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Summary

  1. MEPs debate recommendations for future direction of EU
  2. Austrian President praises EU integration in speech to MEPs
  3. MEPs express approval for Europol co-operation agreement with Denmark
  4. Afternoon saw debates on the Greek bailout talks and recent fighting in eastern Ukraine
  5. MEPs also debated EU membership hopes of Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Goodnight & coming up tomorrow

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

    MEPs are back tomorrow from 08.00 BST, when they will debate whether to ratify the EU's trade deal with Canada.

    The vote on ratification is expected just after 11.00 GMT.

    Later they will debate EU legislation on border checks and terrorist offences.

    They will also discuss recommendations for the future regulation of robots. 

  2. What’s in the motion?

    The draft motion repeats the European Parliament’s support for a eurozone-wide guarantee scheme to protect bank deposits, with the aim of reducing the risks of “spillovers” from bank failures.

    The European Commission has tabled plans in this area but they remain blocked owing to strong opposition from northern states including Germany.

    It also says that the Brexit talks should not lead to an “unlevel playing field” between banks inside and outside the EU, or promote “deregulation in the financial sector”. 

  3. MEPs begin debate on banking union

    Finally tonight, MEPs are debating a motion setting out their position on the annual report on the eurozone’s banking union.

    The “union” is the name for a series of measures passed following the 2008 financial crisis to try to improve the stability of the banking system in the eurozone.

    It set common eurozone standards for the amount of reserve capital banks should have to hold, plus gave the ECB power to directly monitor the largest Eurozone banks. 

    Frankfurt
    Image caption: Frankfurt is a major banking centre in the eurozone
  4. MEP calls for EU to monitor social factors

    Debate on EU budget monitoring

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Georgi Pirinski

    Bulgarian Socialist Georgi Pirinski argues for the inclusion of a "strong social component" in the EU's budgetary monitoring.

    Normally this "social component" refers to the idea of scoring EU countries not just on their debt and deficit levels, but on factors like social inclusion and unemployment. 

    Without this, he says the ambitions of the European Semester scheme are likely to be rejected by people in EU countries. 

  5. Green MEP stresses social impact of growth

    Debate on EU budget monitoring

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    UK Green MEP Jean Lambert says the view that everything will fit into place if only the EU's debt rules are followed "fails to give balance" between the need for economic growth and social conditions. 

    She adds that attention needs to also fall on the distribution of wealth, and not just its generation. 

    Former UKIP MEP Steven Woolfe - who now sits in the Parliament as an independent - says that more encouraging recent news about the eurozone masks future risks, such as the debt crisis in Greece and the large number of non-performing bank loans held by European banks. 

    He says that in this context it is of "vital importance" for the EU to strike a good Brexit deal with Britain. 

    Steven Woolfe
  6. What is the European Semester?

    The somewhat confusingly-named “semester” is the name for the annual programme by which the Commission monitors and issues recommendations on the economic policies of the member states.

    The programme was introduced five years ago in the wake of the financial crisis.

    The publication of the growth survey in the autumn marks the start of the process. This is followed by the issuing of “country-specific recommendations” the following spring.

    The recommendations are meant to guide EU states in how to meet the terms of various agreed rules on maximum debt and deficit levels.

    However, the process is also controversial because critics say the Commission lacks the democratic legitimacy to tell governments how to set up their budgets – particularly if cuts are being proposed.    

    EU flags outside the Commission building in Brussels
  7. EU debt and deficit rules 'must be respected'

    Debate on EU budget monitoring

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Gunnar Hokmark

    Swedish centre-right MEP Gunnar Hokmark says the EU is experiencing growth but it is "slow" and "fragile". 

    He says this growth needs to be made "more robust" through lowering the tax burden and increased investment. 

    He says the EU's debt and deficit rules - known as the Stability and Growth Pact - "have to be respected" to allow the conditions for growth to be created. 

  8. MEPs begin debate on EU budget monitoring

    Next MEPs are debating the “European Semester” – the process by which the EU monitors the budgets and spending of member states.

    Tomorrow they are due to vote on three separate non-binding motions relating to how the policy is being implemented.

    MEPs are likely to repeat a call for national governments to better implement the recommendations given to them by the Commission, which are frequently not met.

    One of the motions, drafted by the employment committee, says the EU Commission has failed to improve “social and economic convergence” between EU states.

    It recommends that the Commission should measure the social impact of infrastructure projects that receive loans from its flagship investment fund. 

    Euro notes
  9. MEPs debate Bosnia-Herzegovina talks

    That’s the debate on Albania finished – MEPs will now debate the EU membership prospects of Bosnia-Herzegovina, which formally applied for EU membership last year.

    The country, which is still recovering from a devastating three-year war which accompanied the break-up of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, is now an independent state, but under international administration.

    It has a complicated system of government which critics say has perpetuated ethnic divisions between Bosnian Muslims, Croats and Serbs – its three main ethnic groups.

    The Commission’s latest report on the country’s membership aspirations notes some progress on the regulation of business and the organisation of local elections.

    However it said no progress had been made towards improving the transparency of media ownership or improvements to public administration. 

