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Summary

  1. Croatian PM Andrej Plenkovic leads debate on future of the EU
  2. MEPs vote to set up inquiry committee into pesticide authorisations
  3. MEPs debate EU's new enlargement strategy for Western Balkans
  4. Debates on Zimbabwe and Turkish military offensive in Afrin follow
  5. MEPs also debate EU sanctions against Venezuela

Live Reporting

By Paul Seddon

All times stated are UK

  1. Coming up tomorrow

    That's the debate on Venezuela finished - MEPs' final debate tonight is on the financial condition of UNWRA, a UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

    However, that's where we leave our coverage for tonight.

    The European Parliament kicks off at 08.00 GMT tomorrow with a debate on what to do about the 73 seats that will be vacated by British members after Brexit.

    In the afternoon, MEPs will debate the corruption laws in Romania and the external lending mandate of the European Investment Bank.

  2. Decision on sanctions 'not taken lightly' - Mogherini

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Federica Mogherini

    Federica Mogherini tells MEPs that the decision to impose the latest restrictions on Venezuela was taken "with a heavy heart" and "not taken lightly".

    They do not harm the Venezuelan people, she insists - adding that the decision to expel the Spanish ambassador to Caracas was "unacceptable".

    The travel ban and asset freezes were made as "invitation to engage seriously" in negotiations to resolve the ongoing political crisis with the opposition, she says.

    This must include a mutually-agreed date for presidential elections and guarantees to ensure their fairness and credibility, she adds.

  3. Debate on EU sanctions against Venezuela begins

    Mr Maduro blames "international economic sabotage"
    Image caption: Mr Maduro has accused Spain of being behind the latest sanctions

    Next up, MEPs are discussing the situation in Venezuela, ahead of a motion on Thursday likely to call for efforts to restore political stability.

    Venezuela has the world's highest inflation rate and has for years struggled with the shortage of basic goods, including medicines.

    The supreme court in Caracas recently imposed restrictions on the main opposition coalition ahead of presidential elections, due in April.

    The EU has imposed a travel ban and frozen the assets of seven senior Venezuelan officials – leading President Nicolás Maduro to accuse Spain of plotting to oust him.

  4. Bulgarian MEP: Show more respect to Turkey

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Nedzhmi Ali

    Bulgarian Liberal Nedzhmi Ali criticises the "aggressive" tone of the debate, adding that the European Parliament should avoid "strong condemnation" of an important economic and political ally.

    The EU is "starting to forget" the number of refugees taken in by Turkey, he adds.

    Freezing the accession talks would only serve to isolate the country, he says, and urges MEPs to "show greater respect for our neighbour".

    "We need Turkey and Turkey needs us," he adds.

  5. MEP criticises opposition crackdown in Turkey

    Debate on EU-Turkey relations

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Kati Piri

    The European Parliament's lead MEP on Turkey's stalled EU accession, Kati Piri from the Dutch Labour party, says the EU should be "loud and clear" on human rights in Turkey.

    The state of emergency has led to "rule by decree" in the country, she says, with "all opposition voices" labelled as terrorists or terrorist sympathisers.

    German liberal Nadja Hirsch calls for the EU to formally freeze Turkey's accession talks - as the European Parliament called for in November 2016.

    This is a "matter of credibility", she adds.

  6. MEPs debate Turkish offensive in Syria

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Smoke rises from Syria's Afrin region

    MEPs are now discussing relations with Turkey, after Turkish troops and allied Syrian rebels launched an offensive to push a Kurdish militia out of Syria's northern region of Afrin last month.

    They will also discuss the subsequent arrests in Turkey of hundreds of people after posting messages online criticising the move.

    The Turkish government says the People's Protection Units (YPG) are an extension of the banned Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), which has fought for Kurdish autonomy in south-eastern Turkey for three decades.

    The YPG denies any direct organisational links to the PKK - an assertion backed by the US, which has provided the militia and allied Arab fighters with weapons and air support to help them battle the so-called Islamic State group (IS) in Syria.

  7. Mogherini 'would support' EU observers in Zimbabwe elections

    Debate on Zimbabawe

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Federica Mogherini

    Ms Mogherini says Zimbabwe now has a "unique opportunity for change" - although it is up to the new government to "make the first move".

    An "entire people", she says, are waiting for "true democracy".

    She says she hopes credible elections will take place later this year, and tells MEPs the EU is supporting media training and biometric voter registration.

    She "would support" the idea of sending an EU electoral observation team, she adds - provided they are invited by Zimbabwe and the relevant conditions are met.

  8. MEPs debate situation in Zimbabwe

    EU external affairs chief Federica Mogherini returns to the front of the hemicycle for the next of this afternoon's debates, on the political situation in Zimbabwe.

    Zimbabwe has undergone rapid political change in the past year, with the departure of former president Robert Mugabe in November, after 37 years in power.

    Its new president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, has promised that elections scheduled for later this year will be fair and free from violence.

  9. Western Balkans: Membership prospects

    Debate on Western Balkans

    People look for souvenirs at a stall at the main square of Skopje
    Image caption: Macedonia gained independence from Yugoslavia in 1991

    Serbia and Montenegro have both started formal EU membership talks – the former in January 2014, the latter in June 2012.

    Macedonia and Albania are both have candidate status but neither has yet begun accession talks.

