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. Canadian PM Justin Trudeau defends free trade in speech to MEPs
  2. Sitting began with debate on the EU's aviation strategy
  3. MEPs pass human rights motions on Nicaragua, Bahrain, Kuwait and Guatemala
  4. They also approve new database checks at borders of Schengen zone

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

Goodbye

With the afternoon's debate on German road tolls having been taken yesterday afternoon, the end of explanation speeches also bring's this week's plenary sitting to a close. 

MEPs will hold a "mini plenary" sitting in Brussels on 1-2 March, and will next meet in Strasbourg for a full week's sitting on 13-16 March. 

Voting session ends

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

MEPs express support for science data sharing scheme

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs also back a motion expressing support for the European Commission’s plans to set up an EU-wide data storage system for scientists.

The Commission says an EU-level cloud storage scheme would make it easier for researchers to store and share information.

The motion asks for clarification from the European Commission on where all the money to fund the €6.7bn scheme will come from. 

Researchers working in a laboratory
BBC

MEPs back call for EU rules for robots

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs endorse a report from the legal affairs committee which calls for new EU legislation in the field of robotics.

The committee’s suggestions are not binding on the EU Commission, which would have to propose any new laws in this area.

Among the recommendations is a request to set up an EU agency to aid regulation of the emerging sector. 

Robot
AFP

MEPs make case for EU treaty overhaul

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs give their backing to a report from the constitutional affairs committee calling for the EU to consider treaty changes in the wake of the Brexit vote.

The report recommends an overhaul of existing EU powers to help the bloc cope with “deep and multiple crises” and the rise of nationalist parties.

Among the recommendations are ending the right of individual members to opt out of collective decisions and a eurozone finance minister.

It also calls for the European Banking Authority and the European Medicines Agency - both currently based in London - to be moved out of the UK after Brexit.

During the vote, MEPs also pass an amendment calling for an obligation to fight tax avoidance and evasion to be written into the EU's treaties. 

When the report was debated on Tuesday, the EU Commission gave a cautious welcome to the ideas – with deputy chief Frans Timmermans noting treaty change is not “at the top of the political agenda”. 

EU flags outside the Commission building
Reuters

MEPs back new Schengen border checks

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

They also give their backing to proposals to increase checks at the external border of the passport-free Schengen area.

Under new legislation, holders of EU passports would be checked against the Interpol stolen and lost travel documents database (SLTD) and Schengen Information System (SIS).

The new plans would also apply to non-EU nationals leaving the Schengen zone.

The aim is that extra checks will make it easier to determine someone’s identity and whether they are a potential security threat.

The agreement would allow only “targeted” checks at airports in the case of long border delays, under certain circumstances.

Airport in Germany
Reuters

MEPs approve changes to EU anti-terror law

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs give their approval to proposals to extend the list of terror-related offenses made illegal in EU law.

New legislation will make travelling for terrorist purposes, terrorist training and funding terrorist activities illegal under EU law.

A compromise on the changes has been reached with national ministers. 

EU states will have 18 months to incorporate the changes into domestic legislation – the UK, Ireland and Denmark will not have to apply them. 

MEPs pass human rights motions

Voting session

European Parliament

Strasbourg

MEPs approve the three human rights motions they debated earlier this morning, which:

  • call for Nicaragua to desist from “acts of reprisal” against rights activist Francisca Ramírez
  • criticise recent executions in the Middle East states of Bahrain and Kuwait
  • condemn attacks and harassment of human rights campaigners in Guatemala 

Votes to begin shortly

And with that, Justin Trudeau takes his leave of MEPs. 

There will now be a short break, before today's voting session begins at 11.00 GMT. 

Empty seats?

German Green MEP tweets

Canadian PM in trade deal warning

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Justin Trudeau
BBC

The Canadian PM says that, in agreeing to ratify the EU-Canada trade deal yesterday, both sides have shown that they value trade and "the prosperity that comes with it". 

He adds that the "ambitious" project will allow the EU and Canada to "lead the international economy" rather than simply be "subject to its whims".

He tells MEPs that if both sides are successful in implementing the deal, it could provide the "blueprint" for future deals, but warns: 

if we are not, this could well be one of the last"

Trudeau: EU 'a remarkable achievement'

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Justin Trudeau begins his speech by telling MEPs that the European Union has been a "truly remarkable achievement".

Canada and the EU, he says, have in recent history stood "side by side on the things that matter".

He adds that a "European voice" on the world stage is not "just preferable, but essential".  

