio Tajani announces two changes to the day's agenda - a debate on the US travel ban, and a debate on migration in the central Mediterranean.

The changes have bee agreed to by the political groups, he adds. 

He says this now means this afternoon's debate on the regulation of "low risk" pesticides will be postponed until the Strasbourg plenary sitting later this month. 

The changes are not objected to, so are formally added to the agenda. 

Good afternoon

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 with administrative announcements, after which MEPs can make points of order or request changes to the agenda.

Proposals to add a debate to the agenda have to be made at least one hour before the sitting starts, 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 – this can be done on a show of hands.