  10. Commissioner: Support for accession talks 'conditional'

    Debate on Albania EU membership talks

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Summing up the debate,the Commissioner responsible for enlargement negotiations, Johannes Hahn says the "conditional" support of the Commission for opening accession talks depends on fulfilling the criteria set down by the EU.

    He adds that this includes further judicial reforms, and the promised re-evaluation of members of the judiciary - on which Albania is making. 

    Johannes Hahn
  11. Background on EU-Albania talks

    The EU and Albania concluded a Stabilisation and Association Agreement (SAA), seen as the first step towards membership, in June 2006.

    The negotiations took three-and-a-half years - three times longer than they took in the case of Croatia (now an EU member) and other EU candidate Macedonia.

    Since 15 December 2010 Albanians with biometric passports have been able to travel visa-free to the Schengen zone, which includes most EU countries.

    MEPs’ motion to be voted on tomorrow backs the Commission’s call for accession talks to begin as soon as judicial reforms are completed.

    It also agrees with the need for changes to the country’s electoral laws before general elections due later this year. 

    European Council building in Brussels
  12. Albania 'on the right path'

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Ian Borg

    Maltese EU presidency representative Ian Borg says he welcomes the "positive signals" from Albania, which he says is "on the right path".

    However, he says that "significant challenges" lie ahead - including implementation of judicial reforms and the need to take greater measures to fight corruption.

    He adds that EU states will only give the green light to opening the accession process with Albania when it has met the bloc's five key priorities. 

  13. MEPs debate Albania membership application

    MEPs move on to their next debate this afternoon, which is a motion on the Commission’s latest report on Albania’s EU membership application.

    Last November the European Commission said EU member states should start accession talks with the small Balkan country if it carried out judicial reforms.

    However, opening accession talks would require unanimous agreement from EU states.

    Albania got official EU candidate status in June 2014, and had previously said it hoped to start formal accession talks last year. 

  14. MEPs debate EU role in region

    Debate on Israel settlement law

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Czech Eurosceptic Petr Mach says the EU's position on the Middle East is "not fair".

    "It makes so sense to stand on the Palestinian side of the conflict", he adds - noting that the EU should regard Israel as its "best friend" in the Middle East. 

    Another Czech MEP, Liberal Pavel Telicka, says there is "very good reason" to be be critical of the settlement law, but also criticism to be levelled at the Palestinian authorities. 

    Italian social democrat Pier Antonio Panzeri says the EU is taking an "ambiguous" external relations stance by simultaneously criticising Israel's settlement law and working to revive the EU-Israel Association Council. 

  15. Settlement law 'will make peace impossible'

    Debate on Israel settlement law

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Spanish Socialist Elena Valenciano condemns the settlement law, telling MEPs that Israel is trying to legislate outside its jurisdiction. 

    The legislation, she adds, will "make peace impossible".

    Elena Valenciano
  16. MEP: Debate a 'court case against Israel'

    Debate on Israel settlement law

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    German MEP Marcus Pretzell, from the Alternative for Germany (Afd) party, accuses the Parliament of turning the debate into a "court cases against Israel".

    He says that a one-state solution in the Middle East is a form of "security policy, as far as Israel is concerned". 

    Marcus Pretzell
  17. MEP criticises focus on settlements

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Romanian centre-right MEP Cristain Dan Preda says he disagrees with the choice made at the opening of the session yesterday to focus the debate on settlement building.

    He adds that focusing on the single issue of settlements risks simplifying a "very complex situation". 

    Romanian social democrat MEP Victor Bostinaru says that there are "things that both sides could do today" to aid prospects for peace. 

    Victor Bostinaru
  18. Malta representative criticises US embassy plans

    Debate on Israel settlement law

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Speaking on behalf of EU external affairs chief Federica Mogherini, Maltese EU presidency representative Ian Borg says that the new law threatens the viability of a two-state solution.

    He adds that Ms Mogherini has urged Israel not to apply the law - which he adds could "entrench a one-state reality" in the region. 

    He adds that the EU maintains that the two-state solution remains the "only possible solution" to the conflict. 

    He also says the EU is worried about Donald Trump's promise to move the US embassy to Jerusalem, which he says could have a "destablising effect". 

    Ian Borg
  19. Israel and the settlements issue

    More than 600,000 Jews live in about 140 settlements built since Israel's 1967 occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem - land the Palestinians claim for a future state.

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

    There are also 97 settler outposts - built without official authorisation from the Israeli government - across the West Bank, according to the Israeli anti-settlement watchdog Peace Now.

    However, the largest, Amona, was evacuated by police last week after the Supreme Court ordered that it be dismantled because it was built on private Palestinian land.

    Read more here

    A view of the Jewish settlement of Ma"ale Adumim
  20. MEPs begin debate on Israeli settlement law

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    MEPs are now debating developments in the Middle East, after Israel's parliament recently passed a controversial law retroactively legalising almost 4,000 settler homes.

    The legislation would legalise homes built on privately-owned Palestinian land in the occupied West Bank, with Palestinian landowners given financial compensation or alternative land.

    Israel's attorney-general has said it is unconstitutional and that he will not defend it in the Supreme Court.

    EU external relations chief Federica Mogherini has said the construction of additional settler homes poses a “direct challenge” to prospects for a two-state solution in the region.

    Builders work in a new construction near the West Bank city of Hebron