Justin Trudeau
BBC

Votes end - Canadian PM to speak soon

That’s this morning’s debates finished – MEPs will hold a voting session in around half an hour.

Before that however, MEPs are taking their seats to hear a speech from Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

It comes after yesterday the European Parliament voted to ratify the EU’s trade deal with Canada. 

MEPs begin debate on Guatemala

Debate on human rights motions

MEPs move to the last of this morning’s motions, which condemns attacks and harassment of human rights campaigners in Guatemala.

The Unit for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders of Guatemala has said there were fourteen activists murdered last year.

The group has also said there were 68 new legal cases launched against activists in the country.

The draft motion says the EU and national governments should “strongly encourage” Guatemala to follow an “ambitious human rights agenda”. 

Bahrain executions 'a step back' - Commissioner

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Commissioner Malmstrom
BBC

Commissioner Malmstrom thanks MEPs for their motion, saying it is "always worth reaffirming" the EU's opposition to the application of the death penalty.

She says the executions in Bahrain are "a step back", and the EU also backs a return to a moratorium on the death penalty in Kuwait. 

The death penalty represents an "unacceptable denial of human dignity", she adds. 

She pledges that the EU will use its diplomatic presence to "constantly encourage" countries to abandon the punishment. 

MEPs debate executions in Middle East

Debate on human rights motions

MEPs move on to their second human rights motion, which “deeply deplores” recent executions in the Middle East states of Bahrain and Kuwait.

Kuwait executed seven prisoners, including a member of the royal family, last month - the first death sentences carried out in the country since 2013.

Last month also saw Bahrain execute three Shia men convicted of killing three police officers in a 2014 bomb attack.

The executions were the first since a 2011 uprising, led by the Shia majority, calling for greater political rights.

The draft text calls for the EU’s diplomatic service to use “all means of influence at its disposal” to lobby for a ban on the death penalty. 

Protesters in Bahrain
Reuters
Bahrain saw protests this month on the sixth anniversary of the Shia uprising

EU 'vigilant' on situation of activists

Debate on human rights motions

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Cecilia Malmstrom
BBC

EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom tells MEPs that the EU Commission has been monitoring the case of Ms Ramirez and "remains vigilant" about the situation of rights activists. 

She says the Nicaraguan government should ensure that campaigners can "express their legitimate opinions without fear of retaliation". 

She adds that the Commission is capable of drawing greater attention to violations of this principle through its rights monitoring activities. 

MEPs begin debate on activists in Nicaragua

Debate on human rights motions

The first of today’s motions calls for Nicaragua to desist from “acts of reprisal” against land and environmental rights activist Francisca Ramírez.

Ms Ramirez is part of a group opposing the construction of a massive inter-oceanic canal through the country by a Chinese firm.

The motion drawn up by four political groups accuses the Nicaraguan government of having arbitrarily detained and intimidated Ms Ramirez and members of her family.

It also condemns more generally “attacks and acts of harassment” against human rights organisations and independent journalists. 

Protests against the construction of a canal in Nicaragua
AFP
Plans for the canal have sparked protests from farmers

MEPs begin human rights debates

That’s the debate on the EU Commission’s 2015 strategy for the aviation sector finished – MEPs will vote on their motion later.

However before that, they will now hold short debates on this month’s three topical motions on human rights cases. 

Commissioner: €5bn 'wasted every year'

Debate on EU aviation strategy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Transport Commissioner Violeta Bulc calls for a resolution to blocked EU legislative files, including on the single European sky rules. 

The failure to agree reforms, she claims, means around €5bn are "wasted" every year. 

She adds that the Commission will be launching a feasibility study this year for a "single European upper airspace" to assess whether that would improve the efficiency of the sector. 

Violeta Bulc
BBC

MEP: EU index 'will rationalise investment'

Debate on EU aviation strategy

European Parliament

Strasbourg

Czech Liberal MEP Pavel Telicka, who has drafted the motion on behalf of the transport committee, begins by saying that the low-cost flights of today would have been "difficult to imagine" even a few decades ago. 

He says the EU can take much credit for this - particularly because of the European single sky legislation.

He gives an overview of some of the recommendations in his report, including for a "connectivity index" drawn up by the EU. 

Such an index, he adds, would help to "rationalise investment" in the sector.

Pavel Telicka
BBC

Good morning

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

This morning’s sitting will kick off shortly, when MEPs will debate a non-binding motion backing the EU Commission’s 2015 strategy for the aviation sector. 

Munich airport
AFP