    Among other issues, Macedonia’s bid to join the EU has been hampered by a bitter dispute with Greece over the country’s name.

    Many Greeks object to the country calling itself Macedonia, saying it implies a territorial claim on Greece's northern Macedonia region.

    Bosnia and Herzegovina has signed an association agreement with the EU and has applied for membership.

    Kosovo’s membership bid depends on normalising ties with Serbia. In addition, five EU states do not recognise the breakaway Balkans territory.

  10. UKIP MEP: Enlargement is 'naked imperialism'

    Debate on Western Balkans

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    James Carver

    UKIP's James Carver says he is opposed to any further expansion of the EU into the Western Balkans.

    He calls it "naked imperialism" and "neocolonialism through other means".

    French Front National MEP Dominique Bilde also speaks against, calling membership progress "illusory".

    The EU, she suggests, is trying to "make up for its rejection" after the Brexit vote.

  11. MEPs call for EU support on membership bids

    Debate on Western Balkans

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    David McAllister

    German Christian democrat David McAllister says Western Balkan countries should be helped by the EU to meet "structural challenges" and international disputes.

    As the lead MEP tracking Serbia's membership bid, he says the prospect of EU membership has led to "important economic and social reforms" in the country.

    Romanian social democrat Victor Bostinaru says Europe will be "neither safe nor stable" without Western Balkans countries included.

    He calls for "more than words" to promote investment in the region in the EU's next long term budget, which will run from after 2020.

  12. Mogherini: Balkans timetables 'realistic'

    Debate on Western Balkans

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Federica Mogherini

    EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini says it is a "reality" that the Western Balkans are part of Europe both historically and geographically.

    She tells MEPs that recent years have seen the EU increase investment, trade and security co-operation with the group of countries.

    The strategy does not set a deadline for membership, she adds - although she says the time frames laid out in the document are "realistic".

    Applications will remain "merit-based" she says - but this year could see the process become "more credible" and "irreversible".

  13. MEPs debate EU paper on Western Balkans

    MEPs have now been joined by EU external relations chief Federica Mogherini to debate the EU’s new enlargement strategy for Western Balkan countries, unveiled today.

    The document says EU candidates Serbia and Montenegro could “potentially” be ready for membership by 2025 if certain conditions are met.

    This would require “real and sustained reforms” in areas such as the rule of law as well as solutions to disputes with neighbouring countries, it says.

    Both countries have already started EU accession talks.

  14. Commissioner: Anti-FGM laws 'must be enforced'

    Debate on tackling FGM

    European Parliament

    Strasbourg

    Vera Jourova

    Vera Jourova says the EU can contribute to combating the "evil practice" of FGM through improving data collection and supporting prosecutions.

    The EU can also help in supporting "sustainable social change", she says.

    The bloc has also contributed €11m to a joint UN programme to tackle FGM around the world, she tells MEPs.

    FGM is illegal in all EU countries, she adds - but police and prosecutors "must enforce them".

  15. Welcome back

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

    First up this afternoon MEPs will be joined by Gender Equality Commissioner Vera Jourova to debate a report calling on EU states to step up efforts to tackle female genital mutilation (FGM).

    Today is the UN’s International Day of Zero Tolerance for Female Genital Mutilation.

    The report also expresses concern that prosecuting the crime is a “challenge” in all member states and calls for the European Commission to provide training on investigating the crime.

  16. Votes finish

    That's the voting session finished - MEPs will now have the chance to make short speeches to explain how they voted.

    This will be followed by a break, after which the sitting will resume at 14.00 GMT.

  17. New post-2021 carbon trading system approved

    Voting session

    Power plant in Germany
    Image caption: The trading system applies to more than 11,000 power stations and industrial plants

    MEPs also approve a plan agreed with member states to revise the EU’s carbon trading programme for the years 2021-2030.

    The emissions trading system (ETS) works by making emitters buy "allowances" authorising them to emit greenhouse gases, within an overall agreed limit.

    Under the proposal, the rate at which emission allowances are being withdrawn from the market will be stepped up from 2021.

    The plans are meant to stabilise allowance prices after weak economic growth in the years after the scheme was set up caused them to fall well below expectations.

  18. MEPs sign off new rules for online retailers

    Voting session

    Person using a laptop

    MEPs give their approval to legislation they debated yesterday aiming to prevent traders within the EU from discriminating between online customers depending on where they live.

    It means people buying goods and services online will not be blocked or redirected to a different website based on their IP address.

    The new rules will not however cover products covered by copyright, such as e-books, downloadable music or online games.

    The European Parliament had already agreed a compromise on the new law with national ministers.

    It will now come into effect nine months after it gets the final sign-off from member states.

  19. MEPs vote to set up inquiry committee into pesticides

    Voting session

    A French farmer inspects his tractor

    MEPs endorse a decision from the group leaders to set up a special inquiry committee to investigate the EU’s authorisation procedure for pesticides.

    It follows the recent controversy surrounding the re-authorisation of the weedkiller glyphosate, whose licence was eventually renewed for another five years last November.

    One UN study called the chemical "probably carcinogenic", but the European Commission says EU food safety and scientific bodies have found no link to cancer in humans.

    MEPs have previously questioned the credibility of evidence used to support the conclusions of the EU agencies, and called for all uses of glyphosate to be phased out by the end of 2022.

    The new committee will sit for nine months and will have 30 members.